But Jesus…—Philippians 1:3-6

The prayers of Paul

This is a series of the prayers of St Paul found in the letters attributed to him in the order he is believed to have written them. Letters to the same place or person will be treated together with the first letter to that destination.

Against the background of a sunrise. aperson raises their hands to show broken shackles on their hands.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:3-6

This is a prayer with a promise, that what God has started in you will be brought to completion. The danger here is to take you in the sentence as singular and it is taken by some to mean ‘Once a Christian, always a Christian.’ I do not know that or believe that. In my time with the online church St Pixels people came who had been hurt by the church, whose faith was in the balance. To be accepted and listened to was all some of these people needed, we saw people’s faith return. Of course, we were not able to help all of them, but giving people a platform where their hurt and anger will be listened to is important.

The letter to the Philippians, to state the obvious, is written to a church, but the context is to a church facing persecution from a leader who is in prison for preaching the good news about Jesus Christ. The temptation to give up believing in the interest of self-preservation is real, and some will have been doing just that. What drew my attention is that an imprisoned man could write such an optimistic letter to a church facing persecution. God-preservation is stronger than self-preservation.

If I could sum up the message into two words, it would be “But Jesus…” or “But God…”

Most of Paul’s letters were written mainly about the death of Jesus Christ and its consequence. Ephesians talks about how we should live in the power of the resurrection and ascension as if they were one event and here Paul and Timothy write in this opening to Philippians about living in the knowledge of the return of Jesus Christ when the work Jesus began will be completed. The work started by Jesus in the church in Philippi will be completed when Christ returns. The certain return of Jesus Christ brings hope to people living in persecution through the grace of God which brings peace.

Paul’s prayer can be positive because he is sure of God’s grace and peace working “from the first day until now until its completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

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