Philippians – what a wonderful book! Paul is writing to a church he previously helped start and is writing to encourage them even though he himself is in jail. This letter is a joyful letter, in fact, that word structure (joy) is referenced 51 times in this small book.
Partnership/fellowship is the main theme of the book, something I struggle with. Fellowship with other believers and God is a powerful thing. The gospel and salvation are the great unifying elements, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on until completion until the day of Christ Jesus” – The stamp of justification and the ongoing process of sanctification. We, as sinners, will culminate in complete sanctification of glorification when the redeemed sinner finally sees Jesus Christ and experiences transformation in His image. This verse also gives us assurance that us getting to heaven does not depend on us. Salvation is God’s work, not man’s. He reached down to us, not the other way around. As surely as He has already delievered us from the penalty of sin, He will one day deliever us from the presence of sin.
Paul ends this section of the letter with a prayer, a great example for us to follow. In our days, prayers are usually about the physical ailments rather than spiritual needs. We need to follow Paul’s example of putting spiritual needs first. Paul is praying for His friends, a powerful vehicle that is not accessed enough. Paul prays that unbounding love will increase for the church-love to ALL people. The only way we will be able to stand before God sincere and blameless is if we allow the Holy Spirit to control us. If we do, He will find our lives with the fruit that is the product of His righteousness.
So pray friends-talk to Christ about your friends more than you talk to your friends about Christ. True Christian fellowship is when we have each other in our minds, in our hearts, and in our prayers.
Alistair McGrath has said in his book The Christian Theology Reader, “What good does it do if you dispute loftily about the Trinity, but lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? It is not lofty words that make you righteous or holy or dear to God, but a virtuous life. If you knew the whole of the Bible by heart, along with all the definitions of the philosophers, what good would this be without grace and love? Naturally, everyone wants knowledge. But what use is that knowledge without the fear of God? A humble peasant who serves God is much more pleasing to him than an arrogant academic who neglects his own soul. If I were to possess all the knowledge in the world, and yet lacked love, what good would this be in the sight of God, who will judge me by what I have done?”
Welcome to the number 1 problem of seminary, at least for me personally..knowledge, the struggle of gaining knowledge but keeping the passion. What keeps the passion? Understanding the definition of GOD? Understanding WHO God is? In the Old Testament, there are several names used directly for God, which is one way to define him:
ELOHIM: God (a plural noun, more than two, used with singular verbs); Elohim occurs 2,570 times in the OT, 32 times in Gen. 1. God as Creator, Preserver, Transcendent, Mighty and Strong. Eccl., Dan. Jonah use Elohim almost exclusively. See Gen. 17:7, 6:18, 9:15, 50:24; I Kings 8:23; Jer. 31:33; Isa. 40:1.
EL SHADDAI: God Almighty or “God All Sufficient.” 48 times in the OT, 31 times in Job. First used in Gen. 17:1, 2. (Gen. 31:29, 49:24, 25; Prov. 3:27; Micah 2:1; Isa. 60:15, 16, 66:10-13; Ruth 1:20, 21) In Rev. 16:7, “Lord God the Almighty.” The Septuagint uses Greek “ikanos” meaning “all-sufficient” or “self-sufficient.” The idols of the heathen are called “sheddim.”
ADONAI: Lord (Capitol letter ‘L ‘, lower case, ‘ord’) “Master” or “Lord” 300 times in the OT always plural when referring to God, when sing. the reference is to a human lord. Used 215 times to refer to men. First use of Adonai, Gen. 15:2. (Ex. 4:10; Judges 6:15; 2 Sam. 7:18-20; Ps. 8, 114:7, 135:5, 141:8, 109:21-28). Heavy use in Isaiah (Adonai Jehovah). 200 times by Ezekiel. Ten times in Dan. 9.
Or God could be defined by what He does: Adonai-Jehovah — The Lord our Sovereign,El-Elyon — The Lord Most High,El-Olam — The Everlasting God,El-Shaddai — The God Who is Sufficient for the Needs of His People, Jehovah-Elohim — The Eternal Creator,Jehovah-Jireh — The Lord our Provider,
Jehovah-Nissi — The Lord our Banner,Jehovah-Ropheka — The Lord our Healer
Jehovah-Shalom — The Lord our Peace,Jehovah-Tsidkenu — The Lord our Righteousness.Jehovah-Mekaddishkem — The Lord our Sanctifier, Jehovah-Sabaoth — The Lord of Hosts,Jehovah-Shammah — The Lord is Present
Jehovah-Rohi — The Lord our Shepherd,Jehovah-Hoseenu — The Lord our Maker , and Jehovah-Eloheenu — The Lord our God.
Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines God as “in monotheistic religions [as] the creator and ruler of the universe, regarded as eternal, infinite, all-powerful, and all- knowing; Supreme Being; the Almighty.” The Cambridge Encyclopedia as “Supernatural being or power, the object of worship.” These definitions, among others, bring major questions up regarding one’s concept of God. Some of which may include:
- Is God personal, impersonal or a-personal (englobaling both)?
- Is God finite, infinite? In some aspects, in everything?
- Is God one? Is God three? Are there many Gods? Or is there one God who is manifest in all things, including a hierarchy of finite gods or spirits?
- Is God good (can be called holy), evil, both?
- Is God just, merciful, indifferent?
- Does God reveal himself or is He pure mystery?
How one defines God-whether in belief or disbelief-will largely define one’s worldview, one’s framework of reality-how one understands him or herself and universe that surrounds us. If God is the Absolute of all existence, then one’s perception of all else is related to one’s perception of that which is at the center.
What is your definition of God? I am still working on coming up with my own personal definition of Him, but what do you have?