Day 209 – The Letter to the Philippians

Today’s reading: Phil 1

Today we begin the Letter to Philippians.  It is one of the hardest letters to date chronologically but our best reasoning points to it being a latter letter probably around A.D. 62.

There are two interesting passages in the first chapter:

6 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.

This is a simple yet important point.  Sometimes we get tied up with terms like salvation v. justification v. sanctification.  Catholics tend to shortcut the distinctions and speak of it all under the umbrella term of “salvation”.  However, what is clear it that salvation (or if you want to refer to it as sanctification) is a process.  After it is begun in you it goes on throughout your lifetime and is usually completed after your death when you are in heaven.  As an aside, at this point, we should mention the Eucharist.  To use a colloquial term, the Eucharist puts this process on steroids.

The second interesting verse is the last verse of the chapter.

29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him BUT ALSO SUFFER FOR HIS SAKE, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

So we are told explicitly that suffering is part of life.  But, why would one have to suffer for the sake of Jesus?  This goes back to what we read the other day in Colossians 1:24

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what IS LACKING IN CHRIST’S AFFLICTIONS for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

Again we see Paul making this key point.  Our sufferings, which are good works, are for His sake.  They have value.  Why? Because we are the Body of Christ and literally united to him.  If the “body of Christ” was only a metaphor then these statements of Paul wouldn’t be true, we would be suffering for no reason.  So the Body must be something more than a metaphor.  Jesus suffered on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.  Being God, he knew about and felt our current sufferings while he was on the cross.  Therefore, we suffer now, “for his sake”, so that our sufferings can be united with him on the cross and used by him for the salvation of the world.

Tomorrow: Phil 2

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