Wednesday, January 21, 2015

PHILIPPIANS 1:12-20 / LUKE 12:8-12

Philippians 1:12-20 > But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. For I know this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

Luke 12:8-12 > Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven. Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.


Today’s scripture readings, Philippians 1:12-20 and Luke 12:8-12, share the theme of “boldly proclaiming Christ and His gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit while suffering persecution.” We will examine this theme by breaking it into “four truths” that these two passages reveal. And these truths, when prayerfully meditated upon, will create in us a godly desire for sobriety, and inspire in us humility of mind. For surely it is sobering to face the realities of persecution, imprisonment, and even martyrdom. And it is humbling to acknowledge how unprepared we are for such happenings. These realities can seem far removed from us here in America if we are not paying attention. It is time that all true Orthodox Christians take the commands of Jesus to heart, and begin to confess Him openly in the midst of a perverse and twisted generation. A life of righteousness, and an open confession of Jesus Christ, will result in persecutions of various kinds; reproaches, censorship, and false accusations. Jesus, in today’s passage in Luke, and St Paul in his prison epistle to the Philippians, teach us in no uncertain terms that the authorities, both civil and religious, will be completely intolerant of faith in Christ. This should be expected as Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you”. (John 15:18)

Four Truths To Live By

Truth #1) THE GOSPEL IS TO BE PROCLAIMED. Whether we are free or in chains (prison), whether we dwell safely or in the midst of danger, Jesus does not equivocate, He commands us to confess Him before men. We are not to be silent when we are brought before the authorities. We are to refuse the temptation to deny Him. We are to speak that which the Holy Spirit puts into our hearts and mouths the very same hour we stand before our persecutors. St Paul took advantage of his imprisonment in Caesar’s palace to proclaim Christ to Caesar’s court, and his witness spread from there to many other places. And his fellow ministers grew in confidence seeing God at work in Paul’s circumstances, and they too, became much bolder to speak the word without fear.
Truth #2) WE WILL BE PERSECUTED FOR OUR FAITH. Today, in the U.S.A., we are witnessing our culture being “fundamentally transformed". The “powers that be” are engineering a society that is intolerant of Christ and His teachings, and therefore at odds with Christ’s Church. Orthodox Christians are being called today to confess their faith by speaking out in the market place in regard to the unborn innocents and the sacrament of marriage. Orthodox Christians are to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), speaking out against war.  Orthodox Christians are to be merciful (Matthew 5:7), demonstrating mercy to all peoples. The more we show the compassion of Christ, the more the world will hate us, revile us, and say all manner of evil against us. Around the world today our Christian brothers and sisters are being persecuted, displaced, imprisoned, and killed for Christ’s sake. May their example of faithfulness in the face of death inspire sobriety and humility in all Orthodox Christians.
Truth #3) WE MUST EMBRACE THE NECESSITY OF BOLDNESS. In order for us to obey the commands of Jesus, to confess Him before men, and to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), we must be infused with boldness. Boldness is courage, daring, bravery, and fearlessness, all of which must originate with an intimate relationship with God where we become one with His love. Christ is teaching us that we must overcome the fear of man. We must know the value of pleasing the Lord above all else. St Paul writes to Timothy that God has not given him a spirit of fear or timidity. Timothy is to not be ashamed of the gospel, nor to fear afflictions because Jesus has abolished death. There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of for the believer who knows that Christ has risen from the dead, and that we have life and immortality through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:7-10). The Lord has promised, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you. So that you may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me’.” (Hebrews 13:5, 6; Psalm 27:1) Scripture teaches us to be a God-pleaser, not a man-pleaser (1 Thessalonians 2:1-4); God will provide supernatural boldness when needed (Acts 4:13-20); the early Church prayed for boldness (Acts 4:29-31); the Apostles obeyed God rather than man (Acts 5:28, 29, 41, 42); and the early Church increased in boldness (Acts 13:44-46).
Truth #4) THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL ALWAYS BE WITH US. The Holy Spirit, the heavenly King, the Comforter and Helper, Teacher and Guide, will be with us, upon us, and in us every moment of every day, through peaceful times or persecution. (John 14:16, 17, 26; John 16:13) St John the Theologian writes, “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” (1 John 2:20, 27) The ongoing Chrismating power of the Spirit is at work in us, teaching us the truth, preserving us in the Truth. St Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “We have received the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God.” St Peter writes, “If any one speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it with the ability which God supplies.” (1 Peter 4:11)  And finally Jesus says, “The Holy Spirit will teach you the very same hour you face your persecutors exactly what it is you are to say to them. (Luke 12:12)


1) What is the gospel that Jesus told us to take into all the world? If someone asked you to explain the gospel what would you say? How can we become equipped to give answers to those who ask for a reason for the hope that is in us? (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Peter 3:15)
2) What spiritual practices will prepare us for times of persecution? How can we even be prepared for martyrdom? (Matthew 5:10-12; Hebrews 2:14, 15; Hebrews 11:32-40)
3) How can we increase in boldness? In our daily lives, where are some places we could begin to speak up for Christ? Have we considered that we can begin developing our boldness by denouncing our own passions and boldly speak the word against our temptations? (Matthew 4:1-11; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18)
4) How well are we acquainted with the Holy Spirit? How can we be filled with the Holy Spirit? Is there a prayer we can pray daily to develop reliance on the Holy Spirit? (John 14:15-26; Ephesians 5:14-20; John 7:37-39)


Verses 12,13 > St Paul’s desire is for the Philippians to understand that what had happened to him, his imprisonment in Caesar’s Palace, has resulted in the Gospel going further than it had ever gone before. We learn from this that persecution creates divine opportunities to proclaim the gospel. And when those who are persecuted demonstrate a Spirit-filled life it can result in people’s hearts opening to the gospel message. Christ had become manifest to the entire palace guard. Jesus teaches us in the Beatitudes that those who are persecuted, reviled, spoken evil of, can become the salt of the earth and the light of the world if while undergoing the fiery trials of persecution, they gracefully season their persecutors with salt (Colossians 4:6), and shine the light of truth upon them, rather than hiding under a bushel. (Matthew 5:10-16) Verse 14 > As a result of St Paul’s sufferings, and the subsequent divine favor upon his prison ministry, St Paul’s fellow ministers grew in confidence, speaking the word of God boldly without fear. St Paul had written to Timothy, his son in the faith, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:7, 8) Let us remember that this very moment we have Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world suffering persecution. Let us pray fervently for their deliverance from all tribulation, wrath, danger, and necessity. Verses 15-17 > St Paul contrasts two kinds of preachers. The first group of preachers was moved by ill-will toward Paul. These preachers were envious of St Paul, motivated by a contentious spirit. There reason for preaching was not of sincerity, that is, to simply proclaim Christ. They were compelled by selfish ambition to compete with St Paul’s ministry. Elsewhere St Paul had warned the Elders of Ephesus that they should be on guard, for themselves and their flock. He warned that “savage wolves would come in among them, not sparing the flock. Also from among them men would rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:28-30) St John Chrysostom says that these preachers were unbelievers who wanted “to stir up more vehemently the persecution from the emperor…that all his anger might fall upon the head of St Paul.” (Homilies on Philippians) The second group of preachers was motivated by goodwill, they were moved by love for St Paul, knowing that he was “appointed (set) for the defense (apologia in Greek) of the gospel.” Here, I believe, St Paul is saying that he was especially appointed to preach the Gospel (Acts 26:13-18), and that he was to give an apology or an answer to every accusation that would come against the gospel. (1 Peter 3:15; Colossians 4:6) Verse 18 > St Paul reveals his inward disposition towards both the false preachers that were moved by envy and strife, and the true preachers who were inspired by sincerity and love. Whether they were false brethren (savage wolves dressed as shepherds), or whether they were faithful elders, he rejoiced that the gospel was preached. Verse 19, 20 > There are three points here. First, St Paul’s hope and expectation he had for himself, is that he will be ashamed for nothing he did in his ministry. St Paul knew he had the sentence of death in himself, he knew he was heading toward eventual martyrdom. But, day by day, as he suffered for Christ, he wanted Christ to be magnified in his body. Secondly, St Paul teaches us that it is through the prayers of the faithful that he would experience deliverance, “though not necessarily for his body. His expectation and hope is of eternal life.” (Orthodox Study Bible, Pg. 1612) And thirdly, St Paul is sustained and delivered by “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”


Verse 8, 9 > Jesus gives us an ultimatum. If we confess Him before men (in this life) He will confess us before the angels of God (at His Second Coming). For it is written, “When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” (Matthew 24:31)  And again, “…the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7) So it is at Christ’s second coming that He will confess us before the angels, if we, in this life, confess Him before mankind. We will have no need to fear the one who has the power to cast into hell, for we have become His friends. As we confess Christ in our daily lives, He energizes us with grace and peace. As we cultivate our friendship “here and now” with Christ, he will be our friend, “there and then”, forever in the kingdom. Verse 10 > It is possible to speak against Christ, the Son of Man,  in ignorance, but once enlightened by the Spirit, to repent and be forgiven your blasphemy against the Son of Man. But to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to reject the Spirit’s witness as to whom Christ is, and therefore you commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and you will not be forgiven because you have rejected the revelation of Jesus Christ. You have rejected the witness of the Spirit. The parallel passages to this verse are found in Matthew 12:31, 32 and Mark 3:29, 30. In these passages blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is further explained as attributing the miracles of Christ to Satan rather than to the work of the Holy Spirit. “According to St John Chrysostom and many other Fathers, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would be forgivable if a person were to repent of it. Jesus never calls the sin itself “unforgivable.” Jesus makes this declaration knowing that those who blaspheme the Spirit are calling pure, divine goodness “evil,” and are beyond repentance by their own choice. (Orthodox Study Bible, pg. 1391) Verse 11 > Who are “they”? They were the Jewish religious leaders (who hate Christ and were committed to stifling the Christian movement), and the Roman civil authorities who would arrest them for being contrary to Caesar worship. Synagogues, found in many towns and cities, are where a person would be brought before a Jewish tribunal to be examined for breaking a religious law. The leaders of the synagogue had the authority to even scourge the offender. The Magistrates and Powers (Civil Authorities) were the superior authorities, Jewish or Gentile, that would examine those who were being accused. Verse 12 > God’s grace and the supply of the Holy Spirit awaits us when being persecuted. The very hour we find ourselves being accused falsely because of Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit will teach us what we are to say in response. And too, we should know that the Holy Spirit will teach us every day what to say under all circumstances. We need not be afraid in any social setting where there may be antagonists to the Christian Faith. Trust in God that He will teach you and enable you to speak for Him. (1 John 2:20 27; 1 Peter 4:9-11)


Fr. Bogdan Bucur at
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