Philippians: Unlikely Beginnings

September 13, 2017

I thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1:3

As Paul thinks about and prays for the Philippians, he surely can’t help but remember how this church started. The first 3 converts that made up the church in Philippi were about as diverse as possible. In Acts 16, we read about the conversions of Lydia, the demon-possessed slave girl, and the jailer. Lydia was a wealthy, intelligent, fashionista who feared God and was engaged through her intellect in coming to faith. The slave girl was oppressed, lacked identity, and was out of control. She came to Christ by spiritual deliverance from bondage. The jailer was a “blue collar Joe,” a rather gruff man who seemed to enjoy torturing his prisoners a little too much. He came to faith through a miraculous encounter with the sheer power of God.

In each of these encounters, God goes after these people and meets them where they are at. He reveals Himself to them in a way that is uniquely “intelligible” to them, demonstrating His Fatherly, compassionate heart. As the deliverer of the Gospel, Paul does not approach everyone with the Gospel in the same way. As he says in 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul is willing to become all things to all people so that as many as possible will be saved. He approaches Lydia through reason and systematic teaching, but he doesn’t invite the demon-possessed slave girl to a teaching seminar. He sees the unique needs of each person and joins God in what HE is doing to reach these people. Paul is along for the ride, following God’s lead. Likewise, let us have open eyes and ears to see the unique needs and circumstances of people around us, as well as what God is doing to pursue them and reveal Himself to them. As we stay near to Christ, pray, and exercise wisdom and discernment, we can partner with God in what HE is doing to draw others.

These three converts demonstrate the power of the Gospel to transform and set free. Paul is familiar with the power of God through his own conversion and the conversions of many he witnessed firsthand. He is able to say with confidence that God who began a good work in them would carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6). God is powerful enough to save us, keep us, grow us up in Him, and one day safely bring us home to glory. Even when we are faithless, he remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).

These first three converts also demonstrate the power of The Gospel to unite diverse people. Strangers become family. The Gospel extends beyond socio-economic, racial, and religious walls we fallen humans build up. God intends for our unity to be a visible picture now of what heaven will be like.

Consider your own story. How is God calling you to Himself, either for the first time or to greater depths? How do you need to experience God’s transforming power? How might God be calling you to step out of your comfort zone to bring the Gospel to others?