May 25, 2009

Paul in Philippi - Part 6

And now we come to the conclusion of this little series. Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke have ministered in Philippi, bringing the truth of the gospel to a small group of women who gathered by the river for prayer. Lydia was among their number, whose heart the Lord opened to receive the gospel preached by the traveling band of missionaries. A demon-possessed slave-girl is the catalyst that ultimately leads Paul and Silas into suffering for the sake of the gospel.

After they are beaten, bound, and imprisoned; Paul reveals that he and Silas are Roman citizens. They should not have been treated in such a manner. And here is the rub for us today. Paul waited to reveal their citizenship until after they suffered terribly. Why did he wait? The text does not say and I have found precious few commentators who devote any space at all to theorizing. So while there may not be any dogmatic conclusions concerning this delay, it is a question worth meditating on. Think about how you might react in the face of real persecution from the state. Should we always withhold our defense until after unrighteous punishment has been meted out? I don't think we can say that conclusively because the text does not specify. But are there times when it would be the right thing to do, what God calls you to in that season? It appears to be a distinct possibility. God may call you to suffer unrighteous persecution for the sake of the gospel, even when there is a way out of the persecution before it occurs.

Can we begin to wrap our "successful Christian life" minds around this? Were we to fall into this kind of trouble for the sake of the gospel and then fall back on what we've learned about "victorious Christian living", where would we land? After all, if we are doing (and saying) the right things, there should be only victory. At least that's what some people tell us, some very "successful" people who lead churches and ministries defined by a message of "victory". Yet, here we have Paul and Silas giving us an example to follow that is so very unlike the "victory" lifestyle. I understand the temptation... weighing the promise of great physical blessings against the reality of trials and persecution.

Brothers and sisters, one of these lives is victorious. One is a lie. God calls you to true life,



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