Philippians Day Sixteen
October 19, 2020, 5:00 AM

God’s Word to You
Philippians 4:9

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—
practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Not to press an exegetical point too forcefully, (you know, press a nose too hard, and it bleeds) but the exhortation from Paul to do what you have learned, received, heard and seen in me, are enticingly written in the Greek second person plural form, as in Y’all all do these things y’all see in me.” I think this means that Paul’s not talking to individuals, individually, for self-improvement. I think this communicates that he’s talking to the Church – The Body of Christ. Specifically, this is what the Church of Jesus is supposed to look like! And I would suggest, this is not just an exhortation for the church at Philippi, but The Church through the ages. Even New Life Presbyterian Church in Salem Virginia. Yes, Philippians can be said, nuanced properly, to be written to our church (or to your church, wherever that might be.)

Here’s why I think I can make this assertion. (Bear with me here as I digress, I'll bring this back together in the end, I promise.) The number seven is a pretty significant number in the Bible. Seven days in the week make for a complete week. Check out how the number seven plays in the Noah Story in Genesis 7-8. Jacob served Laban seven years for the hand of Rachel. (And then an additional seven years… that scalawag, Laban!) Seven is the recurring number in Joseph’s interpretation of dreams of famine and plague in Egypt. Seven days the key time frame of festivals and rituals throughout the Pentateuch. Seven “I Am” sayings from Jesus in the Gospel of John to communicate that He is God. And, more significantly, seven churches in the book of Revelation to stand in for all churches, of all time, everywhere, from start to finish. (There are many more sevens painting the same picture. This is only a sample smattering of the familiar.)

Seven is a significant number in the Bible, and I knew this well— but I’d not thought much about it in the letters of Paul. But it turns out numbers play a role in Paul’s canon of letters, too. The Apostle wrote to seven churches in the New Testament! He wrote three letters to churches in Asia Minor – Galatia, Ephesus, and Colossae. He wrote three letters to churches in Greece/Macedon – Philippi, Thessalonica and Corinth. And then to the utmost part of the earth, at that time, the church in Rome. The entire world of Paul’s day. Think of it, there were many other churches that Paul was associated with throughout his ministry. He could have written to many more (and perhaps did) —but only these seven make it into the final canon of Scripture. Seven churches!

I assure you, I am not getting a wild, crazy eye look, and I’m not frothing at the mouth like an enraptured televangelist as I say this. Simply noticing the way numbers frame the exquisite art of God’s Word. As I’ve written before, God paints by the numbers in His Word. The picture painted by seven, this number, is completeness. The pastoral issues, exhortations, corrections, admonishments, doctrine clarifications, revelations, commendations, etc. etc. etc. filling out the Pauline letters are intended for The Church. These letters were divinely inspired and providentially collected by the early Church to represent and speak to the entire Church, of all time, and in all places. This works in the interpretation of the seven churches of Revelation; and it works here in Paul’s letters, too.

In this way, we can say, Philippians, though written to an ancient church in Macedon, addressing a specific set of unique circumstances, to a specific group of people – known personally by Paul, Timothy, Luke and Silas – and to correctly interpret the letter, there’s a need to unpack the context of that time and place – nevertheless – nevertheless – it IS God’s Word to us, as well! Yes, and Amen!

This is why my initial point of a second person plural verb is significant. We can read ourselves into that letter, in the sense of recognizing that what God wrote to the Philippians back then, pertains to us – to the entire Church, now, and until such Time as He comes back in Glory. That’s why these letters are inscripturated for posterity. They are for the upbuilding of all God’s people. Remember 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”!

Perhaps this was a diversion from our study in Philippians, but I hope it’s an encouragement to you as you hold your Bible in your hands and read it. Knowing that God has written to you. For you. To lead you and guide you in the ways of the Kingdom of God. And that you will never exhaust its riches. It is the Gift that keeps on giving.

Wednesday. I want to write about two ladies, Euodia and Syntyche.


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