Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Short Reflection on Philippians 3:1b

“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe (Php 3:1).”

Biblical scholarship in today’s world is considered to be the ongoing discovery of fresh perspectives and new interpretations of various passages of the Bible. The traditional meaning of Scripture must be reinterpreted according to novel discoveries in archeology, science or Near Eastern literature. This itch for publicity and respect amongst scholars finds its way into the pulpit at various points of spiritual troughs of the Church Age. The preacher of God’s Word is suddenly apprehensive of preaching from the familiar passages of Scripture. He must dig deeper into the wisdom of man, so as to apologize for the foolishness of the Cross. The congregation does not come under the conviction of the Holy Ghost, but under the spell of contemporary scholarship which the preacher attempts to draw from the latest journals and publications. Instead of feeding the sheep with the meat of God’s Word, the goats are fed with the fodder of positivism, pragmatism and secular humanism.

But God’s Word should never be too familiar for Christians, and familiarity must not breed contempt. Paul wrote, “To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe (Php 3:1b).” For the Apostle “to write the same things (ta auta graphein)” to the Philippians, probably concerning the matter of “rejoicing,” is not grievous. The usage of the present active articular infinitive indicates “the going on writing of the same things.” Paul is obviously not weary of ongoing repetitions of the same things. It is, indeed, not irksome or tiresome for Paul to repeat the same things to the Philippians, simply because it is safe (asphales) for them. The reiteration of certain truths is sometimes the best safety measure against error.

According to Matthew Henry:

1. Ministers must not think any thing grievous to themselves which they have reason to believe is safe and edifying to the people.

2. It is good for us often to hear the same truths, to revive the remembrance and strengthen the impression of things of importance. It is a wanton curiosity to desire always to hear some new thing.

I have observed that, sometimes, by the countenance of the congregation, the impression is conveyed that church members are very “familiar” with the message being preached on the Lord’s Day. The incessant yawns and the constant quibbles, which often occur at the back aisles, may be misconstrued as an overenthusiastic response to the sermon so much so that the congregation begins to open their mouths in prayer. Children might appear to be so delighted with the pastor’s preaching that their parents allow them to run amok.

As a reminder to all, we should not be inattentive whenever the pastor preaches the same message, or the same passages from the Bible. Faithful is the minister who hammers away at the same warnings and the same exhortations to the backsliding congregation, in a bid to draw them back from perdition and error. Faithful is the minister who refuses to acquiesce to the congregation’s demand, and feed the sheep according to their needs. Faithful is the minister who preaches only the pure Word of God, and expounds on the precious, eternal truths of the Bible for the edification of the saints.

And if the sermon contains those “same things,” it is not tiresome for the minister, but is safe for us all. We do not need to listen to church growth theories, or how Paul changes his perspective every decade or so according to the whims of certain scholars. The unchanging, unerring Word of God is our all-sufficient source of heavenly wisdom and knowledge.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, deliver us from the itch for novelty and scholarship. Help us to be faithful to your Word, even if it cost us members and mammon. Thou must increase, and I must decrease. Amen.


wenxian said...

Hello bro vincent,

Agreed... If the Bible doesn't change, then the facts do not change. Then logically there shouldn't be too many new things.

Reminds me of Rick Warren's rationale for using many translations... i quote the heretic:

"Therefore I have deliberately used paraphases in order to help you see God's truth in fresh, new ways" (pg 325, PDL)

Fresh and new indeed... And RW scholarship is pathetic.

Mike Messerli said...

Vincent, reminds me of the story about the young pastor who took his first church. On his first Sunday he preached from John 13:34-35 on the topic of loving one another as Christ loved us. The next Sunday he preached the same thing, and again on the third Sunday. The elders took him aside and said, "son, we know this is your first church, but you need to teach other things." The young pastor replied, "when you apply the first sermon then we will go to the second."
I agree, the foundations are vital, and we need to revisit them often.