I’m in the middle of studying for our next sermon series at Soma which is a series on Philippians. Philippians is certainly one of the most beloved books of the NT. In fact, I have several friends who have even memorized it! One of the reasons why its so beloved is because it contains a plethora of memorable verses, probably more than any other Pauline letter. Take for example the following short list:
- For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
- You attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
- Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
- And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
- And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
How many times have you heard somebody say one of these phrases when times got tough? I certainly have – however from personal experience, I have certainly see how these famous verses take on a life of there own apart from anything that Paul is actually saying in the book. Without proper context these verses, especially the ones about rejoicing always and God providing everything become at worst proof texts for a full blow prosperity gospel or at best a pseudo-prosperity gospel.
Without proper context, these verses get watered down into a full blown or pseudo-prosperity gospel.
Careful study of Philippians shows that these verses are the furthest thing from a form of the prosperity gospel, or name-it-claim-it, or wishful, positive Christian thinking. Paul can say these things, not because he can find the positive in every situation and not because he hopes that God will bail him out, no, Paul can say these things because he knows that he has the ultimate treasure and comfort, i.e. knowing Christ and being in Christ.