Thursday, December 27, 2012

Polycarp 1: Praise and Rejoicing

This is a continuation of my series on Polycarp's letter to the Philippian church. If you are unfamiliar with Polycarp or his letter to the Philippians, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.

Polycarp open his letter to the Philippians with praise for their continued life in God.
"I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because ye have followed the example of true love [as displayed by God], and have accompanied, as became you, those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord; and because the strong root of your faith, spoken of in days long gone by, endureth even until now, and bringeth forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death, [but] 'whom God raised from the dead, having loosed the bands of the grave.' " (Polycarp 1)
Polycarp praises the Philippians for three specific things. First is their love for the Brethren. Love is more than a feeling or an emotion, it is also a willingness to associated and identify with others, even with the lowliest and the condemned. In Roman culture there was no one lower in social status than the condemned, yet the Philippians believers' love for one another compelled them to join with the condemned and to walk with them even to their death. They were not afraid to be known as Christians and not afraid to be associated with other Christians. They cared more for the comfort and needs of others than for their own reputation and acceptance by the world. They loved people and demonstrated it every day.

The Philippian church was an old church, one of the first established by Paul, yet they had kept the faith and the traditions handed down to them by the Apostles. Polycarp praises them for their continued faith in Christ. Their faith was more than just a belief , it was rooted in their lives and affected everything they did and said. They not only believed the message of God but they lived their lives everyday by their faith in the message. Their faith became the hallmark of their life.

Finally, Polycarp praises them for the fruit that grew and continued in their lives; fruit they bore unto God. Jesus expects fruit in our lives. It is like the time when Jesus came to the fig tree expecting to find fruit, so he comes to us, to inspect our lives, looking for fruit. For the Philippian church, that fruit was evident and growing.

Polycarp ends this chapter with the following observation,
" 'In whom, though now ye see Him not, ye believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory;' into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that 'by grace ye are saved, not of works,'  but by the will of God through Jesus Christ." (Polycarp 1)
They joy of the Philippian church was evident to all and was as a light shining in a dark place, drawing men and women to Christ and to the joy that is found in Him. May our joy also be as contagious in our world.

David Robison

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