The letters (or epistles) Paul has written to the various Christian community Churches are becoming more inspiring. In a new article series Christianity Today is running, we read what Alister McGrath has to say about Phillipians Chapter 3. In the community group for Ballard Church, we are discussing this very nature and idea of what Paul is expressing to the Christian community. The article here presents a simple and succinct representation of how Paul’s message provides greater depth and meaning to the Christian believer. Both as individuals who are striving from faith to faith, as well as a community of believers who are striving together in that same faith. Peel away all the doctrinal dissents that seemed to have convoluted the simple message of Paul and we come away with a greater richness of his message.
Paul explains how his personal journey qualified him as a distinguished Jew: “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more” (v. 4). Paul was not being ironic. He was listing his many achievements before delivering the point: These achievements pale in comparison to the wonder, joy, and privilege of knowing Christ. “Whatever gain I had,” he said, “I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (v. 7). In the light of Christ, we see things as they really are. What we thought was gold crumbles to dust.
McGrath continues to relate the importance of the Church as a community of believers – in relationship with Christ and with one another:
The church is an outpost of heaven on earth, what Romans termed a colonia—not to be confused with the English word colony. Philippi was itself a Roman colonia at the time, an outpost of Rome in the distant province of Macedonia. Paul’s readers would have easily related to this imagery. Roman citizens residing in Philippi had the right to return home to the metropolis after serving in the colony. For Paul, one benefit of knowing Christ was being a citizen of heaven. Christians live on earth now, where there is much to accomplish for God’s kingdom. But we are citizens of heaven, and that’s our real home.
As Pastor Rob (of Ballard Church) says, we are agents of Christ who are drawing people back into these intimate relationships with Christ and one another. This is the reason for many evangelical Christians say that the Gospel is not about Religion – it is merely about relationships. A sovereign God is in the business of restoring our relationship with him and in restoring our relationship with one another.