Madly in Love with People

A man goes to a city to tell them about Love. A prophetess follows him around. He gets beat up and imprisoned. An earthquake sets him free, but he doesn’t leave.
But he later writes a letter to the people of that city. And he makes it quite clear that he loves them. And he strongly encourages them to focus on Love.

Subject: No Condemnation

Text: Philippians 1 preface

In the journey to knowing God through Jesus the Christ, many of us come to a place of trying to understand several passages in the New Testament. We were, and are, drawn to the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven, able to see the inevitable summation of the accounting of the tally of our lives, aware of our need for Hope that is superior to our own capabilities. We respond to the invitation of Jesus “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, for I will give you rest.”. This call resonates through our beings at a level that exceeds and encompasses the intellect and the emotions – the spirit.

We progress along the journey, reading the scriptures, sitting under various teachers, gleaning from the rare and random discussions with others. We encounter various passages that reinforce the call and renew our joy at having found a Hope that is not dependent on us but on the actions of a rescuer – a rescuer wading into the flood of dark waters to pull us out. We want to believe passages like “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans).

We have Hope.

But during this journey, we encounter scriptures that bring uncertainty, scriptures that could reassign the condemnation that Romans says is not there. We feel the weight of judgment that pushed us under the dark flood waters. Inside many of us, there is an underlying sense, a lingering fear, that it is too good to be true: how could there possibly be forgiveness for me? When we encounter some passages, especially when sitting under some teachers, we follow the logical fear: there just cannot be complete forgiveness, there must be some conditions I must meet more than screaming from the dark flood “I am dying, save me”.

I believe we each are more than a collection of random emotions, random physical events, resultant logic/intellect, and multifurcated will. But all these these factors form the basis for our understanding, the constellation of concepts that control our perception.

In our journey we encounter passages that seem to indicate that our performance is essential to our relationship with God Most High and his Kingdom of Heaven. It seems that we must modify our concept of the passages of hope to accept these passages as they are often taught. How can we decide what to believe when we find such passages? The need to reconcile such passages has resulted in many divergent views and typical human behavior: division, hatred and war.

I proceed from here assuming that you, the reader, have decided that you see the problem of aligning yourself with the instructions on achieving righteousness. The problem emerges as the apparent failure to align your mind, heart, strength, and actions with the full set of instructions. And that problem effects the call of Jesus that originally found you. “Come to me all you who are weary…” must now be modified by “[your behavior]… will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven” (Galatians). I assume that you are aware of this problem, this agonizing conflict for a person who is honest about the rules of righteousness, and honest about their own life, and honestly and completely holds the scriptures as the word of God.

I hope that your journey has brought you to realize that you need the words of Jesus to be true without hidden qualifications. “Come to me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens – I will give you rest”.

The first thing we need is faith, choosing to believe. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews). Using faith, I believe that Jesus the Christ came to save the people of the world. Using faith, I believe that he loves the people. A bigger faith is needed to believe that includes me.

But then when encountering various passages, that faith is tested. Which then brings each of us to focus on the intellect, meaning our use of logic or reasoning to try to understand how one passage can work with another. For most people a solid foundation is laid by deciding to believe that the Bible contains things that God wanted written down as standard by which we can have a basis for building concepts that form our understanding. I hold this belief. Between that belief and our pursuit of reconciliation of passages are many decisions to be made, decisions including: deciding the importance of original documents and ancient language; gaining understanding of the difficulty of communicating in your native language; determining the context in which the message was delivered; accurately assessing the books, letters, songs, and poetry that comprise the Bible; seeing history with a firm understanding of pervasive human nature; gathering enough Bible acumen to see the consistency of God Most High; accepting and applying the humility that accurate self-assessment brings; and of greatest importance: turning the ears of the spirit to earnestly desire to hear the voice of Jesus.

This is an important process to work through. We want to hold to the scriptures as a guide. This is of vital importance from a logical view: without some guide, we are left to wander through the dark night in fear of deception. And we are tempted by fear to be dishonest about our guide. When confronted with a possible situation with one passage working against another, fear looms that the Bible may not be from God. Driven by that underlying fear, it is tempting to accept partial truths and then interpret other passages based on a partial truth, leading to compounding errors.

In my own journey, I have experienced spiritual desolation as I earnestly sought to please God through my actions, only to fail continuously. And all the people with whom I developed enough depth of relationship to discuss deeper issues acknowledged the same. Yet, by faith (belief without evidence), most of us stumbled on, hoping against proof, that we were somehow acceptable to God.

I could easily see through the artificial interpretations that attempted to eliminate a large part of the condemnation in scripture. The statements of belief that only certain observations from God himself about sin were applicable. The other statements God made were cast aside based on the statements of authority or other logic slight of hand. I knew the full weight of the judgment of God was deserved. I came to strongly suspect that I was what I deserved – despised by God. The scriptures say that in so many places. But with the desperation that comes just before resignation, I threw off the preconceived understandings and set out to follow the hope of Jesus the Christ through the scriptures. And it is there.

There are many voices in this modern age. With the internet, everyone has a voice. This has advantages and disadvantages. There are so many voices that no one is heard. The advantage is that each person must take more responsibility to listen to God, as there are too many voices that dissent. This means that my voice, here in this essay and the other essays, is one of many. And is without assigned authority, leaving you to evaluate using your own mind, heart, and spirit.

One of the great difficulties throughout history, easily seen in church history, is authority claiming control over truth.

I have no authority, so I cannot make that claim. In opposite, I declare to you that the best my writings are is another wanderer saying “listen to what I saw over there”. You go see for yourself.

As my journey finally began to pass into realms of light, I turned to the Letters of Jesus to the 7 Churches in Revelation. Instead of the judgment that I had always seen before, I found the Love of Jesus beautifully visible. I wrote some essays describing that.

I finally took the time to write the observations of Jesus with his Kingdom of Heaven message in the book of Matthew.

Recently, I followed the journey into the account of Jesus with the Samaritan women at the well. The same Jesus, the same love, the same Gospel.

Now I am writing about the introduction to Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

I chose to write about this as it is another passage that presents the opportunity for condemnation.

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel. For God is my witness, how deeply I miss all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

Paul is overflowing with love for the people at Philippi. He addresses his letter to all of them, with the primary audience being the common people of the church. He makes it clear that the leaders are included as well. He is filled with joy, and thanks God for all his memories.

Philippi is where he went when God called him to leave Asia Minor. This calling came after several very important events that clarify the need to understand the Gospel. Acts 14 and 15 together with Galatians provide the opportunity to see the issues. These issues culminated in Paul, with a group of selected emissaries from the Jerusalem church, delivering a letter to Antioch, then experiencing factions that resulted in separating the group. Paul and his group travel to other nearby areas, but God prevents them from sharing the Gospel. Then God calls them to go to Macedonia, the region we would call Greece.

Paul goes to Philippi and is not prevented by God from sharing the Gospel. Paul, Silas, and apparently Luke experience the joy of seeing the harvest for the Kingdom of Heaven, with Lydia and others being born again. The harvest has moved to Europe, the harvest Jesus described while in Samaria where the harvest started with the woman of many husbands.

The Kingdom of Heaven is invading Europe. The kingdom of the knowledge of good and evil is not happy.

First Satan uses one of the methods he often uses effectively. Dilution. Weakening of the message. Acts records an event that is difficult to grasp with the normal understanding (constellation of concepts) we carry. A slave of Satan is following Paul’s group around saying the truth: “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.”

Why would Satan want that said? While it is a debated subject, I see that Satan’s purpose is clear. Dilute the message.

There is no stopping the Kingdom of Heaven, people will forcefully take it. The Way is open, you are welcome as you are, you are loved by God and forgiven of your sins. The message will bring people flooding in, people with all their tendencies – as the story demonstrates. Satan will have a difficult time slowing the advance of the Kingdom of Heaven. But if he can join in the proclamation, using a known slave to himself, the message is diluted by combination with the understanding the people already have.

It becomes new wine in old wineskins. Jesus made the Kingdom of Heaven concepts available for those with ears to hear. Paul, after being a leader in the kingdom of the knowledge of good and evil, got it. He developed ears to hear. Now he is in Philippi, a city like the other cities of ancient Greece – known for the worship of Bacchus – Dionysus.

Dionysus is the Greek god adopted by the Romans as Bacchus. This god was also born of interaction between a god and a woman, although the woman was not a virgin at time of birthing, and the god was the leader of the Greek Gods (Zeus), but not called God Most High. The worship of Bacchus ensured harvests and children. The Roman emperor himself would come to Greece to join in the worship. Worship of Dionysus-Bacchus was very important in everyone’s minds. Abandoning such worship was very risky. This would be part of the way of thinking for most people, their background concepts.

Satan sends his best and well respected prophet girl to proclaim the truth. But the truth set in the context of being spoken by someone who will also say that one should go and worship Bacchus. And this prophet will secure your belief by predicting a future event for you. The trap of Balaam, Jannes and Jambres, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. [The essay on Sodom and Gomorrah goes into more depth, as do the essays on the Revelation 7 Letters]. It is an often repeated technique, it may even be Satan’s view of the cosmos.

The prophetess is stating the truth about Paul and salvation, but the context dilutes the message. The concept of the Kingdom of Heaven is deformed. The false concept would be “Yes, you can be saved by God Most High, but you still have obligations to live by the rules of Dionysus ”. If you, the reader of this essay, are not sure what the correct Kingdom of Heaven concepts might be, please read the scriptures. The essay by that name might help, but the message is found in Jesus’ words.

So Paul casts out the emissary from Satan that is controlling the girl. Showing that the concepts do not combine. And making a large number of the people of Philippi angry. [As an aside, do you suppose that girl became born again? Before or after joining in the mob? If she did join in the mob, did that make her unable to be born again? I like to think she was born again after these events.]

So Paul and Silas are beaten severely and thrown in prison, by the Roman authorities, on accusations alone, influenced by public opinion.

An earthquake happens. Many would say God sent it, but the scripture does not say. The Roman official in charge of the prison immediately began to kill himself with his sword, because he had everything to fear from the Roman authorities even though he had done no wrong. Paul stops him by pointing out that no one had left. No prisoner had left.

NO PRISONER HAD LEFT after the apparent miracle of a timely earthquake that destroys the prison, enough to free them, but doesn’t kill them. All the other prisoners, many of whom were beyond doubt facing death or worse, did not leave!!! Other escapes are recorded for Paul, avoiding the law. Peter was escorted from prison by an angel. Why did Paul not leave this time? He must have perceived that God wanted him to stay, contrary to the apparent miracle.

The prisoners did not leave. Just prior to the earthquake, Paul and Silas had been worshiping and praying while the other prisoners listened. It is hard to imagine that Paul was not also explaining the Gospel. But whatever was being said, the prisoners had apparently been captivated enough to not leave when the opportunity came. Maybe Satan caused the miracle to immediately stop Paul from spreading the Kingdom of Heaven to the prisoners and get Paul out of town.

Paul did not leave the jail, but instead stayed to save the temporary life of the Jailer, and, far greater, the eternal life of the jailer and others. How many others is not recorded. But it is reasonable to assume that the church at Philippi included the Jailer and some of the people involved in the Bacchus defending mob, the criminals in the jail, in addition to other curious onlookers. A motley lot indeed.

Memories of beatings, accusations before a powerful authority, imprisonment in chains are not the source of joy to Paul as he writes Philippians. His every remembrance is the love of a people born again, full of the joy of freedom in the Love of Jesus.

They are partners with him in grace, he says. Not partners in a single act of grace, an event that approaches in the continuum of time, then happens and is viewed in retrospect. They are partners in grace, a state of being that is the continuum; the Kingdom of Heaven. These people came with their backgrounds and ways of viewing life dominated by the Roman and Greek laws, entwined with theology that supported those laws. These people are the beloved partners in Grace. Paul opened the letter by graciously assuring the local church leaders that they are included as well.

Paul states that it is right to think about them in this way, it is right to be overflowing with love for them. It is right to be confident that Jesus is the one that carries them. It is right. It is righteous.

Then he goes on to say how deeply he misses them. What a true statement of love, expressing the pain that comes from separation. And he expresses that this love is from Jesus. And his prayer is that their love will keep on growing.

We appropriately consider that Paul is talking to us. We would like to think that he would miss us if he had been among us. How delightful to think that someone would miss us. It feels too much to think that Jesus would or does miss us. Do we miss him? I do not ask to generate guilt, that tactic is an easy but fruitless technique. I ask to reflect his call to you, “come to me, know me”. This is the knowledge that Paul refers to, that the love would be growing in knowledge. Not a knowledge like knowing calculus, this is a knowledge that eclipses academic knowledge like the sun would eclipse the moon if it could get between the moon and us. Knowing him and knowing each other.

Love Growing.

Here Paul uses a Greek word that is not found elsewhere in the Bible. According to the Greek reference works we can gather the inferences of its meaning from the Greek writers in the centuries before Paul. Several of the Greek writers used it, so the people at Philippi would not have hesitated in their understanding. In the Bible translation I copied in above, the word is discernment. The Greek lexicons say this is perception through the senses and the intellect. Which brings some clarity to why Paul wishes that their love grows in every kind of perception.

This Greek word, transliterated “aisthésis”, gets translated several different ways in English Bibles:
– perception
– judgment
– discernment and comprehensive discernment (to accommodate Paul’s modifier “of every kind”)
– practical insight
– understand(ing)
– intelligence
– wise insight
– depth of insight
– wise in all things
– astute wisdom
– spiritual insight
– wit (this is interesting – it is how Wycliff translated it)

When Paul wrote this letter, he was writing a letter to his dearly beloved people at Philippi. While that is obvious, it is normally lost in our concepts. Paul was not writing to current era people who may vaguely remember Euripides and the other Greek Tragedians. He was writing to people who were deeply immersed in their native culture, a culture whose belief systems were deeply involved with the thinking and writing of the Euripides, et al. When they read this word, it was with the understanding of perceiving like one perceives when gripped by the drama of a Greek Tragedy, with many of the senses eliciting emotion while the intellect is also engaged to struggle with the dichotomy of life.

But Paul salvages the word from the utterly hopeless perceptions of Greek belief, the world of capricious, vengeful gods who destroy on the slightest affront to their person. The Greek world was one of constant awareness that it was likely going to end bad, as it was improbable that one could exist for long without offense to a god.

Paul uses the word in the context of Love growing, getting bigger, better, and reaching further. Jesus promised his followers would do greater things, here Paul is encouraging his dearly beloved people to make Love greater.

How does love grow in perception? Perception of Love through the intellect is developed through devoted time to study the things of Love. Study 1 Corinthians 13. Study the Kingdom of Heaven. Study the actions of God, in total.

Paul is telling us to grow Love through our perception of the senses also. The method to grow in this type of perception is less obvious. Such a subject is often avoided because it strays too close to boundaries of behavior. But Paul wants us to grow in this ability to perceive as well. We grow in our ability to perceive things of the senses by experiencing them. This is where growth as a local church is vital. We perceive the Love of Jesus when we finally surrender to him. We feel his Love as we accept that he really died for our sins, in terrible sensory perception on the cross. We perceive with our senses his Love for us when he calls to our spirits. This ability to perceive grows as we are involved in a local church where people act out the Love they are perceiving from Jesus. They start to overflow with Love, like Paul just did in this introduction to his letter. He who is forgiven much loves much.

Paul wants us to develop these enhanced abilities to perceive Love so that then we can test and know which things are better. Looking at that passage in various translations is helpful to get a feel for the meaning and refine the nuance of the words used. “that you may approve [discern, test, implied approval in this context] the things that are better[the Greek word can mean to carry through, carry about, to differ, make a difference, surpass]”. Our improved Love Perception will make us able to examine situations and make a difference.

Paul adds the results that follow such a growth here. “that you may be [sincere, judged by sunlight] and [not offending, not causing offence, blameless] till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness [that through] Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

At this point in this essay, I will look aside at the issues that a misunderstanding of the Kingdom of Heaven produces in translation efforts. For many people, Philippians 1:10,11 say that you must discern the rules about sin so that you will be without sin by your own righteousness and be saved on the day of Jesus. But that does not align with the message of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The age of the internet has brought much evil because of the great power of easy access to vast amounts of information, with the illusion of reliability finally exposed for all to see (if they wake up enough to see it). But there is great opportunity in the easily accessible information, especially as pertains to studying the scriptures. You can now have access to most English translations of the Bible. Also other languages as well, but because I am writing in English, that is our focus.

Looking at Philippians 1:10,11 in all translations shows how the mindset of the translator affects the message they believe the passage to be conveying.

For example, looking at the Greek texts that are available, v11 starts with “filled with fruit of righteousness that through Jesus Christ”. You can see that it reads oddly without inserting a verb. So most translations take the liberty of inserting a verb. One must be careful with approaching translation issues; it is difficult to know the nuances of language that may have been clearly implied in the 1st century Greek mind. In the phrase from v11, is the fruit through Jesus or the righteousness? I have learned to always focus on Jesus’ teachings of the Kingdom of Heaven. When reading this phrase with that light, I have no doubt that it is the righteousness that is through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the sole righteous human in all history. When we accept his righteousness, by faith (choosing to believe without proof), and grow in Love, perceiving the best things, we will bear fruit. Remember the fruit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faith, self-control. Things outside the Law. It is Jesus’ righteousness that will bear fruit in our lives.

Understanding this makes us see(perceive) that the prior verses are understood in the context of the perception of Love.

Taking the liberty of summarizing Paul’s introduction to his letter to Philippi:

Paul is overflowing with Love at all levels for this motley group of partners in the Kingdom of Heaven. In his tremendous Love for them, he makes observations to encourage them, and us with them. He uses language that speaks directly into their Greek concepts, which we can grasp with some effort. He works from the foundation they already share as partners:

Because of the righteousness of Jesus leading to his death and resurrection, we begin to know Love. We can and should pursue increasing our ability to perceive all through this Love (leaders included). With our enhanced intellectual and sensory perception of Love, we can test the situations of life and know the path of Love to take. The path of Love will render us sincere, consistently demonstrating Love instead of merely teaching that it applies in limited circumstances. The path of Love will enable us to avoid causing offence to each other and to Jesus. These fruits will abound in us and in our local church to the glory and praise of God, the one who started and completes our faith.

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