Week 43: Joyful Lessons from the Suffering Servant of Christ

One of the terms that most of us have become well acquainted with in recent times of the Covid pandemic is “lockdown”. It was a new reality for most of us to stay put and to have many freedoms curtailed. But this also created a creative outlet for many who wanted to make the most use of all the free time, resulting in another well used phrase: “my covid project”.

In this week’s readings, we get to see some of apostle Paul’s “prison projects”, or letters through which he discipled and led Christian believers while he endured imprisonment and confinement. Unlike our pandemic induced lockdowns, Paul’s imprisonment was much much harsher and was caused because of his proclamation of the gospel. Yet, Paul is unfazed by this imprisonment. Read for yourselves in Philippians 1:12-26.

Phil 113b

#1. Paul’s letter to the Philippians

  • We read from Acts 16 that Philippi was a town in the district of Macedonia. Paul and Silas went there after Paul had had a vision of a Macedonian pleading for him to come there. There, they saw Lydia, a business woman, and her family being baptized; they were imprisoned for delivering a demon possessed slave fortune-teller; and while in prison, they experienced the miraculous earthquake well past midnight which led to the jailor and his household being saved.
  • So Paul had a lot of rich experiences there and writes to the Philippians out of a place of familiarity and makes references to the generosity he had received from the church at Philippi.
  • Epaphroditus is the messenger who bore the gifts to Paul and who is now delivering the letter back in person.
  • While the letter touches on various subjects and personal remarks, the central focus is the Messianic poem in chapter which Paul uses to highlight the complete work of Christ on the cross.
  • One of the other themes we see here is that of perseverance and the need to rejoice even in the midst of sufferings.

#2. Paul’s letter to the Colossians

  • While the letter to the Philippians was written to a very familiar audience, the letter to the Colossians was addressed to a church that Paul had not personally met at all.
  • The church was founded by Epaphras and through whom Paul is writing his words of hope, teaching and encouragement.
  • Similar to the Messianic poem in his letter to the Philippian church, Paul pens another poem about the Messiah in the opening section of this letter to the church at Colossae.
  • He also lays out some of the key tenets of the gospel, probably to make sure the foundation of their faith is solid.
  • Finally in his closing remarks as he mentions various individuals, we see that Onesimus is mentioned as a “dear brother” (4:9) even  though he was an escaped slave. But more on that in the next book…

#3. Paul’s letter to Philemon

  • This is a letter that was addressed to an individual, rather than a church. And the individual, Philemon is a close “friend and fellow worker” of Paul. And the letter is being delivered by Epaphras, the same person who also delivered the letter to the Colossians.
  • It is a very personal letter that deals with a very hard subject that was against the cultural norms of those times and gives us a glimpse into how the church today may address social issues.
  • The main subject of this letter is Onesimus, who was Philemon’s slave who escaped his master and by law deserves death and punishment. But he has been touched by the power of God through Paul’s ministry and now a Christian.
  • So the heart of the appeal that Paul makes is for Philemon to receive Onesimus back, not as a slave but as a brother. And the basis for this appeal is the partnership claim that Paul has with Philemon.

Without further ado, go ahead and dive into these 3 letters that Paul penned from the Roman prison.

Weekly Summary

Christ the Messiah has conquered all things and is to be glorified in our life and in our death as we joyfully overcome all that has been set before us.

Weekly Reading Plan

And now here is the weekly plan for you to read through these letters.

screenshot 2021-10-18, 21_11_07

Don’t forget to use the template I shared previously to help you on this journey. Also, check out my resources page where I explain this template a little more.

Digging Deeper

If you want to dig deeper here are some of my suggestions:

  • Use the above schedule to read through all of the text
  • Compare and study the 2 Messianic poems in Philippians 2 and Colossians 1.
  • Look up the Greek word for partnership (hint: Koinonia) in Philemon and do a deeper word study on it to understand the foundation of Paul’s request to Philemon.
  • Optional (if you want to really read through the Bible in a year): Read Psalm 124-127.

And that is it for week 43!

Happy Bible Learning!


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