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Philippians (11 messages)
As Paul and Silas sat in that prison cell at Philippi (Acts 16), they could hardly have imagined they were witnessing the birth of the model Church of the New Testament, yet that is what God was setting up.
It came about in the most unusual circumstances; an argument between Paul & Barnabas sends Barnabas across the sea as he retraces the steps of their first missionary journey, while Paul heads north over land to visit the same places in reverse order.
Paul only gets to a few of those places before God miraculously interevenes and sends him on to found the first Christian Church on the European continent.
There, in Macedonia, Paul meets an unusual mix of people. There's the slave girl who is a bit of a money spinner for her owners and whose subsequent conversion leads to Paul and Silas being flogged and thrown into gaol.
There's Lydia, the businesswoman from Thyatira, who is "a worshiper of God" but who must still have her heart "opened" by God to hear the Apostle's message.
And there is the Roman gaoler who is a whisker away from doing himself in before asking that famous question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?".
I can only imagine the scene as, years later, those people are gathered for their regular worship and a new letter from the ageing Apostle is read out.
Once again he has been falsely accused and thrown into prison. Once again he faces idolatry head on and once again he selflessly refuses to highlight his own misfortune as he exhorts this young Church, experiencing the heat of persecution, to "stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel".
The Philippian Church had sent money, gifts and even Epaphraditus to Paul to equip him for his ongoing work in the Kingdom, despite the fact he was under house arrest in Rome. It humbled Paul greatly to think this Church, with so many of its own problems, would continue to make his ministry a priority.
Paul loved this Church deeply and they upheld the Gospel in word and deed even though false teachers were muscling in and calling them away from the one true faith.
Now join us as we hear what the imprisoned Apostle says to his beloved flock at Philippi in one of the greatest documents to have survived from antiquity.
It's Paul's letter to the Philippians and as we study it together, I pray God would would open our hearts too.