When I began my study of this passage, I figured it was pretty straightforward. To be honest, I was a bit peevish to see that we would spend the whole Sunday School hour going over just 6 1/2 rather boring little verses. I mean, really. I figured it would take all of ten minutes to cover this passage. What in the world would we talk about for the other 50 minutes?
Then that whole living and active thing kicked in.
Paul’s prayer for the Philippians has been running through my mind all week. It’s one of those passages that leaps out and demands to be examined more thoroughly. The more I chew on it, the more tangents I could go off on, but I’ll strive to keep in line with a single train of thought. (Those who know me well know what a feat of constraint this is for me, the queen of rabbit-trails, but here goes!)
Paul’s letter to the Philippians starts out with the standard greeting, identifying himself (and often who he’s with), who the letter is intended for, followed by thanksgiving and prayer.
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice Paul is directing this message to all of God’s people, not just the overseers (those who oversaw the spiritual needs of the body) and the deacons (those who took care of the practical needs of the body). This means all, my friends, and that includes you and me.
Back in grade school I was taught to write stories using the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. It was a great way to remember all of the important bits to writing a story that would impress my teacher.
It’s rather funny, but studying a book of scripture requires a remarkably similar approach if we want to get the most out of our reading. We need to know who wrote it, what sort of writing it is, when it was written, where it was written from and for whom (if applicable), and why it was written in the first place.
I’m not much of a history buff. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that, until quite recently, I detested history. Back in my school days (oh, so long ago!) I found the study of history to be nauseatingly dull. However, as I’ve ripened with age, I find history to be rather fascinating, likely because after almost half a century on the planet, one has amassed enough general knowledge to understand its value.
Every culture and subculture has their own jargon, words and phrases that don’t make a lot of sense to those outside of it. Christianity is no exception. We use a lot of language that makes sense to us, but the meaning behind some words or phrases are really hard to articulate. The concept that God’s Word is ‘living and active’ is one such stumper. We accept that the Word is indeed living and active because it says so. But what exactly does that mean?