When you look at a caterpillar that is so tiny and is in a cocoon, you may not think much of it. But a day comes when it is transformed into butterfly, and how wonderful it looks! The change is evident. The transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly is visible and is evident!
I have started a new series of teaching in the church. The series is called the book of Philippians. Let’s go through different aspects of this wonderful book together for the next few weeks and learn from Paul and Philippians what this book has to offer us.
Background to Philippians
The Apostle Paul wrote this pastoral letter to the Christians in Philippi, from a prison in Rome in AD 62. He probably had several purposes and themes in mind: Paul wanted them to grow in their love for one another, overcome rivalry and envy in Christian service, to identify where does righteousness come from? What does a Gospel-centered lifestyle look like and how to deal with disputes in God honoring ways?
We see that there are three transformations that are mentioned in Phil.1:1-6. Paul’s Transformation, Philippian believers’ Transformation, and Transformation of relationship with God.
Paul’s Transformation (Phil. 1:1)
Paul was a Roman citizen with very impressive credentials that are listed in Philippians 3:4-9. He had studied under Gamaliel, who was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin, recognized as a Pharisee doctor of Jewish Law. Paul could speak Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin. But here we see that although he had such a long list of credentials, he voluntarily chose to call himself a slave! This term, in the Greek language “Doulos”, means a bond-slave. It refers to someone who is always at the disposal of his master. Paul had been transformed from being a proud Pharisee to a slave of Jesus Christ. Paul’s identity now is not based on his race or any his accomplishments, instead it is based on Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. It is based on the call that Jesus had on his way to Damascus (Acts 9). What does transformation look like in your own life? Can you tell your life has been transformed since the time you had an encounter with Jesus? What does your transformed life look like?
Believers’ Transformation (Phil. 1:1b)
The second transformation we can see in this passage is the Philippian believers are now referred to as “holy people”. This term “holy people” does not refer to morally impeccable or ethical character of the believers, instead it refers to the special relationship they had with God through Jesus. They are “holy” because they are incorporated into the person of Christ (Philippians 1:1). These “holy ones” now have a new realm of existence “in Christ”. We can say that the term “holy ones” refers to us believers in Jesus Christ as well. As we look at our own lives, we might have a leaning toward the world and sin and many times we dishonor God. Yet if you are a born-again believer, you are called a saint! You are “Hagios” – set apart and separated from the world. The Philippian believers are holy because they are set apart for God and to His service, to worship, serve and be his missionary in that part of the world.
Transformation in their relationship with God as “Father” (Phil. 1:2)
The third transformation we see in this passage is that God is now referred to as Father. In the Old Testament we see that the priest had to enter the Presence of God, the holy of holies with the blood of the sacrifice. God is holy. But in verse 2, Paul refers to God as “our Father”. You may be a person who is born in Nagaland and I may be born in Kerala. We may not share anything in common either genetically or linguistically. But when we come before God, He is our Father. Paul called God as “our Father” through Jesus Christ. There is a global family that we see developing here.
Evidence of Transformation
These amazing transformations of the Philippian Christians brought great joy to Paul. He prays for them with joy (Philippians 1:4). What we see in the next few verses is that not only were these Philippian Christians transformed positionally, but we see growth in their spiritual maturity. Paul saw the Philippians’ generosity as evidence of God’s work in their lives (verse 5, 6; also 2 Corinthians 8:7).
Assess your transformation and maturity
We have seen Paul’s transformation from an arrogant Jewish man to a slave of Jesus Christ, the Philippians’ transformation from an eternal condemnation to holy ones and the amazing transformation of their relationship to God as Father. How about you? Is there a visible transformation in your life? What measurable growth can be seen in your life? Take time to assess our own transformation and maturity.
Click link to watch the sermon titled “Transformation and Evidence,” from the book of Philippians.