To Whom it May Concern . . .

I don’t write letters anymore.  You probably don’t either.  These days snail mail is only useful for formal invitations, bills, and advertisers.  But news or information?  Email.  I even send my thank you cards electronically.  Except to my mother. This change isn’t necessarily bad;  speedy communication can be very helpful.  But while it is a useful tool for “getting stuff done,” I sometimes wonder if I lose track of the person I am addressing.  Task and relationship end up getting split apart instead of staying connected.

This week we start into our first section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Philippians 1:1-11. As Paul opens his letter, I am immediately struck by the fact that relationship comes first for him.  Business can wait.  I have a lot to learn here, even from the opening verses.

Plan for the Week

Let me outline our plan for the week.  I am not going to tell you what time of day to study your Bible or how many days a week to do it.  You can figure that part out.  But we are going to:

  • Use the “Feeding on Christ Daily Worksheet” which you will find under “Resources” at the top of the page.
  • Use this worksheet as a weekly rather than a daily plan.  You can use one question per day if you like (there are 7).
  • We will also take the 7 questions, one per week, as our blog “discussion question” for the week. This will help us practice one skill at a time.
  • Leave the door open for other questions or comments that you may want to share

Discussion question for the week:  What’s going on here?

Here’s the expanded version: Who are the characters?  What does the word saint mean? overseersdeacons? When–are there any time cues in this passage?  Where–are there any location cues? How does Paul feel about them? Out of all the possible things he could have said, what did he choose to say?

Feel free to post responses to any of these questions.  You can also follow up with a question of your own.  And don’t wait for me to answer…jump in and discuss if you have something to say, even, “I was just thinking the same thing…”

19 comments on “To Whom it May Concern . . .

  1. Debi Meiklejohn says:

    Rondi, thank you so much for your seminar, and all of your work preparing it (and the work of all of the others who made it happen as well!) I am so excited about this blog, about feasting on God’s word, and about drawing nearer to God and to the women of Grace Church through this study. I thought that I was already behind the eight ball, since I’ve only read the background in my study bible and read through Philippians twice. I did purchase a journal (at great price, I might add!) this weekend, and I’m ready to dig into the questions. God is good, and I am encouraged! Thank you, thank you, thank you! 🙂

    • rondi says:

      You are welcome, Debi! It is a joy to have this kind of fellowship together…a glorious use of technology, don’t you think? Thanks for joining in.

  2. Natalie Cooper says:

    After cutting up the passage with who,whatwhen,where and how. I continue to have this wonderful picture in my head of Paul sitting and writing in prison, smiling as he is remembering all the faces of the bishops, ministers, and people of the church in Phillipi. As he states in verse 3 and 4 that his rememberance of them brings him joy. I continue to read vs 1-11 over and over again because Paul’s passion and love for these people is so real that I myself am walking away encouraged by this picture of living life together in Christ as a church!

  3. Amanda Peet says:

    Natalie… I came away with the same ideas about how Paul feels about this church. He just doesn’t stop telling them how much he cares for them. It really is a good picture of living together in Christ. (even when people don’t live close)

    I also had a questions. I was wondering, what is the “good work” that Paul is talking about? Is is something specific to this church or is it the good work of spreading the gospel or is it all of the many good works that God has prepared for them each day? Or even as I am typing I am wondering is the good work of sanctification?

    • Natalie Cooper says:

      Amanda those are really good questions and I like all of them! Now that I think of it the way that you have asked perhaps Paul wrote it that way so we would think of all the good works that God allows us to do by His grace. All the opportunities we have to spread the gospel and glorify Him. I really really like those questions thanks Amanda:)

  4. Courtney says:

    Since the good work is God’s work within us and that work will be completed the day Christ returns, I def think it’s the continuing work of sanctification.

    I am also encouraged whenever the Lord reminds me of Paul. I am so relational, like many women are, and so it’s verrrry difficult for me to focus on school work and preparing for law school. People matter more to me, yet I feel a pull to fulfill my purposes and passions in law. In my fourth year of college, I stilllll struggle with simply sitting down for a few hours to read or study, when I know soooo many women who need an ear, a word of truth from the Lord, time together etc. My heart especially breaks for a group of ten high school girls I used to be a leader for at another church.

    Yet the Lord continues to draw me to himself and remind me of Paul, who though his heart broke for his people, the Lord had him at a distance and he therefore had nothing to offer his people but prayer. For me, this reminds me that all we have is prayer and the Lord who allows and enables us to do anything for anyone.

    (I know there’s alot of ideology behind my thoughts, so pleeease comment if the Lord brings anything to mind regarding what I said! Thanks ladies for your participation in this!! This blog is a lonnng time answer to prayer!!)

    • rondi says:

      Great question Amanda; great answer Courtney. I agree that Paul is referring to God’s continuing work of salvation in the Philippians, rather than to their good works for him. Phil 2:12-13 continues the thought. His work is the basis for our works. I’m so glad!

      Courtney, thank you for the thoughts you shared and your heart for people. One idea I had that you might consider–separating tasks from people is not the way God intended us to live in the Garden. It is part of the “brokenness” of this fallen world. Let Jesus reunite work and relationships in your life. Your studies are to prepare you for work, and your work will serve people! So focusing on your studies is about people. Paul’s prayer for “love to abound more and more with all wisdom and depth of insight” applies to your use of time and how do divide it between studies and reaching out to those around you. Ask him each day to give you that love and that wisdom. He will show you how to divide your time without dividing your heart.

      Thanks for sharing.

  5. Natalie Cooper says:

    I have to share with you ladies an encouraging conversation had with a close friend today about sanctification. We talked for about an hour about how beautiful the Lord’s sanctification is. Looking back just a year, two, three, he is never ever done, for that I am so thankful! I thought of the Phillipians and even Paul before when he was Saul. Sanctification usually is very hard in the moment but oh how kind the Lord is to cleanse us and draw us closer to Him.

    I am now really curious if Paul was describing the “good work” of God’s sanctification to the Phillipians and even us.

    • rondi says:

      That is a very encouraging conversation! What a great way to apply Philippians 1:6–to look back a year or 2 in our own lives and see God’s faithful work to sanctify us. We can also do that with each other and point out the progress we see.

      In answer to your question, here is a quote from the ESV Study Bible on that verse, “The foundation for spiritual growth is recognizing that it is God who began a good work in you and will bring it to completion. Genuine spiritual progress is rooted in what God has done, is doing, and will do.”

  6. Monica McFarlin says:

    So, today I go to look up the words “saints,” “overseers,” and “deacon” because when I was about to write the definition in my journal, my mind went blank—which is strange since these are words that I have found commonly used in the church, but I guess I never really bothered to find out what they actually were referring to. I routinely use the New American Standard version (although I just got the ESV Bible in the mail today and I LOVE it!!!) and this is what it says:
    1) Saints–“one faithful to God”
    2) Overseers– “director or leader”
    3) Deacon– “officer or server”

    Does anyone have a different definition?? I am somewhat new at this quiet time/bible study thing, so forgive me if it seems so simple minded. I just tend to look at things more academically & straight forward and have a hard time seeing deeper meanings and reading between the lines–basically seeing the bigger picture.

    Also, I had a question: did this church become lukewarm or did they just become complacent?

    • rondi says:

      You go girl! Glad you are looking up definitions…straightforward study is the best road to insights. The Holy Spirit will surprise you with flashes of Christ as you press on answering questions.

      I’ll see if anyone else wants to jump in on the definitions. But I was wondering where you got the idea that the church had become lukewarm or complacent?

      • Monica McFarlin says:

        So it took forever for me to get back into Philippians….

        In the begining of this study, I read the whole chapter countless times to help me get an overview on what was going on before I studied small sections at a time. In doing that, I thought that maybe the church had gotten complacent as I was reading Phil 3:12-16 because Paul would say things like “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” But now that i have read this chapter over and over and over (because it takes me forever to get insight!) I don’t think that is the case at all. I just think that Paul was simply helping the church to focus on what really matters and the “Big Picture.” Like most of us, I’m sure the church was in need of encouragement and Paul was able to give that to them. And I also think that it gave Paul encouragement too by encouraging the church.

  7. Kelly says:

    “Out of all the possible things he could have said, what did he choose to say?” I really like what God showed me with this question. I thought about where Paul was (in prison for preaching the good news of Christ) and I thought about what my opening lines would be if I were to write a letter at that time. Oddly enough I found it kind of easy to relate to Paul. I am going back and for with the EDD on allegations of fraud in collecting unemployment, I have been having very difficult health issues, most (if not all) of my friends are MIA and what do my Facebook posts start with? Not the same thing Paul’s correspondence does. He opens his letter FIRST with praise to God, SECOND with petitions for others. His words speak of confidence and joy, I don’t think that he is even thinking of himself at all as he’s writing and I can’t get my mind off of myself while I’m reading. It is shaming, but I suppose something that I needed to see. Paul’s God is my God, his grace is my grace, and as the singing veggies remind me God is a God of second chances so I’m going to repent, worship, and start this day over again 🙂

    • rondi says:

      Great response! God is the God of second chances…enjoy starting your day over again, as many times as you need to.

  8. Becky Priest says:

    Rondi asks, “What’s going on here?” And here is what I wrote down: Paul is declaring his love for these people by: thanking God for them (v3), praying for them (v4), encouraging them (v6), endearing them (v7), deeply desiring to be with them (v8), blessing them and desiring God’s best for them (v9 &10) and pointing them back to the source of Christ (v11). I love verses 9-11! I have friends who pray that as a blessing for their children. It is such a generous and godly desire for his friends, the Philippians, among whom are Lydia, the jailor, and the former demon-possessed girl. I think I have friends like them! I am encouraged. But this CHANGES how I look at life today as I realize this isn’t just Paul’s desire for his friends – but God’s desire for ME! Knowing this sure lightens my load, which in turn allows room for HIS strength to fill me for today’s tasks. And I really need that. I am “filled with fruits of righteousness” and they come from my Savior in the first place. Cool.

  9. Nichole says:

    I am a little behind, so I hope my comment is not to late.
    “Who are the characters of this epistle?”
    I read Acts chapter 16 in addition to this to get a good background of what happened while Paul was in Phillipi. I thought it was neat to see who some of the people were who Paul may have had in mind when he was writing the letter. I don’t know for sure but possibly the slave girl who was healed of the demon that was fortune telling, maybe some people who knew her, Lydia of course (the seller of purple stuff), her family, and the solider who was guarding the jail fell apart that him and Silas were in, it says that this soldiers’ family was also baptized. There was probably more people than this, but we know they were meeting at Lydia’s house for fellowship. So far, a few of the believers of this church that Paul is writing to is possibly a slave girl, a successful business woman and her family, and a solider and his family, and others who aren’t mentioned….. I love it. Only God can bring such a variety of people together like that!
    Just as an interesting side note, we learned last year in history that this geographic area was very rich in a certain kind of aquatic snail who’s shell contained a purple dye that could be extracted and used to dye clothes (remember Lydia?).

    • rondi says:

      This is good stuff, Natalie. You really made the words come to life through your research. Thanks for contributing this.

  10. Melody says:

    Hello. I “Googled you” after reading your piece on the Gospel Coalition Blog today! 🙂 I really like the idea of this blog and I just may have to suggest that my church do something similar! For now though, I would like to use the Feasting on Christ worksheet that you have graciously provided, but is it all there? I wonder because in this post you refer to there being 7 questions, but I only see 3? Unless I count bullet points, but there are actually 12 of those. So I’m not sure if there is something missing or if I’m just not looking at it correctly. Thanks, Melody

    • rondi says:

      Hi Melody! I’m so glad my post encouraged you today. You’ve done some work if you’ve dug up my old post from Philippians. Good job :)! The 7 questions lay out like this: they refers to every bullet point except the ones in the middle group. Those count as one question, they are ways to see Christ in the passage. Not all will apply on any passage, so I treated it as a single question. I’m hoping to write this whole thing up someday soon, and put it in book form so it can be more helpful. Let me know if anything else is confusing. Enjoy the feast! Rondi