"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « What does it take to be Justified? | Main | Offenses Will Come »

    A Few thoughts on Acts and Philippians By Marco Gonzalez


    Paul in Acts 16 and Philippians faces great troubles, stressors, and difficulties, but is also given a tremendous amount of opportunities and triumphs for the gospel. In his first visit to Macedonia, he was beaten with rods, imprisoned, dragged to the market place, and condemned before the rulers. Treated as a Jew, and savagely beaten, though he possesses Roman citizenship, Paul is thrown in jail. Disgraced, severely crushed, stripped of all clothing, and struck by many blows and rods from the crowds and magistrates, Paul is shackled in prison with little hope of escape. The whole community, in Philippi, influenced by the rulers, set themselves against Paul.

    As Paul writes the epistle to the Philippians he is imprisoned in Rome. Joy becomes the main theme of his letter, and he uses his experiences in prison, ministry, and circumstances to reorient their gaze back to the gospel. The Philippians are under grave circumstances, the church is experiencing rivalry and disunity, Paul is in jail, and new teachings of flesh over grace are tearing them apart.

    In Acts, however, the gospel and the supremacy of God to save sinners are displayed. On Sabbath day, a reference to the creation ordinance, we anticipate the special presence of God with his people. To observe the Sabbath is to share in God’s rest, primarily and not redemptively, and to enjoy the blessing of eternity in the presence of God. We enjoy this foretaste every Sabbath, and not merely a celebration of redemption. Since God is present, when Lydia meets with him, her stance was worship. So the words “On Sabbath day” and the salvation of Lydia become a rich foretaste of the messianic banquet (Rev 19:9). God is the active agent, using Paul, awakening Lydia’s heart to heed what was spoken.

    There are many destructive, sinful reactions that Paul warns the Philippians about. Greed, Selfishness, self-righteous judgment, envy, anger, bitterness, rivalry, and fear are what Paul tells the church to avoid. But, while in prison, Paul demonstrates and models the opposite of those behaviors. Paul, knowing the circumstances, is aware of the grave dangers that lurk in the shadows of the Philippian church. The persecution faced before them, the near death experience of a key church leader, the fear of Judaizers who mutilate the flesh and confuse the gospel, and the overwhelming disunity, greed, and selfish ambitions of the church. The Philippians, on the one hand, are presented with dire circumstances that can bring forth sinful reactions, and, on the other hand, the good the church had done by donating money to Paul can just as easily lead to sinful reactions. So in both the difficult and good, the opportunity for sinful reactions is present.

    In Acts, we find the liberating power of the gospel to transform heavy laden people. Lydia and the fortune-teller are prime examples of Gods transformative power. God met them in their context, their world, and their circumstances. But, in Philippians we find the God of hope who promises to change us. In the midst of trouble and disaster God’s character is never called into question, but only enlarges by reorienting our vision to Christ. Though the gospel is being defamed by false teachers, the apostle is in prison, and the church is disillusioned, there is still great hope in God’s truth.

    First, we are so unified with Jesus Christ that we partake in his suffering, his life, and his death. Christ has overcome all obstacles, including the sting of death, and believers have no fear of it. Second, the humility of Christ was the basis for his exaltation as Lord and Judge of all. Though he was the exact representation of God he denied himself all his divine rights, as creator. Not that he divested himself of his being, but Christ refused his divine rights and privileges. Third, Christ took the form of a servant, refusing all his rights as God, even to the point of death.

    So what actually changes people? God is always the active agent, through the Holy Spirit, bringing radical change to our hearts. But this is too broad an idea, what actually occurs in the human heart? The root issue was clear—the creature wants to be the creator. So we must reorient our hearts to acknowledge that two realties exist: God and Man. The model Paul presents us with is to humble ourselves before God. I must acknowledge that God is king and I serve only him, self-interest leads to destruction. With God on the throne I take his agenda and prerogatives before my own, and this creates my service to others. Like Christ, it means emptying my heart of all inordinate desires and ungodly motives. And since Christ is one with the Father, we are one with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If this isn’t enough, God promises to will and to work his good pleasure in us. The grace to do what I could never achieve is given to me.

    Posted by Marco on February 23, 2015 05:28 PM


    "Like Christ, it means emptying my heart of all inordinate desires and ungodly motives."

    Good luck.

    I've never met a pure motive yet.

    Thanks be to God that He uses "earthen vessels" (us sinners) accomplish His perfect will.

    Thank you.

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for your comment. Jesus, in Matthew 7, use the analogy of the tree with good and bad fruit. If we produce bad fruit, the motivation factor of my hear is on self wants needs, and desires. If we produce good fruit, the motivation is righteousness. So, by implication, and progressive sanctification, we can change our ungodly desires to godly ones.

    It is as David Powlision has stated: a from to dynamic. I go from my sin to righteousness. So, yes, our desires are impure but the spirit produces the motivation to have godly, right motives. (Philippians 1:6 ; 2:3). We should be experiencing godly motives, though the time table can vary. If not, we aren't growing in Christ.

    As I say..."Good luck".

    We are bound to sin. Our motives are tainted...never pure.

    But it's not us and what 'we do'...say, feel, or think, that matters it?

    It's Christ and what He has done, is doing, and will yet do.

    Otherwise you just might as well be a Roman Catholic.
    That stuff about God giving us the grace to do what is right is exactly what they preach.



    That's what the reformed understanding of sanctification and biblical counseling is. We are able to produce godly affections and fruit. The analogy of the fruit tree, Matthew 7, is clear. Regeneration implants the godly affections worked out through our context, scenario, and situation.

    We grow in grace and righteousness. Sanctification is where both God and man work together. Catholics confuse justification with that.

    Marco Gonzalez have good research on Philippians because without research it's not possible to write Few thoughts on Acts which are related to Philippians. I'm Austalian but my some friends are Philippinans, I don't notice which acts you mentioned here. But now i will try to notice their acts which show the reliablity of that post.

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