Commentary on Philippians, 3:1 (Feed God’s Sheep)

Philippians 3:1

“1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me is not wearisome, but for you it is safe.”

“rejoice in the Lord”

Rejoicing is a common theme of Paul’s in this book. He mentions “rejoicing” or “joy” in eleven verses. Apparently the Philippian Christians were going through some persecution of their own (Phil 1:29-30), and Paul wanted to continually remind them that we as followers of Christ have more reason to rejoice than anyone. We belong to Him. Our sins are forgiven! The Spirit of God indwells us. This world is not our home, but merely passing through. Our true citizenship is in Heaven (Phil 3:3:20). Whatever we must endure in this life is but temporary – no matter how difficult things may get. We have the return of Christ to look forward to, and our resurrection and the Eternal Kingdom, where we will forever dwell in the presence of God when all hardships and suffering will be forever in our our past.

“To write the same things to you, to me is not wearisome, but for you it is safe.”

We can’t be sure what exactly Paul is referring to here. It may be the fact that he has talked so much about rejoicing. However, I believe it’s more likely that he is referring to the overall content of this book. Much of what he is sharing with them here, he probably shared with them when he was with them. 

To teach the same things to them was not “wearisome” for Paul. When it comes to spiritual matters, when it comes to the Word of God, it shouldn’t be a burden to keep teaching the same things. We need constant reminders of truth. The reason for that is because “it is safe” for us. There is safety in God’s Word and in God’s will. The teachings of Christianity is the truth revealed by God to mankind. Outside of Christ there is no truth, but only deception that leads people away from God, and to an eternity of suffering.

There is no safer place to be than in the will of God. We must cling to the teachings of God’s Word. We must follow it with a passion. Oh, so much trouble do we get into when we stray from it. So much regret do we suffer when we choose to go our own way, making wrong choices that affect us for the rest of our lives – and often the lives of those close to us. Some believers stray so far that they never return – that’s the ultimate consequence of not staying in the safety of God’s will and in fellowship with Him. When we walk with God, we walk in safety.

Paul’s example of untiring labor in the Word, is a great reminder to me and to all others who teach the Bible. Though it takes a lot of hard work to read and study and write and prepare sermons, it should never become wearisome. It’s when we just go through the motions that it becomes joyless. It should never become a burden. I think when it gets to that point, it’s become a duty. When it gets to that point, we’ve lost sight of how great an honor it is to be a channel through whom God speaks.

Paul’s example serves as a challenge to all pastors and teachers of God’s Word. When we realize the importance of what God has called us to, and the wonderful opportunity that God has given to us, it should completely transform the way we teach. 

As I’ve visited churches, and as I’ve listened to messages online, it brings sadness to my heart to report that much of what I hear is of little substance and of little power to produce spiritually mature Christians. How few pastors there are today that teach God’s Word verse by verse and book by book. The trend today is to teach topics, because it avoids a lot of subjects that may “offend” people and drive them off. They believe that expository teaching is no longer effective in our modern world. But the truth is, they’ve been deceived. That’s the spirit of the world speaking, not the Spirit of God. Here are a few scriptures to meditate on:

1 Tim 4:1
1 Tim 5:17
2 Tim 4:1-4
2 Tim 3:16-17

The above passages don’t directly address or command teaching God’s Word verse by verse, but I think they do provide a basis for it. In a world where there is so much deception and false teaching, wisdom tells us that we need as much of God’s Word as we can get. It’s so easy to drift off into false teaching and shallow waters when we pick and choose our way through the Bible. God’s Word is Spirit-breathed, and it’s the Spirit of God who uses His Word to renew our mind and to transform our lives. 

We need to follow Paul’s example (Phil 3:17; 4:9), who recognized that every word of the Bible is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16-17), who didn’t shrink from teaching anything that was spiritually profitable, who was aware of the importance of teaching all of God’s Word (Acts 20:20,27,28).

I know I hammer on this a lot, but so many others are hammering on the idea that we don’t need to teach God’s Word verse by verse, that’s it’s more effective to teach subjects that are “relevant,” according to one’s “felt-needs.” They believe that is what draws people, and that’s what keeps people coming through the doors. 

Thus I feel that I need to counter that by sounding the alarm against it. When we only teach what we believe people can relate to, it gets us out of balance, and eventually it leads to spiritually immature and worldly Christians. If pastors don’t send the message to their people (by practice and by exhortation) how important it is to read and study the Word of God verse by verse, then it’s going to affect their own approach to God’s Word. Reading devotionals won’t get the job done. 

I fear that we Christians in America are becoming biblically illiterate, and I believe it’s the shallow teaching from so many pulpits today that is largely responsible for that. There’s always going to be Christians who love the Word of God and will spend a lot of time studying it regardless of how their pastors teach, but I believe there are far more who will follow the example set by their pastors. Pastors need to recognize the responsibility that God has given to them to feed their flock with spiritual food that will result in spiritually mature followers of Christ (Acts 20:27-28). 

Every pastor and Bible teacher should meditate regularly on Malachi 2:1-9. That passage should be enough to awaken anyone who’s been given the responsibility to teach God’s Word and to care for His people.