The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
August 29, 2010


1) Paul's Attitude Toward Circumstances (Julian R. Snell)
2) Sojourners & Pilgrims (Ed Brand)


Paul's Attitude Toward Circumstances
by Julian R. Snell

Our study in the next four articles is within the book of Philippians with focus upon matters pertinent to the study of attitude. In this initial lesson our stage is set and attention is directed to the attitude of Paul toward his circumstances. Future studies will concern us with his attitude toward "People," "Things," and finally the attitude of "The Secure Mind."

Philippi, one of the principal cities of Macedonia, was the first place in Europe to hear an apostle preach the gospel. Founded by Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, it was a city of dignity within the Roman Empire when first visited by Paul. The second preaching trip of Paul, accompanied by Silas and Luke, originated at Antioch. Traveling through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches, they proceeded to Derbe and Lystra where they were joined by Timothy. Without detailing the itinerary, we simply note that at Troas Paul saw a vision in the night; "There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us" (Acts 16:9). Sailing from Troas, Paul and company came to Neapolis, then some ten miles distant to Philippi, geographic setting for our study.  

On the Sabbath, following his arrival in Philippi, Paul and company sought out the place of prayer which was found to be down by the riverside. Here a group of women had come together to pray, among whom is numbered Lydia who accepted the Christ preached by Paul and determined to be baptized. She then extended the hospitality of her home to Paul and his fellow workers and there they abode for a time (Acts 16:12-15).  

All is well for a time, the outlook is promising as the truth bears fruit. "A certain maid having a spirit of divination" was encountered. She was the possession of certain men who had been capitalizing on her powers for their personal gain. Following after Paul, she was heard to cry out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim unto you the way of salvation. And this she did for many days" (Acts 16:17-18). Testimony of this nature, though true, could not be tolerated from a source not divinely sanctioned and Paul commanded the spirit to come out of the woman. Her masters incensed, brought Paul and Silas before the rulers in the marketplace and falsely accused them. They were beaten and imprisoned. Here, within the prison, at the hour of midnight they were heard to pray and sing. A great earthquake shook the foundations of the prison, the doors were opened and everyones bands were loosed. The jailor, seeing the doors opened and supposing his prisoners had fled, was about to take his own life when the voice of Paul stayed his hand, saying, "Do thyself no harm: for we are all here." A beautiful ending to this part of the story was summarized in the reminder that the jailor upon believing on the Lord was baptized, he and all his, straightway. Public exoneration was demanded of the magistrates and received by Paul and company and they took leave of Philippi (Acts 16:16-40).  

Paul's beating, imprisonment and humiliation in Philippi, had he allowed himself to dwell upon it, could have caused bitterness toward the city generally and possibly tainted an otherwise pure remembrance of those making up the church specifically. Indeed, Paul had been treated shamefully, unjustly and cruelly. Yet, he cultivated a dwelling upon the good and pleasant as evident in the statements of chapter 1, verses 3 through 7, and summarized in "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." I respectfully suggest to my readers that surely there is a profitable lesson here for you and me. To become bitter, one has to dwell upon the unpleasant; to have a pleasant attitude one has to cultivate a remembrance of the good things.  

Joy, rejoicing, is the overriding tone of this epistle. Joy is used six times and rejoicing is used eleven. The very word "joy" is the key to the direction the attitude of the Christian must take. Such must have the right attitude toward: J-esus; O-thers; Y-ou, or, if you will, one's self. The word attitude is not found in the King James version of the scriptures, and yet, the idea is ever present. Perhaps the statement of Phil. 2:5 is the most comprehensive definition of attitude to be found in the Bible, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Attitude is, as here illustrated, the mind in you. We submit this is a workable and acceptable definition as we apply this understanding to these studies. Throughout this epistle emphasis is upon "the single mind" set and unwavering, with Christ as the seat and center. He is the single object.  

The foregoing observations will hopefully serve to introduce this article and those to follow and enrich appreciation for a consideration of Paul's attitude, and stimulate within us a determined following of his example.  

Consider the attitude of Paul, first of all toward his circumstances. What are they at the time of the writing of this epistle in 61-63 AD? "So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places" (Phil. 1:13). He is a prisoner in Rome, perhaps living in his own hired house. Acts 21 begins the record of a sequence of events for Paul which sees him falsely charged with desecrating the temple and opposing the law with the people being moved to kill him. He is arrested, appeals his case as a Roman citizen, and finally is heard before the court at Rome. As Philippians is written, the trial is probably over, Paul awaits the verdict. He expects to be released but is not certain of this outcome. What is his attitude toward his bonds in the face of these circumstances? He sees such as an opportunity to "the furtherance of the gospel" (1:12). This attitude inspired courage and confidence in brethren everywhere. His joy and hope was an inspiring example to those who read then, and certainly is such to us now, "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation" (v. 19).  

Adding to the burden of imprisonment, the caustic voice of certain critics was raised against the apostle (vv. 14-17). The exact nature of the critics' efforts is not revealed, but I trust you will not consider it presumptuous to suggest they were using Paul's bonds to reflect upon him. Perhaps charging such was detrimental to his work as an apostle, maybe even emphasizing the justice of his circumstances. At any rate, they were working his circumstances to the greatest adverse effect. His attitude toward this, toward these (v. 18)? No reaction in kind, no retaliation. The criticism appears to be more of a personal nature, rather than upon the gospel itself.  This being the case, the action is considered insignificant. "Christ is preached" and "I rejoice."

A third factor, contributing to the circumstances of Paul at this time is crisis. Defined as a crucial time, a turning point, Paul faced the crisis of death. Awaiting the verdict following his trial, he did not know whether he would live or die (vv. 20-24). His attitude is reflected in the statement, "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death." "Whatever my fate I am determined that Christ shall be glorified" is his determination. Is one to labor under a conclusion that it is wrong to desire death? Not necessarily. Such may reflect a wholesome attitude, a confidence born of faith and trust, reflecting the certainty of salvation.  Thus, to die being far better. Yet, in Paul's case as in others, the cause of Christ may be better served by deferment. Such being the attitude, one rejoices in the realization that his will is within God's will.  

Application of these things is first of all to the Philippians. We are in fact reading their mail. For them, it was directed toward producing "singleness of mind."  "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries" (vv. 27-28). Admonition is to stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving for the faith of the gospel, and in nothing be terrified by your adversaries. This says "man your battle stations."

To you and me, from this, we hopefully glean a lasting lesson on attitude toward circumstances of life. Admittedly, the specifics differ but generally they are the same. Chains are not likely our lot, yet, whatever our lot, we are to see every circumstance as opportunity to the furtherance of the gospel. We all have critics and perhaps need to cultivate the attitude of tolerance toward personal charges, realizing all does not have to be answered as long as such is not detrimental to the gospel. Proper attitude toward crisis will enable us to face each with faith and confidence, even certainty. Whether life or death, or otherwise, whatever the case, let our manner of life be as becometh the gospel and the dignity faithfulness to it demands. Such an attitude toward circumstances indexes our faith, reflects our true relation to Christ and suggests the reality of our hope. God help us to proceed with singleness of mind.

-- Via Searching the Scriptures, September 1983, Volume 24, Number 9


Sojourners & Pilgrims
 by Ed Brand

Peter urges saints to regard themselves as sojourners and pilgrims. A sojourner is one who lives among aliens. Pilgrims live in a strange place, away from one's own people. Hostility is injected into this alien, strange place by the phrase, which war against the soul (1 Pet. 2:11). He says the present dwelling place of Christians is in a strange, hostile land; a land where danger lurks in the form of fleshly lusts.  

I know Americans who live abroad. They are literally sojourners.  They are living in a country of which they are not native. The customs there are different from their homeland. Most of them live in relative safety from governmental persecution, but some do not. There is actual danger of deportation or threat of harassment while they live there. A remarkable thing about these people: they volunteered to live in this environment because they believe their being there would be helpful to the cause of Jesus. Living there is generally more rigorous and less comfortable than living in the USA. They have not forgotten their homeland and look forward to the time they can return.  

Christians are living in a land which is not theirs and which is inhabited by people and influences which are foreign to them. How easy it is to forget that we are just pilgrims passing through.  We are like Abraham who dwelled in tents (only a temporary home) while he traveled in search of the city which hath foundations (Heb. 11:9-10). He was incessantly looking for this permanent dwelling place.  

The world is out to make us citizens. Its efforts, sometimes subtle, sometimes bold, are to make us feel at home here. We need to slip into something more comfortable. Since we are going to be here for awhile we ought to at least enjoy being here. Dont be so uptight.

I'm afraid many saints are vulnerable to this persuasive song the world sings. Some have concentrated so hard on the here and now that the there and then have all but been forgotten. We are surrounded with the gadgets of culture which dazzle and amaze our eyes and minds. The popular media praise modern paganism and denounce Christians with convictions as right-wing fanatics and bigots.  Surely we do not want to be either fanatics or bigots. The only way to be relieved of those names is to cease opposition to the world's agenda, be silent and lay down our arms.  

Dear brethren, when we become sophisticated and are comfortable in our surroundings, the enemy has won. Our lips will be silenced in opposition to wrong and closed for use to convert others. Our numbers will dwindle, our influence lessen, until we are gone. Vanished! Unless we remain conscious to the designations of sojourners and pilgrims and act consistently with the meaning of those terms.  

-- Via In Newness of Life, April 18, 2010

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

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Take the Denham Springs exit (exit 10) off of I-12.  At the end of the exit ramp, turn north.  Go about a stone's throw to Rushing Road.  (You'll see a Starbucks, Circle K, and two other gas stations; with each on each corner.)  Turn left on Rushing Road, and go a little less than 0.3 of a mile.  Hampton Inn will be on the right.  We assemble in its "Meeting Room," which is very close to the reception counter.  Just walk pass the check-in counter; turn right at the hall.  The first and second doors on the left lead to where we meet.