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You're kidding, right, Paul?
Posted on December 26, 2008

You may remember I referred to Philippians 2 a couple of days ago. You know the passage. It is the one where Paul exhorts us to do several things that seem virtually impossible. You know, things like being united in spirit, intent on one purpose, regarding others as more important than ourselves, looking out for other’s interests, have the same attitude that Christ did, that is to do all the above to the point of death. I don’t know about you but when I read that it reads like a hyperbole like a great preacher exhorting the folks in the pews to live the life. But, we really can’t do that, really.


A really effective tool in Bible study is to observe repetition. It is like the teacher in the front of the class when they used to stomp their foot to let you know something was going to be on the test. The interesting thing here is that Paul uses repetition to provide solid examples to back up the “hyperbole”. Look at the chart here. Note that in 4 Paul tells us the readers not to look out for their own interests but for the interests of others; in verse 21 he states that Timothy will do that in regard to the Philippian believers. In verse 7 he states that Christ emptied Himself; in verse 17 Paul says he is poured out for the Philippian believers. In verse 8 Paul states that Christ was obedient to the point of death; in verse 27 he states that Epaphroditus was serving to the point of death in his work for the Philippian believers.


Note how the repetition here fleshes out the “hyperbole” of verses 1-8. Paul takes the exhortation and example of Christ and puts flesh around it with the examples of Timothy, Epaphroditus, and himself. In so doing he makes the passage not just an intellectual challenge, but a real example of how we are to live out the life of Christ.


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