Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Beauty and Power of Philippians

The cathedral is probably the pinnacle of human architectural creativity. Most workers never lived to see the finished product. They did not build for their own pleasure but to witness to such beauty. I will never forget seeing Notre Dame for the first time. The same goes for the Cologne Cathedral or Saint Paul's in Rome. Theological debates aside, the gothic cathedrals were manifestations of human piety and devotion. No matter how you feel about their original purpose, they are breathtaking works of architecture and art, built without power tools and designed without computers. 

This same sense of awe that I feel whenever I enter a cathedral is the sense I have whenever I enter a book of God's word. Today I had just such an opportunity when I was invited to have a TEAMS call with the elders of a new church plant in Iowa. 

They will be team-teaching through Philippians for three months and, knowing of my work in that epistle, wanted to get my perspective on the book's theme and structure. It was a joy to be able to share with them the fruit of my study in what is (after Hebrews) my favorite New Testament letter.

"Extremely beautiful" hardly does Philippians justice. Even the opening two verses of the letter remind me of the narthex of a gothic cathedral, drawing you into the heart of the epistle where the theme becomes self-evident: Working together as a team for the sake of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians, like a cathedral, is awe-inspiring, informative, educational, and edifying all at once. It's a magnificent edifice to the glory of God and to the building up of his people. 

I love cathedrals. I am humbled by their complexity and strength. I am, even more so, humbled by the text of sacred Scripture where we find the very words of God. Philippians challenges us to live for the sake of the Gospel and not for our own selfish goals. If our mission in life is not the Great Commission, then we are living for the wrong mission.