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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 16 December 2013

The motive for brotherly love (Philippians 1:7-8)

Concerning this motive, Paul reminds the Philippians that, like him, they were the recipients of divine grace. This experience of grace comes in a wide variety of ways. For example, all of them had known the grace of forgiveness. Despite their different backgrounds and lifestyles, they had been forgiven their sins when they confessed them to God and trusted in Jesus for mercy. Obviously, there was a very strong personal bond between Paul and the  Philippians because he had taken the gospel to them. Yet the point is applicable to those who may not have this particular bond: how can we not love a sinner who has been pardoned by God?

We can consider other aspects of God’s grace that must affect the attitudes of our hearts. When we were forgiven our sins, we were adopted into God’s family; he became our Father and we joined his heavenly family. In that family are found all other believers in Jesus. Each of them has the identical right to all the privileges of the sons of God. Since that position is an unchangeable status that cannot be lost, how can we not love all those who belong to his family? It is unnatural when such a situation arises in a human family. How much more is it the case when it occurs in God’s family.

Further, all those who have been forgiven and adopted into God’s family become his servants. Because the Holy Spirit indwells the hearts of each of them, they all now possess a desire to obey Jesus Christ day by day. Their service will not be perfect, but they will be desiring to please God. Surely we should love all those whose desire is to please the Lord.

Another obvious reason for brotherly love is the common destiny that they share. Paul has just expressed his confidence about his readers when he wrote that God would complete the work that he begun in their lives. As he looked forward to the great day when God would perfect them and conform them completely to the image of Christ, he loved them because of this great prospect.

Paul mentions a fifth reason for brotherly love when he refers to their sharing with him in the sufferings of the gospel. He was on trial for the faith and they had identified with his sufferings. Their identification was the outworking of divine grace in their lives. Paul loved those who so gladly partook of his Christian life, who shared in his problems.

These areas of Christian living are all the fruits of divine grace in the lives of saved sinners and are motives for loving one another. Yet we also realise that our awareness of these privileges and blessings in the lives of other believers does not cause us to love them. We need something else in order to live this life of love, and Paul tells us the key to this life when he mentions the mystery of brotherly love, which we will think about tomorrow.

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