…stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” Philippians 4:1
As I begin to read the Apostle Paul’s final words to the church at Philippi, my heart swells. I take a deep breath, attempting to slow the pounding of my heart. But I cannot restrain the stirring within me. It is the Holy Spirit. He presses me—“Stop here. Stay in this place for a while.”
“Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” Philippians 4:1
My eyes open wide to such great grace bestowed upon Paul. This man, who once persecuted those who loved Jesus unto their death, begins chapter 4 with undeniable affection for such believers.
In context, it is overwhelmingly evident he had taken on the very nature of the persecuted Christ-follower himself, imprisoned for the very thing he—in times past—self-righteously abhorred and rejected.
I read and reread the words of Paul, once called Saul, who believed the slaying of Stephen—and others like him—to be righteous. Those truth-telling lovers of Jesus the Nazarene—blasphemers of the highest rank—were his enemies. And everyone knew it.
But here in verse one, Paul calls people like Stephen his.
He writes, “my beloved brethren”…“my”…“mine”…”you are mine”.
I feel a lump surface in my throat and I close my eyes. I imagine this man chained to a Roman guard, with tears in his eyes. Not for himself, for them—his brothers and sisters in Christ. The people he once condemned he now shared such glorious affections.
I imagine him thinking on what is true and honorable, right and pure, lovely and admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. The promises of knowing Jesus Christ were such as these things—and Christ Jesus himself—full of truth and reverence, righteous and perfect, acceptable and pleasing, gracious, virtuous, good, and worthy of all praise.
And I imagine him thinking such will be Christ’s Bride, his beloved, divinely loved by God’s Beloved Son.
How can I bring myself to read past this powerful display of heavenly love and ownership? Paul says, “you, my beloved,” and I am undone.
Because a sinful hater of God’s true children—a hater of even God himself—now displays the miraculous with all the love of Jesus Christ—loving Jesus to the point of dying to self.
That, my friends, is the epitome of the handiwork of grace.
And that is my story—once a hater, now a lover. Only Jesus. Only the Cross. Rejoice!
“In that day the Lord of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people” Isaiah 28:5
by Dana Lange