Writing the Same Things
"For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe" (Phil 3:1)
A dormant fear for the preacher is the inability to consistently study, write, and present needed sermons without growing redundant. Not only must he wrestle with staleness in his thinking and continuing in his comfort areas, he also must deal with an audience which is largely familiar with what he will teach. Thankfully, Paul had a similar problem and by the Holy Spirit gives us this verse to remind us of our responsibilities in the teaching process and the proper approach to truth.
Paul is repeating the themes of the Philippian letter in this section. First, he tells them to "rejoice in the Lord"(3:1), something he has addressed before (1:18, 2:2) and will repeat again (4:1, 4). Then he tells them to "beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation"(3:2). There were false brethren out there (1:15, 2:15) that they needed to avoid and overcome. As Paul repeats these themes, he tells the Philippians that telling them these things again does not bother him because it is good for them. "For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe"(3:1).
First, writing the same things "is not tedious." Preachers, teachers, elders, and all Christians must never grow weary in preaching the truth! We must guard against the truth becoming "tedious" to us because we are familiar with it. Jesus commanded His apostles to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned"(Mark 16:15-16). Can you imagine how familiar the gospel message became to the apostles as they went from town to town, preaching it "to every creature"? How frustrating to find themselves preaching the same sermons because they were needed every place they went! Yet Paul tells us it was not tedious to him!
We must be willing to teach and re-teach, again and again, until the lesson is learned. Teachers must remember the deep need their audience has for the lessons the Bible teaches. If Paul had not warned of false teachers, wouldn't many Christians have been taken away by the "dogs," "evil workers," and "mutilation"? Paul was motivated not simply by a desire to relieve himself of his responsibility to teach, but because he deeply cared for those he taught. "So affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us"(1 Thess 2:8). Can we teachers say this of those we teach?
Paul also mentions that "for you it is safe" to hear the same things. This reminds us that as hearers, there are some things we need to hear again and again. If we know the message already, we need to be reminded of it. Peter says, "For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth"(2 Pet 1:12). The message is too important to be bored with it because our spiritual safety is at stake! But perhaps-just maybe-we are not the only one listening! Maybe someone has not heard this truth and desperately needs to know about giving, or the Lord's Supper, or the work of the church, or sexual morality. If it is safe for you, can't you rejoice in the truth of the message?
This passage does not advocate preaching on one's "hobby" or being redundant in our teaching. However, it is clear that we ought to preach and rejoice in the New Testament gospel. We must beware the danger of being like the Athenians, who "spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing" (Acts 17:21). Newness in preaching is probably not safe! At some point, not much will be new to us, yet we still need to hear!
Let us as teachers be consistent and always ready "in season and out of season"(2 Tim 4:2) to preach the word. It will not change, and we must preach it consistently. Further, may all of us as listeners rejoice in the gospel of our great God, "with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). His word will not change, but we can still rejoice in it!
By Jacob Hudgins
From Expository Files 14.11; November 2007