+ Dr. Johnny Ramírez-Johnson introduces Philippians by translating some of the Apostle Paul’s ideas about the spiritual realm into common, everyday language and concepts.
Johnny Ramírez-Johnson is professor of anthropology in Fuller’s School of Intercultural Studies. Hailing from Puerto Rico, Ramírez-Johnson teaches in Fuller’s Centro Latino, and his research focuses on the intersection of the social sciences and theology.
“That is the meaning of confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. It’s not about a set of words that you say, even if they are the right words. It is about a way of living life.” – Johnny Ramírez-Johnson
Dr. Johnny Ramírez-Johnson introduces Philippians by translating some of the Apostle Paul’s ideas about the spiritual realm into common, everyday language and concepts.
(Singing) Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice! Rejoice in the Lord—(Laughing)
My name is Dr. Johnny Ramírez-Johnson, professor of anthropology and profesor del Centro Latino here at Fuller Theological Seminary. We’re gonna be looking at the book of Philippians now, which is a delight.
The song I began singing has been ringing in my ears and in my heart since I received the assignment because, of course, Philippians 4:4, the apostle Paul, writer of the book—of the letter—commands the Philippians, the people from from Philippi, to sing. Of course, this is nonsensical because he is in jail. And they are all in pain because of his imminent death and the threat against his life. But he’s thinking of rejoicing. And he wants them to rejoice again and again.
I will be thinking of ways of translating three ideas from the book of the Filipenses; it’s pronounced in Spanish, Filipenses. And this book has specific ideas that are for us perceived in the spiritual realm. And I want to bring them to the common everyday language.
The first of the concepts we want to bring from the spiritual into the common everyday life is the phrase “saints in Christ.” What he meant for sainthood is Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambitions or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourself.” If you’re interested in being a saint, and you want to follow Philippians’s teachings and examples, then be interested in putting others before you.
The second of these spiritual phrases, which Bible is full of: “grace to you.” Grace is the power of God to live in a particular way. Philippians 3:15: “Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind.” That’s the goal. All thinking the same. “And if you think differently about anything”—this “if” should be “when”—”this too God will reveal to you.” Generosity of spirit—the grace of God—embraces those that think opposite. Though the aim is to be of one mind, most of the time, we will have differing opinions.
The third and last of the points in the spiritual realm, we have the “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” In the common everyday language, I suggest it is explained in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable—if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise—think about these things.” That is the meaning of confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. It’s not about a set of words that you say, even if they are the right words. It is about a way of living life. And a way of living life should concentrate on the way you think, not on the way others behave. Not even on the way you behave. If you think about the way you think, your behavior will be accordingly, and the Holy Spirit will transform you from within.
[Singing] Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice! Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice! I invite you to rejoice. Shall we sing together?