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Philippians 1:27-30: Lives Worthy of the Gospel Print E-mail
Sunday, 06 July 2008

We, as Christians, are a people of belief. We have beliefs about God, Father, Son, and Spirit, beliefs about the Bible, beliefs about man, beliefs about what God has done in sending us Christ and the promised Holy Spirit. We are a people with beliefs. You can call these beliefs doctrine, theology, or something else, but they are all important, or at least should be, to those who call themselves followers of Christ. Yet, is this all we are as Christians: people with certain ideas or intellectual opinions? Do these beliefs have anything really to do with who we are and how we live? In light of what we believe about God and His Word, as Francis Schaeffer asked: How now shall we live?

Many make the mistake of thinking that doctrine and theology have little to do with how we conduct ourselves as Christians. For Paul, nothing could be further from the truth. He always builds his practical exhortations upon doctrinal foundations. We will see this clearly demonstrated over the next few Sundays as we look at Philippians 1:27-2:18. This morning we are beginning with an important command, or imperative, that many believe is central to the whole message of Philippians.

So, then, what is this central imperative? Look at verse 27 with me. As we saw last week, Paul has told the Church at Philippi about how his imprisonment has served to advance the gospel. He spoke of his joy even in these circumstances because of his goal of seeing Christ praised and treasured. What does all of this have to do with the Philippians and their current struggles? He tells them in verse 27: Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ. Do you see the connection here between belief and practice? Christ is our treasure, the greatest treasure, because of who He is and what He has done for us at Calvary.

In light of such doctrine, we should live lives that are worthy of the gospel. Paul does not mean that we should somehow earn or pay-back Christ for what He has done for us because we could never do that. Rather, by Godís grace, we are to live lives of thankfulness and gratitude not to earn our salvation but to evidence it, that others might see it and give glory to God (see Matthew 5:16), an idea that Paul will even allude to in this passage (see v. 28b). If our belief about Christ calls us to live lives that our worthy of the gospel, then we must ask the question: how do we do that? Paul will be answering this question all the way through 2:18 (and even beyond). We want to consider this morning the instructions that he gives us in 1:27-30 about living a life worthy of the gospel. I want to sum up what he says with two basic instructions.

First, we must be unified in our fight (or stand) for the faith (v. 27b).

After giving the main exhortation in the beginning of verse 27, Paul begins to flesh out what that means in the rest of the verse. Look at the rest of verse 27 with me. Paul wants them to be living lives worthy of the gospel whether he is with them or not. He wants to hear that they are standing firm in one spirit. The commentators I looked at are split on whether or not this mentioning of the Ďspirití is a reference to the Holy Spirit or simply a common purpose or goal. I prefer the former mostly because elsewhere Paul talks about the Churchís unity in the Spirit when speaking of living worthy of the gospel (see Ephesians 4:1-3) and as he continues to argue for unity in this letter the Spirit is mentioned again (see 2:1). We will be looking at this call to unity in more depth next week, but it is important to note Paulís emphasis here. One of the ways that we live lives that are worthy of the gospel is by remaining unified together.

Yet, what exactly are we to be unified for? Paul tells us that we are to be unified in our fight for the faith of the gospel. We are to be unified in our defense and proclamation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the sins of those who repent and believe in Him. We must stand together in our fight for the gospel. I think that this is important to mention because many times we as Christians become divided over things that are less than the gospel. We let secondary matters divide us. Yet, Paul is writing to a Church that is struggling with division and strife and he calls them to be unified around the gospel. We may not be able to agree on everything. We may not all interpret the Bible the same way concerning election or private prayer languages or a number of other controversial issues, but we can be unified around the gospel.

I am not saying that these secondary matters are not important or that we do not need to wrestle with the Scriptures concerning them, I am simply saying that in spite of our differences there, we should still be unified around the gospel. We need to hear this exhortation today. We need to recognize its importance. Paul tells the Philippians and us that a major part of living lives that are worthy of the gospel is maintaining our unity in our fight for the gospel. We may differ on certain matters, but we must agree on the center.

Second, we must not fear our opponents in our suffering for Christ (v. 28-30).

Paul gives us another point of instruction for living lives worthy of the gospel in verses 28-30. Look at those with me. Paul tells us at the beginning of verse 28 that we are not to be frightened in anything by your opponents. He knows that the Philippians are not just struggling with unity, but they are also facing persecution from outside the Church. They, like Paul, are being opposed and threatened for what they believe and what they are proclaiming about Christ. Yet, he tells them not to fear their enemies. How does he encourage them not to fear? In two ways.

First, he encourages them not to fear by reminding them that such opposition is clear evidence of their enemies future judgment and of their future salvation. Both of these are from God. God is going to persevere His people through difficult days and bring their salvation to a completion on the Day of Christ. At the same time, He is going to judge all of those outside of Christ, all of those who remain enemies of the gospel. Let me be as clear as I can this morning: if you are outside of Christ then you are facing a coming judgment.  There is no salvation outside of Christ and Paul makes it clear that you are either in Christ or you are not.  I plead with you, if you have not repented of your sins and placed your faith in Christ, then do so today.  Do not delay, for there is only judgment outside of Christ.  Second, he encourages them not to fear and to stand firm by reminding them that their suffering is from God. Look at verse 29 again. The verb translated Ďit has been grantedí is used in other contexts to refer to a gracious gift of God. Thus, Paul is arguing that even our suffering and persecution is a gracious gift from God. It is part of our belief in Christ and evidence of our salvation.

As we continue to study through the book of Philippians (and the NT in general), are you beginning to see how Paul and the other NT writers view suffering? We view it as this terrible nuisance that happens to some Christians (those who are too radical or too sinful) and should be avoided if at all possible. Yet, that is not how it is viewed in the NT. Paul calls our suffering a gracious gift of God. He will later speak of longing to share in the sufferings of Christ. And remember how the Apostles responded after they had been flogged for continuing to preach the gospel in Acts 5? Luke tells us: Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name (Acts 5:41). This is how they responded to being beaten for preaching the gospel (see verse 40). Thus, it seems that Paul is not the only one to view suffering as a gracious gift from God.

So then, we must ask this question: do we view suffering like this? Can we not trust our glorious Sovereign God, who delights in doing good and did not spare His own Son, to use suffering in our lives to make us more like Christ and bring glory to Himself? Think about what we said last week about Paulís goal in life, namely to see Christ treasured and honored. Paul knows that our suffering is a great opportunity for us to show the world that Christ is our treasure. Thus, he encourages the Philippians to not fear their enemies, but to embrace suffering as a way to bring glory to our Savior. Paul is an example of such living (see v. 30) and he wants the Philippians and us to do the same. If we are going to live lives that are worthy of the gospel, then we must not be afraid to suffer for the gospel. Rather, may we view our sufferings as gracious opportunities from God.

Paul gives us two instructions for living lives worthy of the gospel: we must be unified in our fight for the faith and we must not fear our opponents in our suffering for Christ. By following these instructions we put our beliefs into practice, which begs an important question: do we see the glorious privilege and responsibility of living lives that are worthy of the gospel? In other words, if Christís work on the cross is no big deal to us, then we will not be all that concerned with living lives worthy of the gospel. Yet, if we take the time to reflect on what He has done for us, if we remember that God owed us nothing but wrath for our sin and rebellion, and if we realize that Christ bore the wrath that we deserved in our place, then how can we not want to follow these instructions? How can we not want to live lives that are worthy of the gospel?

Make no mistake about it, maintaining unity and embracing suffering are not easy tasks. Yet, when we realize the glorious privilege and responsibility that we have been given, then they seem like the least we can do. And think about the radical difference that this could make in our Churches and communities? Following these instructions could drive out division and fear among Godís people. It would free us up to be faithful witnesses of the fact that Christ is indeed our treasure. Thus, by Godís continued grace, may we be unified in our fight for the faith and fearless in the face of our enemies. May we live lives that are indeed worthy of the gospel of Christ. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 16 July 2008 )

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