Friday, March 2, 2007

Live like it's precious--Philippians 1:27-30

“Live Like its Precious”
Through Advancing the Gospel Together In the Face of Opposition
Philippians 1:27-30

Scripture Introduction:

Imagine that you are about to stand trial on bogus charges. You figure that justice will be served and you will be set free, but nevertheless, it is possible that your life will be taken. You have, potentially, one last opportunity to send a letter to people that you dearly love. What would your letter say?

This is very much similar to the situation that Paul was facing as he wrote his letter to the Church at Philippi. Throughout the course of this series I want you to remember that as Paul is writing this he is either chained to a Roman guard or a Roman guard is present as Paul is under house arrest. He is awaiting trial, one that could very easily determine whether he lives or dies. As he is writing this letter to the Philippians he has no idea if he will ever see them again. Perhaps he will die in this Roman prison, perhaps he will be released but never able to see them again, or maybe God will see fit to spare Paul’s life and at some point he will again see the Philippians. In our text tonight it is almost as if Paul is giving his parting words. We see this from the word “only”. One commentator says it is as if Paul is stopping and pointing his finger in the air saying, “here’s the one thing I want you to catch. No matter the outcome, whether I ever see you again or not, I want you to catch this one thing!” We can learn much about what has driven a person based upon what they might perceive as their last words. As we read Philippians 1:27-30, I want you to imagine them as Paul’s “parting words” to the Philippians:

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents-which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.

Sermon Introduction:

History does allow us to know that Paul did not die in this Roman imprisonment. It was actually a few years later that Paul was beheaded; during his second Roman imprisonment. On this occasion Paul was actually released. Paul had assumed that he would be released upon this occasion, but he was not certain. “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel”. Paul’s passion, and we can see this throughout his life, is that “Christ will be honored”. It is clear from certain texts such as Isaiah 43:6-7 that we were created for God’s glory. The supreme passion in Paul’s life is the same passion that should drive every one of us who call Him Lord and Father; to accurately display the infinite worth of God’s glory. Or to put it another way, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever”. . Paul is saying much the same here in our text tonight, “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel”.

“Conduct yourselves” is actually one word in the original Greek, and it refers to how you conduct yourself in regards to the laws and customs of the state. Philippi was an important city in Rome. The Philippians would have taken much pride in their privileged status as a Roman colony. But the Philippian Christians must have “stuck out like a sore thumb”.
[1] They refused to worship the emperor as well as refusing certain customs in the Roman culture. As far as “conducting themselves” as Roman citizens they would have probably done a poor job. To properly conduct yourself like a Roman would have meant to accurately reflect the fact that you are a Roman citizen, in this perhaps they were failing. Paul, however, is reminding them that their citizenship is not on earth but in heaven. Therefore they are to conduct themselves in a manner that is worthy of the gospel.

But, what exactly does it mean to be “worthy of the gospel”? Does it mean that you have somehow made yourself deserving? In the movie Wayne’s World Wayne and Garth bow down to Alice Cooper chanting, “We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy”. Is Paul saying to live your lives in such a manner where you no longer have to chant, “We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy”. Do you live in such a way as to be deserving of the gospel?

If you look through the New Testament you will find that the word used here for “worthy” appears 6 times in the New Testament and in all but one it is referring to our being worthy of God or of the gospel. Matthew 3:8 can help us understand what this phrase means. There, in Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist tells the Pharisees to “bear fruit worthy of repentance”. It is clear from the context that he is not saying do things that will merit repentance. He is not saying “do these things so that you can repent”, or “be deserving of repentance”. Certainly John is urging them to act in such a way that fits the value and nature of true repentance. So we get from these the answer to our question what does it mean to be worthy of the gospel? It means to reflect accurately that which you are representing. If you are to “bear fruit worthy of repentance”, then you will bear fruit that accurately reflects the fact that you have truly repented.

So, Paul is telling them, “As citizens of the kingdom of God, live your life in such a way that you accurately reflect the gospel”. What does Paul mean by “gospel”? More than likely he means what he always does, “the good news that God has redeemed sinful man through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ by his grace through faith alone”. Certainly, It does not mean to live so as to become deserving of the gospel—we will never be “worthy of the gospel” in that regard. Instead it means to live as though you have been transformed. Live in such a way to accurately reflect what Christ has done; given you a new nature and given you a new heart that is capable of treasuring Him. The gospel is a display of God’s glory. When we are saved, we are saved unto Christ and for His glory. If I can be permitted to paraphrase Paul’s words what he is saying is this, “Live your lives in such a way that you accurately display the infinite worth of God’s glory”.

How are the Philippians to do that? How can we do that? Hopefully, as Christian’s our hearts cry is to do precisely that. Live in such a way as to accurately display God’s glory. But, how do we practically do that? How do you live your life in such a manner that it glorifies God? Our text today is going to give us three ways to do exactly that.

I. We display the infinite worth of God’s glory by being united in one spirit for the sake of the gospel.

Apparently the church at Philippi had recently been hit by the disunity bug. We learn from chapter 4 in Philippians two ladies had been in a dispute and it was beginning to split the church. We are not told what the cause of the feud was but only that it was bringing about disunity in the church. Throughout the book while encouraging the Philippians he is also urging them to be united. The theme of unity is all throughout this letter to the Philippians. It is important for the sake of the gospel that they put aside their petty differences and squabbles and stand firm in one spirit for the sake of the gospel.

To encourage the Philippians on towards unity Paul employs a few military terms that they would understand. Philippi had been the stage of one of the most epic battles in the Roman civil war. Certainly those in the church would have heard of these great battles. Philippi was also known as a “retirement” village for soldiers who had finished their duty, it is within reason that perhaps the Philippians Church had a few ex-military personnel within their ranks. So Paul uses language and illustrations they would be familiar with.

When Paul writes to them “standing firm” the Philippians would have immediately thought of a military formation. The word is stay-ko (steko) and refers to the determination of a soldier standing his post and not budging an inch out of formation. This was crucial to military success. The Romans soldiers would line up shoulder to shoulder and not budge an inch. If one of the soldiers was out of sync then the entire formation would be penetrable. But if they stood unmoving, shoulder to shoulder, then that which they were protecting would remain. This is Paul’s idea for the Philippians. That they might stand shoulder to shoulder in one spirit. His prayer is that for the sake of the gospel they might all remain in formation, with not one of them budging, but continuing to be united for the sake of the gospel.

How does “standing firm” in unity display the infinite worth of God’s glory? Whenever we drop our squabbles and differences for the sake of the gospel we accurately reflect its value and preciousness. We are saying, “The gospel is more valuable than my need to be right”. We will display how much we value God’s glory whenever we stand firm in the midst of our differences.

The disciples of Jesus displayed this perfectly. Fisherman, tax collectors and zealots alike could be in the same band. Tax collectors were hated by the Jewish people. They were seen as sell-outs. It would be much like an American in our day making his living off making bombs for terrorists. A Zealot (Simon the Zealot) belonged to a group of Jewish militants that sought to overthrow Roman rule in Palestine. So it is not hard to see that in their natural state Simon the Zealot would probably hate Matthew the tax collector. But that is the power of the gospel. It links tax collectors and Zealots in fellowship.


  • Your lack of involvement and unity with the adults and children in our church
  • High School and Junior High (Mentor)
  • Different social classes at school
  • Being “friends” or sociable at youth group but not at school
  • Mature Christians versus New or Immature Christians
  • Catty Girl Fights
  • Differences in appearance
  • Disunity with your parents

Sometimes it is necessary that we not be in “unity”. We will deal with that more in depth in some of our blogs, but for now Richard Baxter has a wonderful quote to sum that up.
“In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.”

God is saying to us live like the gospel (like my glory) is precious. First of all you do that through being united for the sake of the gospel. But you also do that through striving together for the faith of the gospel.

II. We display the infinite worth of God’s glory by striving for the faith of the gospel.

Again in verse 27 Paul says, “Striving together for the faith of the gospel”. Again focus is on unity, but I want us to see a different aspect to this. Paul moves to a different picture. Previously he spoke of a soldier standing firm, this time he uses the image of an athletic team “giving it all” for the sake of their goal.

The word that Paul uses for “striving” is soon-athleo. Does that sound familiar? Minus-the “soon” it is where we got our word athlete. It means to labor side by side. What I want us to focus on is not so much the “side-by-side” aspect but the labor. The determination it takes to be a successful athlete. I still take this to be in reference to what Paul is saying about conduct ourselves in a way that displays the infinite worthy of the gospel of God’s glory. And one way we do that is through striving to spread the gospel. This is in fact what the entire book of Philippians is about. It is about Paul encouraging the Philippians to continue in their task of advancing the gospel. As John Piper so eloquently puts it our task (purpose) is the same as God’s

“namely, to fill this world with his glory, by rooting out of his kingdom all sin and unbelief, and filling it with white-hot worshippers from every people, tongue, tribe and nation. In the seed of Abraham, all families of the earth will be blessed. All the families of the nations will worship before the Lord”.

Our task is a global task. We are to advance the gospel; we are to join with God in filling this world with His glory. We are to strive together for the faith of the gospel. If we are not giving our all to the spreading of God’s glory then we are treating it as if it is cheap. We are showing it as if it is nothing. The gospel of God’s glory and the redemption of sinners is the most precious thing in the entire world. If we are giving our thoughts, our time, our money, our lives to anything else we are not accurately displaying the infinite worth of God’s glory.

Just like on a baseball team there are role players. The pitcher is not responsible for the first basemen; he is responsible for the pitcher. The right fielder is not responsible for the duties of the third basemen; he is responsible for the duties of the right fielder. So it is in the kingdom. You are responsible for that which God has entrusted you with. God has not called me to be the next Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, or Charles Spurgeon. God has called me to be Mike Leake. He has given me gifts, talents, duties, etc. that I must do, and that I am responsible for. You are responsible for displaying the infinite worth of God’s glory in the way that you give of YOUR TIME, YOUR MONEY, YOUR LIFE, YOUR TALENT, and YOUR GIFTS. You are a part of the Body of Christ; both the universal body of Christ and the local body. If you are not involved in the spreading of the gospel then you are communicating that God’s glory is not worth as much as your comfort.

Just as on a baseball team we all have one goal (hopefully) and that is winning. So it is in the kingdom. We have one goal: the spreading of God’s glory. So it is with all of you who are Christians. God is calling you to do specific things, but namely, spread His glory to the nations. That will look different for each of you. You will all have different responsibilities but one goal-spreading God’s glory!

The first point was the defensive strategy. Stand firm. Keep a unified front, shoulder to shoulder, and you will not be breeched. The second point is an offensive strategy, strive together. Not only should you not break under the pressure of opposition but exert pressure of your own. Spread the gospel to the nations, proclaim the gospel and live your life in a manner that is worthy of what you are proclaiming.

By fixing our eyes on the goal of spreading God’s glory and then apply the effort and discipline and endurance of an athlete is to display how precious God’s glory is. The gospel of God’s glory is so precious that in order to display even a little of its beauty it demands all of us. To not give our all to the spreading and enjoying of God’s glory is to cheapen it. Live like it is precious!

III. We display the infinite worth of God’s glory by being fearless with the gospel in the face of opposition
One of the things that has been assumed in the previous two points is that we have an enemy. Our enemy is the god of this world that has blinded the minds of unbelievers. Part of Piper’s definition includes the “rooting out of His kingdom all sin and unbelief”. This does not come without a fight. Satan is continuously at work to take away the seed that is planted. He is consistently trying to defame the glory of God’s name. Furthermore, men in their natural God-hating sin-loving state do not care about the glory of Christ. They join heartily with Satan in considering themselves more precious than God’s glory! There is opposition to the spreading of the gospel it is not easy. We have opponents.

Paul is giving the Philippians the accurate way to deal with their struggles and opposition. He says it is a sign; a sign to the Philippians of their salvation and a sign to the opponents of their destruction. Take heart, spread the gospel despite opposition. You are on the winning side, do not give up. To give up is to treat the gospel as if it is not powerful, as if it is not precious; it is to live as if you are not on the winning side.

One of the biggest, in fact THE biggest thing that stands in the way of our spreading God’s glory through personal evangelism is “fear”. I would venture to say that most everyone in here, including myself has some apprehension in sharing the gospel. Some have more fear than others. Whatever the reasons are behind our fear they have one root a lack of really understanding the preciousness of the gospel. Or to put it another way fear is an inaccurate display of the infinite worth of God’s glory. If we really believed the gospel, if we really believed how precious Jesus Christ is then we would not be able to shut up about the gospel. This often times frustrates me. It breaks my heart to know that I value my own self-image above displaying the worth of God’s glory.

No matter what excuse any of us could give for not sharing our faith we can find the root cause in not really understanding the infinite worth of God’s glory. Some people might be able to share a “gospel” and leave out the parts that are offensive, and that is not what I am referring to. Some people might be able to share a gospel that is me-centered and not God-focused. That is not what I am referring to. Some people might be able to share a gospel that is offensive, not because the gospel they proclaim is offensive but because they do not have an overflowing heart that is broken for the people they are witnessing to, that is not the gospel I am referring to. I am referring to the gospel that is the whole gospel, God-centered, and the gospel that causes you to be broken for those who it is being preached to. And this only comes by catching a vision of God’s infinite worth.

Lastly, a Christian, a youth group, a Church, should never be comfortable. If a church is comfortable it is not godly. I am not referring to the comfort and peace that Christ gives, but I am referring to modern Western Civilization’s obsession with comfort. 2 Timothy 3:12 clearly states that those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. WILL BE!! I conclude from that verse that if I am not being persecuted, if God has not given me the grace of suffering then it is because I do not truly desire to live godly in Christ Jesus. We get this point from verses 29-30. God has given us the gift of suffering as a sign. And whenever we are standing fearlessly united in the face of opposition, whenever we are boldly proclaiming the gospel no matter the cost, and whenever we are being obedient to Christ above any fear we have then we are accurately displaying the infinite worth of God’s glory.

“Thomas” his friend lowered his voice so as not to be heard by the guard. “I have to ask you this favor. I need to know if what others say about the grace of God is true. Tomorrow, when they burn you at the stake, if the pain is tolerable and your mind is still at peace, lift your hands above your head. Do it right before you die. Thomas, I have to know.

Thomas whispered to his friend, “I will”.

The next morning Thomas was bound to the stake and the fire was lit. The fire burned a long time, but Thomas remained motionless. His skin was burnt to a crisp and his fingers were gone. Everyone watching supposed he was dead. Suddenly, miraculously, Thomas lifted his hands, still on fire, over his head. He reached them up to the living God, and then, with great rejoicing, clapped them together three times.

The people there broke into shouts of praise and applause. Thomas’ friend had no answer.

At this point we could tell a million other stories of those who have been martyred for their faith. We could talk about the very Paul that wrote this letter who considered the infinite worth of God’s glory more precious than his own life when he was beheaded by Nero. There are countless stories of men, women, and children who have given of their lives freely to display accurately the infinite worth of God’s glory.

There is a quote that is on the front of one of my notebooks by John MacArthur. It says, “Your life either tells the truth about God or it tells a lie”.

In closing I ask, “Does your love for other believers accurately display the infinite worth of God’s glory?” Do you count the gospel as more precious than any petty squabbles we may have?
Do you give every bit of yourself to the spreading of God’s glory? Are you so consumed by God’s glory that you stand fearless in all opposition? Has the infinite worth of God grabbed you in such a way that you can not shut up about Him? Does your life accurately display how precious God is?

[1] Arnold, Clinton. Zondervan Bible Background. pg 354.

1 comment:

Larry said...

In college we're often told "you can't derive an 'ought' from an 'is," meaning you can't directly derive an ethical rule from a fact, as a direct consequence of a fact. Normally, this is true: various facts of the world around us are not, by themselves, indicators of what rules to follow: rules have their derivation from elsewhere (Rm 2:15).

However, when the facts are concerning what God has done and is doing with us, as in Ph 1:29, Paul does not hesitate to state ethical implications! The "For" beginning 1:29 is the characteristic Greek way of stating the conclusion "xyz" beforehand, then stating the reason, as in "xyz.... For ...."

The fact is that the Philippians were granted something, two things, actually, for Christ's sake: not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.

That is a fact. It is what's true. The amazing thing is that Paul makes a conclusion from that fact: "only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, in no way alarmed by opponents).... "for ..."!

This is deriving an "ought" from an "is." Paul is correcting the rule we learned in college!

But how so?

Have you ever been granted something wonderful in this world, something stupendous, say to be somewhere that is tremendous, because of someone else's generosity granting you a presence at an event? Hasn't it made you want to mind your p's and q's specifically now that you are there?

Same way with Paul's reason why he gives the "only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy...." Because the Philippians were granted two tremendous priveleges.

It is not enough to know that we should live for God's glory. That's true, of course. But to be granted the two things Paul states is far greater a motivator.

Putting it another way: those who are loved -- feel so tremendously priveleged, often -- and this is a greater motivator than someone coming up to us and saying "you know, you should honor your wife." (speaking as a guy; or take it vice versa).

Of course we should honor our wives. Of course Christians should live for God's glory (1 Cor 10:31). But here, Paul wants us to hear a different motivation, namely those two facts ... which not only imply the ethical command to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel, but motivate it.