Philippians 1:27-2:4 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
My prayer for us as we are working through Philippians this summer, is that the all the promises, truths and commands that pack these verses would work their way into the crevices of our lives seven days a week. I pray that as we drive home, as we begin a new week, as we do our work, as we sit on our deck in the sunshine, as we go for a run, as we talk to our neighbors, as we meet for discipleship group, and as we wake up next Sunday to hear another sermon; I pray that the splendor of the gospel and the charge to live gospel-worthy lives would dominate our minds and hearts day after day. I pray that we will be satisfied in Christ to the extent that we are routinely considering how we can advance the gospel. To that end, let’s pray together. God, please grant us the ability to see what is in these verses, in order to be enjoy and delight in you more, so that we can live out more gospel worthy lives.
There’s a lot in these verses. We will go too fast through them, but perhaps that may serve us well so that we get a more sweeping view of what Paul is telling the Philippians and telling us. What Paul tells us in verses 1-4 of chapter 2, flow from a heart that is saturated in verses 27-30 of chapter 1. You simply can’t do what Paul commands here over years and decades, unless your deepest joy is the gospel of Christ. Without joyful faith, you will not be able to sustain joyful unity, joyful suffering, or joyful service.
Paul talked about partnering in the gospel in verse 5, advancing the gospel through suffering in verse 12, a defense of the gospel in verse 16, and now living a life worthy of the gospel. As we will see in these verses, Paul is using words to help the Philippians think of themselves as citizens of heaven who are fighting together for the advancement of the gospel.
Consider your life. How are you taking the gospel on the attack in your own heart, in your family, in your job, in your neighborhood and within Grace Church? We ought to be striving side by side for the faith of the gospel so that through suffering and opposition we are showing that Jesus is our deepest joy, the gospel is the greatest news, and counting others as more significant than ourselves is a very high calling.
LIVE WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL FOR UNITY IN THE GOSPEL
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (Phil. 1:27).”
The verse begins with the word only. Paul is telling the Philippians to pay attention to what he’s about to say, because this is the most important thing that should characterize your life. Your life ought to be worthy of the gospel of Christ. The word only carries the image of living as a citizen and carrying out his or her duties as a citizen. Paul is telling the Philippians that they are citizens of Heaven. You are a citizen of Heaven. Your life ought to be showing that the gospel and the return of Christ is of the most value to you.
When something is of great value to you, it changes how you live and it changes how you feel. It changes how you go about your day. Your manner of life ought to be dominated by the reality that the gospel. Whether as a husband, wife, mother, father, single person, son, daughter, neighbor, member of Grace Church, friend, or worker; is your life reflecting the worth of the gospel?
Paul goes on in this verse to describe the effects of a life that is worthy of the gospel. This verse is the working out of a life that says to live is Christ and to die is gain. He wants to see that they are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind as they strive side by side for the faith of the gospel.
How do we stand firm in one spirit and in one mind, when as a church we are so vastly different? Look around at the people next to you. Some you may know well. Others you may know not so well, but we can know that we are different, and in some cases we are very different. You may click with some people really well, while others you may think are really weird. There may be some people you struggle to like. How do we stand firm in one spirit and one mind over years and decades together, when we are so different?
As Christians, while we may be different, we have the the biggest, most uniting reality that supersedes everything else. We have the faith of the gospel. You have more in common with the weird Christian brother, than you do with the unbeliever that you click with easily at work. You have more in common with the hard-to-like Christian sister, than you do with the easy-to-like unbelieving friend. You are children of God bought and redeemed by the work of Jesus Christ. You are both citizens of another country that has no end, and you will live together for eternity.
So how do we do this? How do we strive side by side together over the course of a lifetime, seeking to advance the gospel through joyful suffering and service to one another when we are so different? It is through faith.
Faith is not that which just rescues us from sin and saves us from hell. The gospel is not news that applies only to our salvation. The faith of the gospel works its way into the crevices of every day of our life and has an impact on every second we live. The life we live we now live by faith (Gal. 2:20). Anything that does not flow from a heart of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23).
Faith is a heart that is satisfied in all that God is for us through Jesus Christ. This is the rocket fuel for standing firm in one spirit and in one mind and living lives that display the worth and value of the gospel so that it can advance. What Paul is telling us to do does not happen without day-by-day faith in the gospel. We can’t do this without hearts that are genuinely transformed by the gospel, hearts that place a supreme value in the work of Christ on the cross, and hearts that delight in the reality that our citizenship is in heaven.
Hearts that are like that can stand firm and strive side by side with one another. Paul is using words here that have a military meaning to them. This is a spiritual war that we are waging together. We are standing our ground here and are going to fight together to cling to God’s promises in the Bible. We want to say with all our hearts that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Whether times are good as a church or times are bad, together we say that our greatest hope and and deepest longing is to be with Jesus and fulfill our citizenship in the homeland we were made for. Until that day happens, we are standing here, resolute, striving together. That is what the gospel bought for us. That is a life lived by faith.
There are times we will offend and hurt one another. Most of the time it will be unintentional. Our varying personalities and differences can bristle each other. We can get offended or mad at another brother or sister in this church and it affects our ability to stand firm and strive together. This has happens in small ways and big ways in our church.
The gospel is our highest treasure and our ultimate aim. When you are offended or get mad at someone who bristles you, where do your thoughts go? Do you think about how wrong they were, how mad you are, and how they should have recognized what they did was wrong? Do you just bury your feelings, pull back from that person, and refuse to lovingly bring the problem up with them? This happens to often with one another.
We affirm the gospel together. We sing about the gospel together. We hear the gospel preached and share it with unbelievers. Do we let it come to bear when others offend us in this church? Striving together side by side for the faith of the gospel means that we are willing to work through offenses lovingly and not bury them or harbor wrong feelings towards one another. Let us work through conflict together, even though it is painful, for the sake of a gospel worthy life and for the sake of gospel advancement.
For this to happen, our trust in the promises of God have to work their way into the crevices of our heart. We must strive and fight to believe in the promises of Scripture so deeply, that when a situation is screaming at us to run away, we don’t. Rather, we are willing to engage in hard stuff because the gospel is worth it. Unity is worth it. Jesus is worth it.
The same issues the Philippians were facing are issues we are facing. Paul could be sharing this with the Philippians because they were dealing with issues of pride and hurt feelings toward one another. Let’s pray for hearts that desire above all else to live worthy of the gospel so that we have unity in the gospel. This can only be fueled by faith in the gospel.
LIVE WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL TO SUFFER FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST
“And not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have (Phil. 1:28-30).”
We now see in verse 28 that a gospel worthy life, a life that says to live is Christ and to die is gain, is not frightened by opposition. It is not alarmed or terrified by that which opposes us.
Who are our opponents? In this situation, Paul’s specific opponents were those people who were persecuting him for trying to advance the gospel. Paul had been whipped, beaten and thrown into prison. The church at Philippi was facing these types of opponents as well apparently.
There are other ways that Satan attempts to thwart gospel advancement as well. We face real, serious opposition. Our opposition is greater than North Korean missiles. It is more devastating that a complete economic meltdown. It is more deadly than cancer. Paul talked about his many adversaries as he tried to do effective, gospel advancing work (1 Cor. 16:9), so we also should expect opposition.
While Satan and people oppose the gospel, sin is also an opponent that keeps us from doing what we ought to do. Teaching that opposes sound doctrine is an opponent of the gospel. So we face real, serious opposition. We have reason to fear.
Yet we have a greater reason to not fear. Not only is God stronger than Satan, people, and sin, but he’s given you the church to battle your fear of opposition. We battle fear by striving together, side by side. Fear dissipates as we pray together, confess sin together, worship together, hear the Word preached together, and serve one another.
What a joy it has been during my ten years at Grace Church to see fear dissipate in my heart and the see the gospel advance. I remember a deep struggle with fearing what other people think of me in the work place. I shared this with the people at my discipleship group and asked for prayer. Over the course of weeks God used that to give me greater faith in the gospel and less worry about what others thought of me. The gospel advanced. I have seen others share their faith because they have been encouraged by the example of others at Grace sharing their faith. The gospel advanced. When the fear of death has loomed over some families, they have faced fear with the support and help of the church. The gospel has advanced.
When we lack fear, it is a sign to our opposition (and to our own hearts) that the gospel will advance and that our salvation is from God. For the Philippians, they are seeing Paul in prison and facing the possibility of execution. They had heard that Epaphroditus was sick to the point of death. There is conflict in the church between Euodia and Syntyche. They are probably feeling the weight of opposition and think they have reason to fear.
But Paul says they should not fear and gives the reason for it in verse 29. First note the word grant. It has been granted to the Philippians and to us as Christians to suffer. When you receive the gospel as your treasure there is a great inheritance you are given. Salvation is given, the promises of God are now accessible to you, fellowship with God is made open, and you are promised eternal life with him. Those are all granted to you. You are also granted the opportunity to suffer.
We suffer through sickness. We suffer through death. We suffer through battling sin. We suffer by striving for unity as a church. We suffer sharing our faith. We suffer in lots of ways and it has been granted to us by God. God is in control of all of it and therefore it can’t ultimately hurt us, because God is for us now.
We suffer by choosing lives that put Christ on display as our greatest joy so that the gospel advances as we strive to live worthy of the gospel. Sometimes as a church we suffer together as one of us loses a family member in death. Sometimes as a church we suffer together as we see someone walking away from the faith. Sometimes we suffer together as we see one of us sinned against by an unbeliever. And sometimes we suffer together as we deal with conflict, or when someone in the church offend us, or just struggling to have Christ-honoring thoughts towards someone we don’t like at church.
These things have been granted to us by God so that the gospel might advance. Let’s get that. God grants us suffering as a gift to produce good things and gospel advancement. Whether we are suffering through horrible tragedy or minor disagreements with one another, see it as a gift from God. See suffering as a way to advance the gospel for the sake of Jesus’ name.
When you believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and confess him with your heart, you are also walking into a life of suffering. So don’t run from it by making comfort and ease and your own interests as the ultimate reasons for how you live your life. Choose hard things. Choose to wade into messy conversations in our relationships with one another at church that have to do with sin we see in each others lives. This is what has been granted to us for the sake of Christ.
We are engaged in a conflict. The Christian life is one of conflict. Paul had it. The Philippians had it. It has been there throughout the history of the church in major ways and microscopic ways. We are in a battle, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. Striving to believe the promises of God and striving to be obedient to Jesus’ commands together.
This is one reason why corporate worship is so vital for your soul. Week after week you are feeding your soul in this room to fight for faith in the gospel. You are fighting for faith in all the promises of Scripture. When you sing these songs together, when we pray together, when we hear the Word preached, we are fueling up to live gospel worthy lives for the advance of the gospel.
This is also why discipleship groups are essential for your Christian life. When you get together with your DG on a weekday night, you are not doing a bookclub. You are getting together to pray for one another, strengthen one another, and help one another grow in love and obedience to God. You are getting together to help one another do battle and to suffer well. You are getting together to go out on the attack for the advance of the gospel.
You ought to see corporate worship and discipleship group as two giant support beams in living out these verses. Don’t let the tyranny of a busy life crowd out discipleship group nights. Let discipleship groups nights crowd out the business of life for the sake of your soul. This is where we learn from one another and help one another suffer for the sake of Christ. Come into the worship service on Sunday morning asking God to satisfy your heart in him. These are the ways gospel advancing minds and hearts live out gospel worthy lives.
We see in these verses that true, saving faith does not stop with belief in Jesus as our Savior. True, saving faith clings to Jesus as the greatest treasure so much, that fears are diminished showing our opponents that the gospel will triumph and they will lose in the end.
NECESSARY QUALITIES FOR UNITY IN THE CHURCH
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind (Phil. 2:1-2).”
The word so means that because of what he has said previously, do what is next. Paul wants what was just said to be the motivation and catalyst for what he is about to say. If there is any encouragement in Christ, comfort from love, participation in the Spirit, and any affection and sympathy; do these things. You can’t do verses 1 and 2 without a heart that that embraces verses 27 through 30.
But what does Paul mean by if? What is he saying here. He isn’t saying that he’s doubting that these four qualities exist within the church as a whole. He isn’t saying that they may be true, but he’s not certain about that. He’s telling the Philippians that if they have experienced these truths happening among them, complete his joy by having unity.
These four qualities ought to be dominating our lives together as a church, because we want to live worthy of the gospel. We ought to be praying, asking God to work these qualities into the crevices of our own hearts and in the hearts of others at Grace. May we be always increasing in finding encouragement from Jesus, comfort from his love, participating together in the work of the Holy Spirit, and showing heartfelt sympathy towards one another.
Paul is saying now that he wants his joy to find its fullness in their being unity as a result of these four qualities in the Philippian church. From verse 27 in chapter 1 up to these first two verses in chapter 2, he is linking his reasoning together. You’ve got to see how these verses connect with each other to get the full force of what he’s writing.
God awakens faith in our hearts to believe in the gospel, and grants us the opportunity to suffer for Christ’s sake, through which we experience these four things. But it doesn’t stop there. It culminates with us doing all this while being of the same mind, having the same love, and being in full accord. That only happens if above all else, we want live gospel worthy lives that say to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Disunity will try to creep in among us. If you are at this church long enough you will experience circumstances that will attempt to disrupt unity between us. Life together will become hard and a person or people at Grace Church will be hard to love. You will find someone hard to get a long with because their personality is so different. Someone will not live up to your expectations. We will drop the ball as elders in some way. Someone will come across as too abrasive or have too strong of an opinion for your liking. Someone will share a political view that you don’t like.
In these moments will you allow disunity? Will you pull back, disengage or harbor pity for yourself? Or will these four qualities dominate your thinking and come up to the surface from the crevices of your heart? Will you seek to find encouragement from Christ to help you fight for unity. Will the deep love of Jesus help you see that because you have been forgiven much, you can forgive others? Will you pursue the help of the Holy Spirit to press in or will you dip out? Will affection and sympathy take precedence in your heart instead of frustration and anger?
If you would do these things, we as elders would have joy completed, just as Paul writes here too. Satan will attempt to divide us. The deeper we go in unity, the greater the potential we have for disunity to create big problems. That is why having the gospel dominate our thinking and dominate our hearts is so crucial. When times for potential disunity arrive, where will we go to in your heart and mind to make decisions on how to deal with it? Pragmatically, we will want to get out of the situation as quick as possible. Gospel worthy lives reject pragmatism and say that pursuit of unity is worth it for the sake of Christ.
Grace, we were very far off from God in our sin. Sin created a wider gap in our division and fellowship with God than any division we will face with one another. What ways can you advance the gospel with those you don’t like, those who rub you the wrong way, or those who have offended you at Grace?
THE PRACTICAL OUTWORKING OF GOSPEL UNITY
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil. 2:3-4).”
Now we get to the most practical application Paul gives to the Philippians in order to maintain gospel advancing unity. He doesn’t start here and neither should we. If everything we just talked about doesn’t work its way into the recesses of our mind and the crevices of our heart, verses three and four will get chucked out the window at first contact with the enemy of opposition. Unregenerate hearts don’t do these things and regenerate hearts need the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit within them to live them out.
Paul gives a contrast in these verses, first starting with the negative and then moving to the positive. Negatively, we are to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.
Selfish ambition takes the good desire of ambition and distorts it for its own gain. Conceit refers to thinking too highly of yourself. Paul had ambition to advance the gospel to places where Christ was not named. We ought to have ambition to advance the gospel with our lives together as a church. Yet we don’t have selfish ambition because our lives our not our own. And we shouldn’t have conceit because all we’ve been given is a gift from God. Our lives belong to Christ. They were purchased by Christ through the cross.
Rather, lives that seek to be lived worthy of the gospel will lay down their desires to be served. With humble hearts, they will see other people’s needs as more important than their own. This is not a call to consider your life as worth nothing, but to think of others needs as more significant than your own.
When you are on an airplane, before the flight, the flight attendants give you instructions on what to do should the cabin lose air pressure, and the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling. You are not told to disregard your own need for oxygen and help other people get their oxygen masks on first. You are no good in helping someone else if you don’t have oxygen. We meet our own need of oxygen so that we may help the child next to us with their need for oxygen. And we meet our own needs not for selfish ambition or conceit, but that we may meet and serve the needs of those around us.
So let us rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Let’s be peacemakers. Let’s bear with those who are weak. By doing these things we are counting them as more significant than ourselves and are advancing the gospel. When gospel advancement dominates your thinking and your emotions through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your heart, than you can live this type of life out.
So pray for this to be your life. Ask God to work these verses into the crevices of your heart. Think over them individually and together in your DG. Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ. Strive side by side for the faith of the gospel.
Several years ago I responded to a call at work of a drunk man shooting a shotgun off in his backyard. He was threatening to kill the people that were renting from him in the upstairs of the house. The people had locked themselves in a bathroom and called 911, asking for help to get them out of there.
I was familiar with this address and this man. I had arrested him in the past. He lived on a farm and owned 80 acres of farmland and woods. My partner and I got to the area at around the same time. We parked on the road, shut our lights off, and began walking up the driveway towards this house. My mind was racing, trying to decide how we were going to get these people out. If we walked up the house we could get ambushed by this guy somewhere in the darkness. If that happened, we would be of no use to the people inside the house. But the longer we waited, the longer they were in danger.
As we walked up the road we heard a single gunshot go off in the back of the house. Our dispatcher was still on the phone with the people inside and verified that they were still ok. My partner and I crouched behind a large, round hay bale in the driveway, trying to figure out where this guy could be. I remember thinking that we were on his turf and he was very familiar with his property. He could be behind any tree or around any corner.
My partner and I, in whispered voices, discussed what we were going to do next. We disagreed on how to handle the problem. We faced a significant opponent that was drunk and had a long gun. There was real fear in my mind about my partner or I getting shot, and whether I would make the right decision on how to handle this.
But there was less fear since I had my partner next to me, even if we were disagreeing. I know that he had my back and we would protect each other. We called out our SWAT team, and a short time later, an armored vehicle came down the road with eight SWAT Team members carrying rifles, pistols and lots of bullets. I remember the feeling I had climbing into the armored vehicle as we rolled up to the house and rescued the people out of it. The fear lessoned as I saw them roll up the driveway to where we were.
Now during this call my partner and I had a disagreement on whether to push up to the house or wait for the SWAT team. I made a decision, he respected it, and we worked together because we both had the same mission- to get the people out safely and arrest the suspect.
We accomplished the mission even though we had conflict between us, and faced opposition from the outside. Being united to finish the task was what dominated our thinking.
We are in a far greater battle as a church than that. We are striving side by side for the faith of the gospel so that we can advance the gospel until we die or until Christ returns. So let’s go on the offense together, side by side.
Whether it is missions, or evangelism, or loving your spouse, or discipling your kids with much needed patience, or adoption and foster care, or singleness, or doing life in your discipleship group, or worshiping here together with joyful earnestness week after week, let’s go on the gospel attack. Let’s be at it together.
Feed your soul with Philippians this summer. Let the advance of the gospel dominate your thinking and desire. Ask God to sink it into the recesses of your mind and the crevices of your heart. Come to the worship on Sunday morning with the desire to strengthen your faith in the gospel. Go into your discipleship group with the mindset of counting others as more significant and seeing how you can serve them. We do not fight with the weapons of this world. We put on the whole armor of God to stand against the schemes of the devil and face his opposition with no fear. This is the greatest battle of your life and we do it side by side Grace Church, for the faith of the gospel.