Worthy of the Gospel
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Philippians

Worthy of the Gospel

Philippians 1:27-30

It is a short passage, almost a transition to the great poem of the second chapter, and therefore often ignored. But it should not be so:

(Phil 1:27-30 NIV) Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel {28} without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved--and that by God. {29} For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, {30} since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

The Absolute Call of the Gospel

One of the most disturbing aspects of the call of Christ is its absolute nature. It is quite clear that Christ must come first in all circumstances. "Reasonable" people find this offensive - because it denies them first place. But the child of God sees it as proper.

Whatever happens

This phrase is more often translated "only." The Greek word is monon, from which we get our English prefix "mono." It is a simple word with a deep meaning:

  • Who can separate us from God? This alone is cause enough for us to be "mono-minded." We belong to him and nothing anyone else can do can change that. So, whatever happens, let us cling to that.
  • Who controls this universe anyway? Do you not believe in the God of creation, the omnipotent one? Why, then, do you let your circumstances bother you so much?
  • Why indeed? Because of your expectations. Like the evil man in Psalm 10, you feel entitled to permanent happiness. If we expect only what the Lord promises, we shall find ourselves much more content.
Whether

Meaning, whether Paul is with them or not - or for that matter any other person. Does our faith depend upon the presence of another sinner? If it does, then we are indeed failing miserably. There is great danger here.

  • There is the danger of "environmental religion." This is the religion of those who will say grace in a coffee shop with the preacher but won't take time for private prayer. It is a self-deceiving religion.
  • There is the danger of "hereditary religion." The church becomes a club; one joins it and becomes important in it without really believing, because Dad expects you to. Then you pass the habit along to your children.
  • There is the danger of "partner religion." You come to church because your wife likes it. It pleases her and makes her easier to get along with.
Without being frightened in any way

The weapon of our enemy is fear; but we are told that perfect love casts out fear. So in what way does our enemy try to frighten us?

  • In some ways there is the use of force. This is not as common as it was in Paul's time, but there are still Christians in the world today who know that their faith can get them killed.
  • More often, for us, it is ridicule. How could you be so stupid?
  • If ridicule won't work, there is the more subtle method of social pressure. Fashionable people do know how to party late on Saturday night.

But who should we fear?

(Luke 12:5 NIV) But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

"Fear God, ye saints, and ye shall have nothing else to fear."

Unity in the Gospel

Paul, in his words here, has encouraged the church to have "one spirit." We know that the church has the Holy Spirit, but I think that Paul here might be extending the concept to mean the enthusiasm and steadfastness with which they are to approach the world. He tells them to contend "as one man." It is a unity of action he is speaking of. An example of this was given to us in the early church:

(Acts 4:32 NIV) All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.

Paul's own recipe for unity in the gospel is given in Romans 12:16-21. It boils down to these four ideas:

  • Don't be proud or conceited. Think about it: how do you feel about people who are arrogant? What does that do for the unity of the church?
  • Don't take revenge, or repay evil for evil. This is actually a positive command; we are to take all steps to break the "payback cycle."
  • Do what appears right to others. Don't take advantage of your Christian liberty to irritate others, but be courteous to them and encourage them by your example.
  • Live at peace with all, as far as you are able.

In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul describes the seven unities of the church:

  • One body - though we are different members, we must work together as one.
  • One Spirit - the source of our morale, the invisible glue of our group.
  • One hope - that of the resurrection. Think of the glory of that day!
  • One Lord - we all are under his command. We all know that well run organizations have one person in charge.
  • One faith - the teachings and practices given the Apostles.
  • One baptism - you have been through the same death, burial and resurrection in symbol, soon to be in fact.
  • One God and Father - which makes us brothers and sisters, a family.

A Life Worthy of the Gospel

The word used for "conduct yourself" in this passage originally meant that we were to act as citizens. This would have a special meaning for the Philippians, who were Roman colonists in a Greek land. How do we conduct ourselves in such way as to live a life worthy of the Gospel?

Rejoice in suffering

As verse 30 makes clear, Paul was suffering for the gospel. But tell me: has he been honored for that suffering? Indeed yes! And if God will honor Paul for that, he will honor all who suffer for the name. Remember these teachings of our Lord:

  • The life lost for the gospel is a life saved eternally.[1]
  • What you lose for the gospel here is repaid a hundred times over later.[2]
  • Suffering is the way you share in the glory of Christ.[3]
The character of the Gospel is to be reflected in us

We are the living representatives of the gospel, and as such when people see us, they should be able to draw some conclusions about the gospel of Christ from it. What kind of conclusions? Let us consider what kind of gospel it is!

  • It is a gospel of grace[4]. Are we people who are gracious and forgiving?
  • It is a gospel of peace[5]. Are we people who show the peace of God in our dealings with others every day?
  • It is a gospel of righteousness[6]. Not our own righteousness, but the righteousness of God. So we should be righteous as we are able, and accepting of grace to obtain God's righteousness.
The Power of the Gospel

Verse 28 tells us that our standing firm will be a sign to our enemies that they are the ones destined for hell. What, then, is the power of the gospel?

  • The gospel did not come weakly - but came with power through the Holy Spirit (remember Pentecost?) and with great conviction.[7]
  • Indeed, the gospel is the power of God used to accomplish one purpose - salvation.[8]
  • And - perhaps most awesome of all demonstrations of power - it is through the gospel that death itself is destroyed and immortality is brought to light.[9]

Like explosives, such power must be handled most carefully. In many passages it is referred to as the "gospel of Christ."[10] It is his; it belongs to him. He will not deal lightly with those who add to it or take from it.

Summary

It comes down to this:

  • In whatever circumstances you find yourself - whatever is happening to you, whoever you are with, whatever fear is thrown at you -
  • You must stand united with the church, recalling the character of those who encourage unity and the things of God which support it, so that you
  • Live a life worthy of that gospel. You are the ambassador of Christ. As such, you must rejoice in suffering, reflecting the character both of the gospel and of your Lord. Remember, this is not weakness; this is power made perfect in weakness.

[1] Mark 8:35

[2]Mark 10:29

[3] 2 Thessalonians 2:14

[4] Acts 20:24

[5] Ephesians 6:15

[6] Romans 1:17

[7] 1 Thessalonians 1:5

[8] Romans 1:16

[9] 2 Timothy 1:10

[10] e.g., 1 Thessalonians 3:2

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