Grace Bible Church
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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
March 28, 2004
Conduct Worthy of the Gospel
How should a Christian live? What characteristics should make a true Christian stand out from non-Christians and those with a false profession of faith? Paul will give us some answers to these questions this morning in our study of Philippians 1:27- 30.
This passage marks a change in focus from what Paul had written in the first part of this letter. In the previous passage Paul had been writing on what had been going on with him. In verses 3-11 Paul had expressed his relationship to and thoughts about the Philippian believers including his prayer for them. He was thankful to God for them because of their faithful participation with him in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was confident of God’s continued work in them and so could pray with all trust that they would “abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment so that [they] may approve the things that are excellent in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”
In verses 12-26 Paul explained his situation and response to it. He was imprisoned and there were Christians those were seeking to cause him even additional distress, yet Paul could see that God was using all of this in both his ministry to the praetorian guards that were watching him and beyond and in encouraging others to be more bold in their proclamation of the gospel. Paul rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed regardless of the motives of the preachers or his own circumstances. While Paul thought that he would survive his imprisonment in order to continue in ministry to them, he also knew that he could also die, but for Paul, to live was Christ and to die was gain, so either outcome would be deliverance for him.
As we come to verses 27-30 this morning, we find that Paul changes the focus from himself to the Philippians. The transition in vs 27 is direct as he now begins to address specific issues with them.
Phil 1:27 (NASB) Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 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. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear [to be] in me.
Conduct Worthy of the Gospel
The theme of this passage is that they are to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. Paul’ emphasizes this by placing the word “only” at the beginning of the sentence. It is not do this and that and this other thing, for all the rest of the things he speaks about are under this “only” of living their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. All the other things are just specific aspects of what this “only” encompasses which in this particular passage includes standing firm in one spirit, unity of mind in working together for the gospel, and not fearing the opposition. Paul goes on in chapter 2 to speak more about unity and the humility which makes that unity possible, but even this falls under this one command to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Why is this important? Because without a clear understanding of the overall command and objective, the parts that make it up become separated and elevated in importance, sometimes even to the detriment of the supreme command. We will see how that has happened in this section of scripture in a few minutes. The other reason this is important is that with a clear understanding of the supreme command you can still figure out the lesser elements that need to be accomplished in carrying out the supreme command.
For example, the supreme command God has given us is to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37). The supreme method He has given us to help one another and the world to do that is the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19,20 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” All the details necessary for carrying this out must never be allowed to usurp the actual commission, yet that happens in churches all the time when they lose balance or priority and concentrate on one particular ministry to the detriment of all the rest. There are churches so caught up in teaching ministries that they neglect evangelism and vica versa. There are churches that are so concentrated on foreign missions that they neglect their own community. There are churches that are so caught up with the emotional elements of worship that they neglect the intellectual aspects of worship and vica versa. A great problem that is still expanding in American churches is reaching out with compassion to sinners but forgetting about calling them to holiness. Jesus had compassion on the woman caught in adultery, but He also told her to go and sin no more (John 8:11). There are also churches that are the opposite extreme that neglect to love the sinner in their effort to condemn their sin.
The command that Paul is giving to the Philippians here is to “conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Everything else he says is only a way in which that is to be carried out. So what does this command mean?
The idea of “conduct” (“conversation” in the KJV / Greek = politeuomai / politeuô) is to “live your life” or more literally, to “live as a citizen.” This is an important concept to understand. We have some idea it when we think of some patriotic American who puts their life on the line for the defense of our nation, but the idea here is perhaps even stronger than that. Ancient Greece was made up of poliV / polis, city states to which each citizen pledged their allegiance. These citizens had a keen sense of dependence upon one another, and so were very committed to their fellow citizens resulting in them willingly devoting themselves to the interests of their city, of which they tended to be very proud. A good citizen would give every effort to only bring honor to his city and never dishonor. We add to this that Philippi was a Roman colony, so that at this time there was an even greater sense of pride and duty since they were also privileged to be Roman citizens. They considered themselves to be a “little Rome” in a distant place and adopted Roman customs and language.
These Philippian Christians would have understood Paul’s command to them to “conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” to mean that they were to live as a good citizen whose allegiance was to the gospel of Christ. They were to only do what would bring honor to the gospel and refrain from whatever would bring shame to the gospel. They would have clearly understood their “conduct” to encompass every aspect of their life.
In 3:20 Paul tells us that believers have their citizenship in heaven.
Here, Paul is commanding them, and us, to have a devotion to the kingdom of Jesus Christ that would result in living life in a way as to always honor and never dishonor Christ or His message. Paul gives similar commands in Ephesians (4:1), Colossians 1:10) and 1 Thessalonians (2:12;4:1) that we walk worthy of our calling in pleasing God in all things.
This is a general command, but notice that it is a positive command rather than a prohibition. Live in this manner because of what you are and to whom you have given your allegiance rather than don’t do these things because of the bad things that will happen to you if you do. The implications of this command are to be carried out in everything we do. Christians should think about who they represent before they act for your life is no longer about yourself, but about Christ. This is the logical outflow of what Paul said verse 21 that for him to live is Christ. Do people see Jesus Christ in you by the way you behave, in what you say and in your attitudes? That has great implications for the gospel, which is why formulates his command in relationship to living life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
When a non-Christian looks at a Christian who lives in the same a manner that they do, what possible attraction could there be to Christ? According to the perverted gospel common in America in our time, the difference between a Christian and non-Christian is simply eternal destiny, the former to heaven and the latter to hell. However, the good news about Jesus Christ is not about escape from hell, but salvation from sin to righteousness and a restored relationship with God. Escape from hell is simply a wonderful secondary benefit for the Christian. Christianity is about walking in holiness with our Creator breaking our bondage to sin in its many manifestations and consequences. As we walk properly with the Lord and become more like Him, the non-Christian sees the change, and the new manner of life proclaims Jesus in a positive and honorable way. When Christians live in the same sinful way that the world does, the name of Jesus Christ and His message of salvation from sin through faith in Him are dishonored and shamed. The cause of the gospel is served when people see Jesus Christ in us, not when they see our lives the same as their own. In other words, we do not bring people to Jesus Christ by being like the world, but being like Jesus Christ in character, action and attitude. Conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Reputation (vs. 27). In verse 27, Paul goes on to say whether he is able to come to see them in person or not, he wanted to hear about how they were carrying out this command in three specific areas. This brings up the importance of reputation. Reputation is “the general opinion held by people about the merits or demerits of a person or thing” (Webster) and is developed based on the reported merits or demerits of the person or thing. There is no doubt that Paul wanted to hear that the Philippians response to his instructions would be in keeping with the reputation they already had with him and expressed in the first part of this chapter. They were doing well and expected them to continue to do even better as they walked with Christ.
What is your reputation? If it is like that of the Philippians, then praise God and continue to improve in all the areas that you are already doing well. Every Christian is in the process of being conformed in the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), and will always have room to improve until the day of Christ when we shall see Him as He is and be like Him and remain with Him forevermore (1 John 3:2).
If your reputation does not glorify Jesus Christ, then work at changing it by walking with Him more closely. The wonderful thing about Christianity is that God takes us in whatever condition that we are in, sinless and enemies against Him, saves us, and then begins the process of changing us. Our reputation changes as we become more like Jesus. It is that change in our reputation that brings glory to Him and His gospel. We fail, but God never fails. He continues to work in our lives to make us more like Christ.
Paul mentions three specific areas in which he wanted the Philippian believers to demonstrate a manner of life worthy of the gospel of Christ. The first one is “standing firm in one spirit.”
The idea of “standing firm” is to “hold our ground” and was used in military settings of a soldier that refused to yield his position regardless of personal danger. The soldier submitted himself to something of greater importance than just his individual life. He served and put himself at risk for the benefit of his fellow soldiers and the nation they all served.
The figurative usage here is to hold fast to your beliefs and principles regardless of personal cost. A Christian needs to be firmly rooted in Biblical truth and refuse to compromise those truths even when it is not easy to do or even results in persecution of one kind of another. Here in America, such persecution is usually limited to ridicule and disdain, but can also escalate into consequences on the job of not being promoted or even fired because of a stand for Biblical ethics. Increasingly there is political persecution against Biblical Christianity in terms of loss of rights, financial penalties and even on occasion, incarceration. In other places around the world persecution also includes physical persecution, torture and even death. Why? Because the Christian believes God and His word and refuses to contradict it. The stand firmly on its truth and refuse to be moved.
Paul was in imprisoned because of his proclaiming that Jesus Christ was the promised messiah was offensive to the Jewish religious leaders. He also knew that Caesar could put him to death if he thought that Paul’s allegiance to Christ was a threat to the allegiance he demanded from all his subjects. It would not be many years later when many Christians would be martyred precisely because of that. Christians believed that only Jesus Christ is Lord and therefore refused to make the yearly required sacrifice to Caesar as a deity.
As Christians, we should take seriously Jesus’ warnings about it. We should expect to have “tribulation in this world” (John 16:33) and for sinful people to insult us and all kinds of evil against us falsely because of righteousness and Christ’s sake (Mt. 5:10-12). If they hated Jesus, we can expect them to hate us too (John 15:18,19). Paul’s command here is to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ by standing firm when such persecution comes.
Another aspect of this “standing firm” is in resisting the temptations that come against us to compromise our faith for reasons other than fear. We must stand firm on walking in righteousness even when we are enticed by the evil around us. We declare all our income and pay our taxes even when there is a financial advantage to cheating and working off the books. We refuse to take discounts for which we are not actually eligible. Like Job, a godly Christian man makes a covenant with his eyes to look only at his wife even when other women try to attract his attention. A godly Christian wife submits to her husband’s leadership even when her personal desires are opposite his. Godly Christian children obey their parents even when all the other kids are doing what they have been restricted from doing.
Standing firm is to hold onto your convictions and not be swayed from living according to the truth regardless of persecution or personal enticements. This is not always easy, but the more deeply we hold our convictions, the easier it is to stand firm. In addition, we are to stand firm with other believers. Paul’s full statement here is that they are “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
In one spirit, with one mind
The “one spirit” and “one mind” here point out the unity that Christians are to have with one another. Paul will expand on that in chapter 2, but here it is brought up because Christians need to stand firm together. Christians are not to be hermits. We are to work together in helping each other walk with Christ. Paul’s explanation of the body concept of the church in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 all stress how each believer is equipped by God to serve in the church for the benefit of the whole body. We need each other.
Many commentators take the reference to “one spirit” ( en eniV pneumati / en eni pneumati) to be to the Holy Spirit. If so, then Paul would have to be calling them to a unified front of standing firm together because of their common communion with the Holy Spirit who had baptized each of them into one body (1 Cor. 12:13). However, the context here seems to be more in reference to the spirit of each individual believer, which is why the English translations do not capitalize the word as they do when it is thought that it is a reference to the Holy Spirit (as in 1 Cor. 12:13). In this case, the unity of spirit is having each of them possessing the same convictions. I think we will all agree that it is a lot easier to stand for what you believe when there are others who also feel the same way that you do and are standing with you.
The idea of “one mind”(mia yuch / mia psuche) translated variously as “mind,” “soul” and “heart” adds in a unity of thought in addition to emotion and will. Adding these spirit and soul together and the Christian is to be unified in all that makes them human and believers. Again, Paul will expand on this theme of unity in chapter 2, but for here, common belief, desires and priorities make for a strong bond for both defense and offense. Together, we are to stand firm against whatever is opposed to the gospel while at the same time, together, we are more effective in proclaiming the gospel which Paul brings out at the end of the verse.
Striving together for the faith of the gospel
As fellow Christians we share a common goal of proclaiming Christ to the nations. While in many groups that have a common goal there is an internal competition for positions within the group, that is not to be in Christianity. We are to strive with, not against one another. We sacrifice our own position and welfare for the common good because it is not about any individual’s power, prestige or position. It is all about the glorification of Jesus Christ and not any individual within His church.
To use a sports analogy, the church is a team. We all work together so that the whole team accomplishes its mission. While there are positions that may command more attention than others, everyone works together in humility understanding that even the lowliest position is necessary for the teams’ success. Paul speaks of this principle in 1 Cor. 12:22-26 saying in part, “. . . the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary . . . members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
In the church, as in an athletic team, if someone is out for their own success, the rest of the team will suffer. A selfish person simply cannot be a good church leader because a good church leader must continually be placing their own will as subservient to what is best for the rest of the church, often at personal sacrifice. People often come into the church with such selfish attitudes, but since they are contrary to church leadership qualifications (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1), a good church will not let them get into a position of church leadership. As the person matures and becomes more humble, those attitudes change from self-serving to Christ-serving and they become eligible for more ministry positions that will benefit the whole body.
The particular context here is that the church is to strive together for the faith of the gospel. Our goal is the common belief and proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. We desire for people to come to Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and learn to walk to walk with Him in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). Each person in the body of Christ uses their gifts God gave them in ministry to the rest of the body for the purpose of that goal. This includes making sure that the gospel message itself is never compromised, which as mentioned earlier, is commonly done in America in our own time even in churches that are supposed to be Biblically based. Too many have traded the truth for religious feelings. While emotion is a proper element in worship, it is subservient to the truth of the Scriptures and must always follow, never lead.
We show we are conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ when we are unified in our stand against anything that would compromise its message and do not yield to the temptations or persecutions that come against us because of our belief in Jesus Christ.
In verse 28 Paul encourages them concerning the opposition they were facing, “in no way alarmed by your opponents.” This is a third element that demonstrates a worthy walk with Christ is not being in fear of the enemies of Christianity or what we might suffer at their hands. The idea of “afraid” here is to be “frightened,” “alarmed” or “terrified” as translated in the KJV. The idea here is not a fear that paralyzes, but rather one that might cause either the serious, fearful concern of worry or a running away such as when one is startled. Believers are not to be controlled by either fear (Rom. 8:15; 2 Tim. 1:7), or worry (Phil. 4:6). We can place our trust in God and have peace in whatever He allows, just as Paul did in his own circumstances which included the possible extremes of life or death.
The sign of destruction and salvation
Paul points out to them that this very opposition is a sign or evidence of two important truths. The first is that God will destroy those that oppose Him, and the second is that God will save those who follow Him.
“Destruction” here is not annihilation, a doctrine that has become popular with the idea that God’s judgement will be to eliminate the existence of those who have opposed Him. “Destruction” here is the just retribution of God on those who do not know Him or obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus and is the penalty of eternal destruction being shut out from the presence of the Lord (2 Thess. 1:8,9).
Salvation here, which Paul points out is from God, is the opposite. It is escape from God’s wrath through faith in Jesus Christ and adoption into God’s family. As Jesus said in Matthew 25, Heaven and Hell are both real places. Heaven is enjoying the blessedness of being part of God’s kingdom while Hell is being shut out from that and in eternal torment, described by Jesus as a place of “eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:31-46).
When you are persecuted for righteousness and Christ’s name sake, it is confirmation that you are on the correct side. A person’s enemies confirms which side they are on, so when the devil and his followers are against you, it is a confirmation you are on God’s side. Without getting into the long story, I remember the sense of that confirmation that came to me when threats were being made against me by a demonized woman. It was sense of great peace and calm in the midst of a stormy situation.
When you can face opposition without fear, it is a confirmation that you are living in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
On behalf of Christ
In verses 29 & 30 Paul wraps up his immediate thought by pointing out again the confidence they could have in God in the midst of any suffering they would incur. “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” The word here for “been granted” is carizomai / charizomai, the verb form for grace. Paul viewed both their salvation and suffering as gifts from God
Believing. It is not hard for us to understand that believing in Jesus is a gift of grace from God. We were dead in our trespasses and sin and in opposition to God, yet He provided for our salvation through Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross for our sins. God convicted us of our sins and enabled us to believe that we would turn from sin to Christ and be saved. All of it is a wonderful gift given to us when we in no way deserved it.
Suffering. What is harder for us to comprehend, especially as American Christians, is that suffering for Christ’s sake is also a gift of grace from God. I know that most of us immediately would like God to withhold that gift, but we need to remember that our lives are not about ourselves, but about God’s glory. Suffering for Christ’s sake is direct evidence that we are living for God’s glory, for all who strive to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12). I have also already pointed out from John 15 and other passages, we can expect those who hate Jesus to also hate us. Again, that hatred is a confirmation that they can see Jesus living in us, and that brings glory to God.
In addition, as I have pointed out many times from Romans 5 and James 1 in previous sermons, God uses the tribulations of persecution to help us mature. If our goal is be like Jesus Christ, then we can “exult in our tribulations” for we can be sure that God is using them to accomplish that goal.
Paul’s example (vs. 30). The Philippians and we have Paul’s own example in how to understand and properly respond God’s grace gift of suffering for Jesus’ sake. As I have already pointed out, we overcome our circumstances, including suffering, by looking to see what God is doing in the midst of it. Paul did that and rejoiced, and so did the rest of the apostles (Acts 5:41). We can do the same as we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel. And if you are afraid that you could not handle such suffering in that manner, you need not worry, for God does not allow us to go through anything that He has not either prepared us for or provided a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13).
Sermon Study Sheets
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the word “worthy” is said. Talk with your parents about how you can live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
How should a Christian live? What differences should their be between the Christian, the non-Christian and those with false professions? What is the importance of the word “only” in Phil. 1:27? What are some of the supreme commands God has given us? What does “conduct” mean in verse 27? How can the Christian attract the non-Christian to Christ? What is the importance of your reputation and how can it be made better? What does it mean to “stand firm” in Phil. 1:27? What kinds of things do you have to “stand firm” in your own life? What is the basis and importance of Christian unity? Can there be unity without common belief? How are Christians supposed to “strive together for th faith of the gospel”? How can that help you as an individual Christian? How should the Christian respond to fear? What will help them respond in that manner? How is persecution a sign of destruction to the unsaved and salvation to Christians? How is suffering a grace gift from God?
Sermon Notes – March 28, 2004
Conduct Worthy of the Gospel – Philippians 1:27-30
Conduct Worthy of the Gospel
In one Spirit, with one mind
The Sign of Destruction & Salvation
On Behalf of Christ
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