· Bible Study 16th Sept 2009 Bible Reading Phil 1 - 2:11
· Theme – Unity and the Gospel
· Text Phil 1:27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,
· Introduction – Things we value and worth
· We all understand the concept of worth, we have things that we value and cherish, and these are personal and to some extent are priceless.
· A letter, a picture, a piece of jewellery, something from a departed loved one, something from your past that has a great deal of emotional content attached to it.
· It may be an object something you saved and worked hard for, it may be something that has been handed down to you, you may even one day come across something in your attic and take it to the antique road show and have your life changed forever – because it is some long lost treasure and it is worth a great amount of money.
· Things of worth are those things that we value, that we esteem, that we reckon are of importance to us, we cherish them, protect them, care for them and hold them high regard.
· Some people go to great lengths to protect those things that they value to be of worth, they can be something sentimental, something material it is more often than not it is not a something but rather a somebody a loved one, husband, wife, son, daughter etc.
· How much do we value the Gospel
· The question Paul is asking here is a very clear - how much worth do you put on the gospel, what does the gospel mean to you? – How much do you value it?
· The answer he requires to this question cannot be given in words or eloquent language, he does not want a paper written on it – a thesis of 50,000 words describing your value of the gospel, and he doesn’t want us to quote what other people say the gospel means to them.
· The answer he is looking for is given in the text – he wants your life, your Christian walk to be worthy of the gospel. This means that our lives actually reflect our value or worth of the gospel.
· To stop and think about this is a challenge for any of us, my life reflects how I value the gospel, my life reflects how much I love Christ, and understand what he has done for me through the gospel.
· It is easy to say the right things, to have all the right theological phrases and language, to nod when the preacher makes an important point, to say loud amen’s – but what really reflects the worth you put on the gospel is what you do outside of this building, that is the validation of how much you value the gospel. That is the proof to God and evidence to the world.
· God had a complaint against the children of Israel – they were good at lip service but the reality was that their hearts were far from God.
· Isa 29:13 Therefore the Lord said: "Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honour Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
· Jesus said the same thing - Mt 15:8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honour Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.
· Paul wanted the church at Philippi to understand this and think about what it means to live their Christian lives with the mindset that our Christian walk reflects our worth of the gospel.
· This was not something new for Paul – he uses this thought in several other passages as well: -
· Eph4:1 - 4, Col1:9 -12, 1Thes 2:11 -12 in each of these we are encouraged to walk in a manner that was worthy of either, the gospel, the Lord or God – ultimately the same thing – we are to walk in a manner that is worthy of our salvation.
· Because how much we value our salvation will reflect itself in the manner of our Christian walk.
· Paul goes on to tell us what that manner of life and conduct should be - for those who value the gospel, for those who prize and cherish their salvation.
· He says the evidence of this will be seen in church unity – in brotherly love, in a desire to see the gospel proclaimed and others brought into the kingdom of God.
· Explanation of the text
· Pauls desire was for the church is to be united, to stand fast, with one mind, like minded, love, being of one accord – looking out for the interests of other etc
· Look at the language he uses in 1vs.27 – stand fast, one mind, striving together – why for the faith of the gospel (this can mean two things standing together on the doctrinal truths of the gospel, or it can also mean standing together in the proclamation of the gospel)
· Vs.28 – they were to stand together against persecution - proof of their salvation
· 2:2-3 – like-minded, same love for each other, one accord, one mind, remove any selfish ambition; esteem others first and look out for the interests of others.
· Eph 4:2 – lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace
· Why is this important – 3 reasons why unity is essential in the church
1. The blessing that comes out of unity – Joy, love and harmony in the church
2. The goal of unity – the defence and proclamation of the gospel
3. The example of unity – Jesus is our example and he is glorified when we become like him.
The blessing that comes out of unity – Joy, love and harmony in the church
· In 2:1 Paul makes this tremendous statement about unity – he says that if he hears that they are united in the gospel to him this will be a thing of great joy; it will be a thing of great encouragement and consolation.
· If there is any comfort of love, any fellowship of the spirit, any affection and sympathy for him then they were to be united this would complete his joy.
· Paul knew of all people the devastating effect division had on a church not only for the people but also for the witness it had to the world
· Context of the passage – Paul is in prison in Rome – he is under house arrest because he preached the gospel, this was evident to all - he testifies to this in 1 vs.12-13 even the soldiers commissioned to guard him understood this.
· He is there waiting to be tried before Caesar, he is thankful for their prayers and the help of the spirit this gives him a confidence to remain strong. 1vs.19-20
· His hope is that he will not be ashamed, but have courage and honour Christ in his body whether he lives or dies – he then has this dilemma vs.21-26 either to go and be with Christ which for him was far better or to remain and continue and be a benefit and blessing to the church.
· But while he is there waiting for his trial we see the effects of a divided church, of a church that does not have all its members united together.
· For me this is one of the saddest portions of scripture 1vs.14-18 because as Paul is under house arrest, in chains for preaching the gospel some from within the church at Rome are seeking to add to his affliction.
· How many we do not know, but it would seem that they may possibly be some of the leaders; they were certainly preachers in the church. Paul does not give us any details or dwell upon them.
· He says in vs.14 most of the brethren were a blessing to him, they were encouraged by his faithfulness, and through this encouragement they were bold in preaching the gospel.
· Paul rejoiced at this, he rejoiced to see his fellow brothers in Christ declaring the gospel in boldness and for the glory of Christ.
· But he would also have been sadden by those few who through envy and strife, who through selfish ambition and insincerity preached the gospel not for the glory of Christ.
· Not to encourage Paul, not for the furtherance of the gospel but to add affliction to his situation vs.14&15
· These were Christians who did this; for some sad reason through envy hoped that their preaching would go against Paul when it came time for his trial.
· What they preached was right and true, they preached the gospel, they did not alter the message, or change the emphasis, they did not add or subtract from it like the church at Galatia.
· What they preached was the gospel, but it was without love, and without sincerity and for all the wrong reasons and motives.
· It is hard to imagine this – it is difficult to imagine the depths a divided church can stoop because of envy, strife and and private agendas, but it happened in Paul’s day and can easily happen today if we are not careful to protect our unity.
· I tried to think of an illustration to emphasize this – it like the local church were Marizeh and Maryam the two young women who converted from Islam to Christianity going to the prison where they are being held and instead of offering help and support, instead of praying form them and encouraging them they are actually presenting evidence to condemn them more.
· Or the members of the church that David Shestakov was a pastor, going to the legal authorities and presenting evidence against him.
· How low can we get when we see a great Christian brother in chains for his love of Christ and we cannot show him love and sympathy but seek to add to his affliction.
· This was a dark day for the church when this happened – and what amplified this tragedy more was that it did not go unnoticed by those outside of the church – vs.13 “the whole palace guard and the rest” understood what was going on.
· Paul was not a novice when it came to people opposing him – he had experienced this many times not only from the religious leaders of the day but also from those in the church whom he believed to be Christians.
· Paul does not really going into any real detail about the events that happened while he was in prison in Rome, he just uses them or as an example to the church at Philippi to show them this is how a church should not be found.
· What was more important to Paul as he testifies is that whether they preached from selfish ambition or out of love he still rejoiced because the gospel was preached? Vs. 16-18
· You have to admire Paul – because if this was any other person they would want retribution; they would want to validate their position so that the readers of the letter truly understood how he felt.
· Paul seems to be able to put to one side those things that affected him personally so that the gospel may be preached, God may be glorified and people added to the church.
· This type of event is really not that uncommon in the history of the church, there have always been those people who have entered a church with their own private agendas seeking to divide and turn people away from true Christianity and towards man made idols.
· These people only bring destruction and harm to the church, Paul in almost every letter he wrote taught against the double standards that affected the church, who wanted to either add or subtract something from the gospel - they were like a cancer killing the church from the inside.
· Often this was seen in the way old Jewish customs were trying to be introduced into the worship and life of the church, or people simply had personality clashes and wanted themselves to have places of prominence in the church.
· The tragedy of Paul’s situation was that it was almost certain that those who were preaching against Paul were very likely to be some of the leaders in the church.
· It was their responsibility to set the tone for the church; it should have been them that used this opportunity to show Paul their true standing in Christ. There true integrity and desire for the gospel to go forth with power.
· In the New Testament one of the great condemnations of Christ is seen in the way he attacked and very religious leaders of the day for their double standards.
· We often read the be called them hypocrites that he accuses them of placing burdens on others they were not willing to bear themselves, we find them arranging and organizing things for their own benefit them for their own advantage.
· When they fasted they even applied cosmetics to make them selves look thin and gaunt. This was all show to impress the public; whenever there was an important feast they wanted the best seats near the top of the table.
· When they tithed they made a public show of this when they prayed they made loud protracted prayers in the temple as we saw only on Sunday when Christ threatened their position by his popularity they plotted and planned to kill him.
· Even Pilate understood that they brought Christ to him because they were envious, and that jealousy was so great that they were prepared to have an innocent man crucified on the cross to quench it.
· This is were envy and jealousy lead, this is what happens when the church becomes divided – Paul understood this he knew that it can only survive while it works in unison, in love and for the glory of nothing else but God.
· Unity brings fellowship, love, encouragement, affection and mercy – it brings Christian joy.
· For Paul the comfort he would receive even in prison was the knowledge that they were not letting others into the church that would cause division – he continues this thought in his letter 3:1 warning them against the people who will only divide the church - that they were in fact enemies of the cross and they were to note them 3:17,18
· We have seen what happens when a church is divided, but oppositely when we are united, when we do show real love and concern for each other then this will be a place of blessing and harmony and encouragement.
· But it all starts with you and me, with our worth of the gospel, with our desire to look past our own personal needs and agendas and start to consider others.
· To see the bigger picture – what really is important? is it that my needs are met or that the saviour who lived and died in my place is glorified in my life. Paul encourages us to be like minded, to have the same love for all not just family and close friends, not to do anything through selfish ambition, to esteem others better than ourselves.
· What does this mean practically, there is no place for pride in the church, and there is nothing that goes on in this church that is below your standing.
· No one is too good to set the chairs, or clean the dishes or vacuum the floor or get some toys out.
· You can see those who esteem others better than themselves because they are those people who see a need and say to themselves I can do that for God and get on and do it and relieve the pressure from those few who seem to do almost everything in the church.
· I know that some cannot do this not because they do not want to but because they are not able – but I also know that there are those who will not do this because they would prefer to spend that time talking and watching others rather than pitching in and helping – this is not unity, this is not esteeming others more than yourself.
· If Jesus could wash the disciples feet – the meanest and lowest of tasks how difficult is it really to try and think of something you could do to encourage a brother or sister, to give someone in need a helping hand, to have a conversation with someone you do not normally speak to, to write a letter, send an email or even a text.
· How difficult is it to ask any of the leaders if there is something you can do to help, it might mean you have to sacrifice a small amount of time to do this.
· But if we always qualify this with this simple litmus test – how much is the gospel worth to me, how much do I value it? And it will not really be any sacrifice
· What happens when we do this, when we put self to one side and esteem others before us – love will be experienced by all and not just by a few, fellowship will be strengthened, the weak will be made strong, encouragement and courage will dissipate fear and concern for the future?
· We will support each other; care for each other and the church will be that place that is recognised by the world as a place of unity and peace and that will be a tremendous witness and glorify God..
· The blessing that comes through our unity is that this church, the people, the body of Christ will rejoice in their salvation, there will be love and harmony, there will be affection and sympathy, we will be one voice, one mind and in one accord striving together for the faith of the gospel.
· The goal of unity – the defence and proclamation of the gospel
· Why is it essential for the church to be united in order for the gospel to be preached – why is it important to practice what we preach to live those lives that back up and illustrate what we believe and teach from the gospel.
· The simple truth is that we all dislike the hypocrite we all disdain those people who pretend to be something they are not. There is an inbuilt mechanism that puts us on guard when we are confronted by those people who we think are not sincere, who seem to be saying one thing and doing another.
· As we have seen those that preached the gospel out of envy showed their true colours, they could not disguise what they did all the palace guard understood exactly their motives and it was not a good testimony.
· Paul was greatly concerned for the church at Philippi that they lived their lives worthy of the gospel – because both they and he had been called to the defence and proclamation of the gospel – their Christian conduct, manner of life was crucial to their testimony in order that they do not appear to be hypocrites.
· Vs.17 1 am… Paul declared himself that he was set aside by God for a specific reason that he might defend the gospel, that he might be someone who through is life and actions defended the claims of scripture and keep the commands of God and testify to his salvation through the work of the risen saviour.
· Right from the time of his conversion he understood this - that God had planned this – Acts 9: 15 – Go … chosen vessel
· He understood that from that time onwards his life was mapped out by God – vs.12 – for the furtherance of the gospel.
· He also understood that this was the calling of every Christian and every church, vs.5 their fellowship in the gospel. Vs.7 partakers with him of grace and the duty of defending and proclaiming the gospel
· It is only through the united church could the gospel be authenticated in the world, he knew that they were to coin a phrase – “to singing from the same hymn sheet” there could be no mixed message in either what they said or how they lived.
· It drove him to prayer and he called God as his witness that he was so concerned about this – vs.8 – 12 that they be united: -
· That they may abound in love, knowledge and discernment, that they may approve those things that are excellent, that they may be sincere and without offense - Or that they may be blameless
· He is saying that their lives must not be a stumbling block or a hindrance for others to come to Christ.
· That they might not fall into sin and so destroy any testimony they have, this is not only on a personal level but more importantly on a church level.
· If they wandered away from unity, if they started to preach different messages, if they preached as though they were saved and yet lived as though they belonged to the world then they would be a stumbling block to the gospel.
· The church’s greatest testimony before the world is spiritual integrity. When Christians live below the standards of biblical morality and reverence for their Lord, they compromise the full biblical truth concerning the character, plan, and will of God. By so doing, they seriously weaken the credibility of the gospel and lessen their impact on the world. God’s people have always been at enmity with the world, because the world is at enmity with God. But the world can hardly be expected to embrace a faith whose proponents so little emulate its standards of holiness and fail to manifest the transforming power of Christ.
· This then leads us back to our vs.27 we are to walk worthy of the gospel this means “to live a life consistent with God’s revealed Word. That includes living a life that corresponds to the divine truth Christians profess to believe, preach, teach, and defend. In other words, it means living with integrity in every facet of life”
· That is why Paul encourages us to abound in love, to seek knowledge and discernment, to approve those things that are excellent, to be sincere, blameless, being filled with the fruits of righteousness.
· That is why he sets himself as the standard to copy because he knew how important it was to be like this as a church Cht.4:8–10 – they saw them in him.
· So the goal of unity is the defence and proclamation of the gospel, this can only be achieved through the united local church – and it is more than just preaching the gospel it is living the gospel.
· There is a corporate responsibility here - in giving a good testimony before the world – it only takes one to discredit the many.
· The challenge again is are we walking according to the worth of the gospel, are we living those lives that reflect the love Christ has for us.
· When we leave this place what does the world see, is there a difference, do we stand out in the work place or classroom or in the office?
· Why do we stand out because we are not like everyone else, we should be honest and reliable, sincere and conscientious, and we should not be those who play the system for what they can get?
· Do as little as possible, the least helpful, the most awkward and difficult employee – we should be the ones that go the extra mile, present a good honest testimony and then when you get the opportunity to witness your life will back up your words.
· Cht. 2:14-15 - The united church shines as a light here in Ramsbottom; we should be as noticeable as Holcombe Tower is - which can be seen for many miles even over to the M6.
· Like Paul this should drive us to prayer, drive us to petition God that we are united, it should cause us to pray for each other, to offer help and guidance for those who are weak and struggling.
· For safety reasons, mountain climbers rope themselves together when climbing a mountain. That way, if one climber should slip and fall, he would not fall to his death. He would be held by the others until he could regain his footing.
· The church ought to be like that. When one member slips and falls, the others should hold him up until he regains his footing. We are all roped together by the Holy Spirit.
· We need to learn how to be united, how to rejoice together and how to weep together, to compensate and take up the slack when needed, to be all that we can be for the worth of the gospel and the sake of the fellowship.
· The goal of unity is the united church defending, proclaiming and living the gospel.
· The example of unity – Jesus is our example and he is glorified when we become like him.
· The greatest reason why we should be united is that this is what our saviour taught and showed us in his own life.
· In Mt 12:22–28 the implication is that the kingdom of God is united
· John 17: 19–23 – Christ in his High Priestley prayer spoke about the unity of the godhead and how the church was to copy that – and in doing this the world would believe the gospel.
· Our oneness is to emulate the oneness Christ had with the father - when this happens it will testify to the world firstly that God sent his son into the world and secondly that God has loved us as he has loved his own son.
· This unity that Christ spoke about could be seen in his life and that is what Paul is showing us in Cht. 2:5-8 all that Paul has asked us to be in vs. 2-5 could be seen magnified a 1000 times in the life of Christ – he was the ultimate example of love, humility, self denial, sincerity, perfect righteousness.
· Everything Christ said and did was from a motive of pleasing his father and fulfilling his role and responsibilities in the trinity.
· Paul says let this mind be in us that was in Christ – the mindset that though he was rightly God, rightly divine and eternal yet for the sake of the unity of the godhead he put this to one side.
· He humbled himself – made himself of no reputation, became a man, a bondservant, and in meekness and humility lived among us.
· His obedience was flawless, it was perfection, it was without error everything that the godhead had asked him to do he did without question right up to the point of death.
· He lived and bled, he suffered all the anguish and pain of a roman crucifixion, the horror of hell and judgement, the seeming separation from his father, and he bore all this and then yielded his life up as an offering for our sin, as a ransom for the many.
· He set us the ultimate example to follow – we strive to have his mind set, we strive to follow his example in order that we too might glorify the father like he did.
· Everything he did was proof of the unity of the godhead; he openly confessed he had done everything his father had asked him to do John 17:4-5…. I have finished the work now glorify me - And this is what happened – Phil 2:9-11
· God glorified him – he is in heaven now at the father’s right hand, forever the humble servant giving us the example we all should be striving for as Christians and as the church.
· And one day he will return and he will change us and take us to be with him, but until that day – here and now we glorify him the best when we follow his example – when as a church we unite around the gospel – when we walk worthy of all that the has done.
· For peace and joy in the church we need unity, for the gospel to be defended and proclaimed we need to be united in the way we live the gospel, for Christ to be honoured and glorified in this world we need to follow his example and be united as a picture to the world of how he is in the godhead.
· May God help us to think and pray more about the responsibility we all have to walk worthy of the gospel.