Stephen Caswell © 2004
Early Church Fellowship
This was the reaction of the unbelieving Greek writer Lucian (a.d. 120-200) upon observing the warm fellowship of Christians: It is incredible to see the fervor with which the people of that religion help each other in their wants. They spare nothing. Their first legislator, Jesus, has put it into their heads that they are all brethren.
The final verses of Philippians at first glance may just seem to be sentimental words. But on closer inspection they contain some very important truths for the Church. Paul closes by reminding us one last time about the Family of God. He shares three things that are very important to family fellowship. The Glory Of God, The Greetings Of Saints, The Grace Of Christ.
Firstly, The Glory Of God
Philippians 4:20: Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
To Glorify God In Heaven
I do not go to heaven to be advanced, said Brainerd on his dying bed to Jonathan Edwards, his biographer, but to give honor to God. It is no matter where I shall be stationed in heaven, whether I have a high or low seat there, but to live and please and glorify God … My heaven is to please God and glorify Him, and give all to Him, and to be wholly devoted to His glory.
a. Glorify God In Your Life
The Westminster Catechism says the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Why did Paul include a Doxology at this point? After thinking of God’s abundant provision the apostle felt compelled to break out into praise. This is suitable language for every child of God who daily experiences God’s gracious care in providing guidance, help against temptation, and the provision of every need. In Verse 19 Paul promised that God would graciously provides for all our needs from His riches in glory. How can we not praise the Lord? Praise is the right thing to do. We should live each day for God’s glory. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says: Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. We should look upon God, under all our weakness and fears, not as an enemy, but as a Father, disposed to pity us and help us.
What Hath God Wrought!
In conversation with Professor S. F. B. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, the Rev. George W. Hervey asked this question: Professor Morse, when you were making your experiments yonder in your room in the university, did you ever come to a stand, not knowing what to do next? Oh, yes, more than once. And at such times what did you do next? I may answer you in confidence, sir, said the professor, but it is a matter of which the public knows nothing. I prayed for more light. And the light generally came.
Yes, and may I tell you that when flattering honors come to me from America and Europe on account of the invention which bears my name, I never felt I deserved them. I had made a valuable application of electricity, not because I was superior to other men, but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone, and was pleased to reveal it to me. In view of these facts, it is not surprising that the inventor’s first message was, What has God wrought!
Matthew 5:14-16: You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
· Our great object of glorifying God is to be mainly achieved by the winning of souls. Charles Spurgeon.
· Resolved that all men should live for the glory of God. Resolved that whether others do or not, I will. Jonathan Edwards
· Let us thus think often that our only business in this life is to please God. Brother Lawrence
· As it is written, He who glories, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:31
b. Glorify God With Your Lips
God is perfect. He is pure and holy and everything that He does is right and just. Since this will always be true of God, He deserves the glory forever and ever. We should live for the glory of God. Only He is worthy of such devotion and praise. Hebrews 13:15: Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
It is fitting and right to sing of you, to praise you, to thank you, to adore you in all places of your dominion. For you are the ineffable God, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, existing forever and yet ever the same, you and your only-begotten Son and your Holy Spirit. You brought us into being out of nothingness, and when we had fallen, you raised us up again. You have not ceased doing everything to lead us to heaven and to bestow upon us your future kingdom. For all this do we thank you and your only-begotten Son and your Holy Spirit - for all the benefits of which we know and those of which we are ignorant, for those that are manifest to us and those that lie concealed.
We thank you also for this sacrifice, which you are pleased to receive from our hands, even though there stand before you thousands of archangels and myriads of angels, Cherubim and Seraphim, six-winged and many-eyed, borne aloft on their wings who sing, proclaim, cry out, and chant the triumphal hymn: Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Hosts! Heaven and earth are filled with your glory. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest! John Chrysostom
c. Glorify God As Our Father
We can also praise God because He is our Father. God cares for us as only a loving Father can. He has blessed His children and laid a vast inheritance aside for them. Unlike earthly fathers who make mistakes our Heavenly Father knows what is best. He is worthy of our respect and obedience. He wants what is best for us. Ephesians 1:3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
Enriching Every Sphere
Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only 3. Yet the influence of Christ’s 3-year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by 130 years of teaching from these men who were the greatest philosophers of all antiquity. Jesus painted no pictures; yet, some of the finest paintings of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci received their inspiration from Him. Jesus wrote no poetry; but Dante, Milton, and scores of the world’s greatest poets were inspired by Him. Jesus composed no music; still Haydn, Handel, Beethoven, Bach, and Mendelssohn reached their highest perfection of melody in the hymns, symphonies, and oratories composed in His praise. Every sphere of human greatness is enriched by this humble Carpenter of Nazareth.
How do you glorify God in your life? Do you praise the Lord for His grace, love, faithfulness, majesty and power? Do we tell others about our wonderful Lord? Do you live for the glory of God? This is the highest thing we can ever do! Will you give Him first place? Will you live to please God in all you do? Is anything more important?
Secondly, The Greetings Of Saints
Philippians 4:21-22: Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household.
Paul greeted every saint in the Philippian Church. He loved them and desired the best for them. He also conveyed a greeting from some of the brethren, and the Church in Rome. In fact Paul commands believers to greet one another. Christian fellowship requires us to care for one another. The word greet ἀσπάζομαι means to welcome, embrace, salute, to engage in hospitable recognition. 1 Thessalonians 5:26 says: Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.
Paul says that we are to greet every saint. There should be no favouritism, no grudges or division. Obviously this kind of greeting requires that we forgive one another. If we are to share true Christian unity we must love one another and forgive one another’s faults. We should be concerned about each other’s welfare. There are many reasons why we should do this and Paul records some of them for us.
Firstly, Paul says that we are all saints in Christ Jesus. Everyone that has been born again is a saint. The word saint ἅγιος means sacred, holy, dedicated to God, a holy one. It refers to someone or something set apart for God’s use. Every Christian belongs to God because of our position in Christ. Since we are set apart for holiness we ought to love one another and be concerned for the welfare of others. Jesus Christ loves every saint and His love has been poured out into our hearts. We should work together for His kingdom.
Since we are saints, we ought to behave like saints. We must greet one another sincerely in love and care for each other’s needs. Romans 12:9-13: Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
Secondly, Paul calls believers brethren. The word brethren ἀδελφός is a family term meaning brother, a kinsmen or a close relative. It refers to children who have the same Father. 1Timothy 5:1-2: Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity. Since we are all members of one family shouldn’t we all get on together?
This is our Father’s will. It’s only natural to be concerned for members of your family. Therefore, believers ought to greet one another in a spirit of love. Jesus commanded the disciples to love one another. They should inquire about their Brethren and Sistern. We should pray for each other’s needs. The apostle John said this in 3 John 1-2: The Elder, to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth: Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
c. Body Of Christ
Thirdly, believers are the body of Christ. People don’t fight with themselves unless they are crazy. Ephesians 4:4 says there is one body. Therefore we should enjoy Church unity. We’re all on the same side. The body of Christ Has members in every place and in all walks of life. So we should welcome visitors and strangers that come to our Church. Let’s give them a warm greeting and make them feel welcome. Hebrews 13:2: Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
Paul’s imprisonment wasn’t in vain. The Lord used him to evangelize the very heart of the Roman Empire. In Caesar’s household many had believed in Jesus Christ. These saints were probably Caesar’s servants and staff. Perhaps some of the government officials and Praetorian Guard had believed too. The Church, the Body of Christ includes some people we might think most unlikely. God saves people we think are too bad. That’s the grace of God. He saves people from every nation, tribe and family on earth.
Revelation 7:9: After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
The Ladies’ Question
Six young ladies lingered a while after church and asked each other, What can we do? They decided to meet that afternoon for a little prayer meeting. There a beautiful idea was born. The next day they went to their pastor and asked if they could have printed some calling cards with a picture of the church on them and an invitation to come and worship with them. Then they went out two and two, ringing all the doorbells in the community.
At a rooming house near the church, a man read the card and listened to their little speech, shook his head and answered, You don’t want me, I’m a vaudeville actor. No Baptist church would welcome me. After being assured he would be welcome, he finally promised to attend one time, just to prove that they were mistaken. He did attend, again and again and again. He finally gave his heart to Jesus and joined the old Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Later he became pastor of a church in Boston, and it was through his ministry that Russell Conwell felt the call to preach. Conwell has led thousands to Christ and inspired thousands of others to a closer walk with God.
Do you greet every saint in Christ Jesus? Are we warm and friendly to guests and visitors who come to Church here? Do you speak to them and make them feel welcome, feel loved? Are we practicing hospitality, inviting people into our homes for a meal or coffee? Do you greet the brethren? Are there people you don’t talk to because of ill feeling? Or do you forgive those who have wronged you? Are we praying for one another? Do you ask how your brothers and sisters are going? Do you inquire about their walk with the Lord? God tells us that we are our brother’s keeper! Do you help those in need? God wants us to love each other. Will you determine to do this? Do you greet every saint in Christ Jesus?
Thirdly, The Grace Of Christ
Philippians 4:23: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Knox’ Terrible Dream
During his last hours, John Knox woke from a slumber sighing, and told his friends that he had just been tempted to believe that he had merited Heaven and eternal blessedness, by the faithful discharge of my ministry. But blessed be God who has enabled me to beat down and quench the fiery dart, by suggesting to me such passages of Scripture as these: What hast thou that thou didst not receive? By the grace of God I am what I am. Not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
a. All of Grace
Grace χάρις is God’s unmerited favor, kindness, goodwill, benefaction, gift. Grace sparkled on the first page of this Letter, and now is found again at the close. Paul’s heart was filled to overflowing with the greatest theme of all the ages - the grace of God through Christ. It’s not surprising that this precious truth should flood over into every channel of his life. From beginning to end salvation is the result of God’s grace. And rightly so! We need God’s grace every day of our life. In John Newton’s hymn Amazing Grace it says that we will still be praising God for His grace after ten thousand years.
We are saved by God’s grace the moment we believe. Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. We presently stand by the grace of God. Romans 5:1-2: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Hebrews 4:16: Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
We will live with Christ for all eternity by God’s grace. Ephesians 2:4-7: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
John Newton wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. As he thought upon the words: By the grace of God I am what I am, he said, I am not what I ought to be. How imperfect and deficient I am! I am not what I wish to be. Though I am not what I ought to be, I can truly say that I am not what I once was — a slave to sin and Satan. I can heartily say with Paul: By the grace of God I am what I am!
God’s grace comes to us through Jesus Christ. Paul calls Him our Lord. The word Lord κύριος means Master, Owner. It primarily relates to the possession of power or authority. Jesus Christ is Lord of all. He is worthy of our worship since He made everything, rules over everything and provides for everything. When we believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him as our Savior we must also submit to Him as our Lord or Master. He has earned the right to rules our lives. He gave His all to save us. Is He your Lord?
Jesus Ἰησοῦς means Jehovah saves. This refers to His role as the Saviour of the world.
Jesus Christ is the only one who can save us. Matthew 1:21 says: And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Acts 4:12 says that salvation is given through no other name. Have you heard the Good News, Jesus Saves? Have you believed in Him, received Him,?
The word Christ Χριστός means Deliverer, the Son of God, the Anointed One, the Messiah. The Christ was anointed by God to save mankind from sin. Christ clearly understood His Divine commission. Luke 4:18-19: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. The Jews believed that the Messiah would come and deliver them from their enemies. They believed that He would set up a righteous kingdom where Israel would be the leading nation of the world. They believed He would reign as King over all the earth.
What We Have In Christ
A love that can never be fathomed; A life that can never die;
A righteousness that can never be tarnished; A peace that can never be understood;
A rest that can never be disturbed; A joy that can never be diminished;
A hope that can never be disappointed; A glory that can never be clouded;
A light that can never be darkened; A happiness that can never be interrupted;
A strength that can never be enfeebled; A purity that can never be defiled;
A beauty that can never be marred; A wisdom that can never be baffled;
Resources that can never be exhausted.
Have you experienced the grace of God? Has He saved you? Have you believed in Jesus Christ and received Him as your Lord and Savior? Are you presently standing in the grace of God? Are you drawing on God’s grace each day? We all need God’s grace? The Lord has made it available to all! Will you claim God’s grace for yourself?
Today we saw three things that are very important to family fellowship. The Glory Of God, The Greetings Of Saints, The Grace Of Christ. Let’s never forget the importance of praise, Christian hospitality and God’s grace.
2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.