ES/PHIL/05 Philippians 1:12-18
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,
Paul is writing this letter to some amazing Christians in the City of Philippi. And his introduction has set out what he wants to say: that is, he is joyful when he thinks of them and that God will complete the work that He has started in them on the Day that Jesus returns. The Philippians have been his partners in the Gospel through money and in suffering. And that God will bring out fruits of righteousness in them for He has made them righteous.
Now he wants to encourage them further for what he is really saying is that fantastic promise we find in:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
We take such joy when we see God at work in our lives. It is great when we hear Him speak or see how God uses us for His Kingdom or see Him leading our lives. Even clearer though is that even in our troubles God is still at work whether he is refining our character to be more like Jesus or whether, as in this case, in suffering for simply preaching the Gospel the result is that the Gospel is made even more known.
God turns the evil done in our lives for not only our good but for the good of those who are around us. Let us be clear though. Suffering is the lot of a Christian. This may not sound very encouraging for it is not something we would necessarily welcome but it is the way we deal with suffering that speaks volumes. We can be bitter and resentful – and this will be our lot if we are not careful – but we are called to the topsy-turvy world of the Kingdom of God – we are to rise above bitterness with the help of the Holy Spirit – we are called to rejoice. To be bitter or to rejoice; our choice.
When Paul was in Philippi on his second missionary journey he was thrown into an inner dungeon chained to the wall but not before he was lashed with whips and bleeding from his wounds. He could have moaned. He could have questioned why this should happen when he was simply doing what God had called him to do. But what do we find instead? He is singing and glorifying God.
Maybe you and I have suffered. It may be from people’s words rather than being beaten up. But this is how the world is. Jesus Himself says in:
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
The world generally has troubles that we all have to deal with. You have a set of problems and I have a set of problems. As we move on through life we are moving from one set of problems to another. As we get older we are dealing more and more regularly with death whether that of friends or family or our own impending demise. If we have become Christians then there is no fear in death – we will simply join Jesus where He is. If you are not a Christian then there is much to fear. It is known what will become of such a person and let me tell you for all the bravado that you may have hell is one place you do not want to go. If in this life one suffers then in the next it will be intolerable. But it need not be like this:
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
The only basis for anyone going to Heaven is not their good works but having believed on the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross in our place:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If Jesus is not Lord of your life, if He is not your captain, not your boss, then ask Him to become so and He will save you from going to hell.
These words are the Gospel, the Good News. Accept Him into your life, Believe, that is, trust Him, and Confess that He is Lord. And then you will have eternal life.
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
However the Christian’s life is not meant to be easy unlike what some preacher’s say, Jesus says instead in:
Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
This is why it led to Paul being imprisoned again simply because He was letting people know the good news of Jesus. He spent, it is reckoned, over half of his time in ministry in jail. But whilst it seemed to be such a nightmare, again he is rejoicing despite his sufferings because the Gospel has gone right throughout the barracks and will eventually, we know, come to the ears of Caesar himself. Here Paul was under lock and key because he was preaching the gospel but instead the gospel spreads even further – no wonder he was rejoicing – his whole life, the whole fabric of his being was spent in spreading the good news. Everyone knew why he was in prison and that made enquirers of the Gospel. And it is apparent that because Paul was there other Christians became bold and made Jesus known where they were. There was nothing to fear: Jesus says:
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
These Christians thought that if the whole might of the Romans against Paul has led him to be imprisoned and the gospel was still spreading then let us get on this grand bandwagon.
Paul later in his life still suffering persecution says about the Gospel in:
for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.
When we look at the world today it is still in the midst of great persecution and when it comes to our shores we seem to be shocked that we are no longer liked or welcome as Christians. God has been and is being banned from public debate.
We hear in other places of those who proclaim the gospel on our streets getting arrested because some people are agitated by it. This is not news – the Gospel always gets a response – and to be honest it is mostly negative – Paul was at the centre of at least two civil riots! In Paul’s day people actually preached the gospel to make Christians go to prison! They were envious of the popularity it had gained among the people and wanted it to stop – but it had the reverse effect – the Gospel kept spreading so that eventually it had to be accepted by society especially with the upcoming Emperor Constantine in 312AD – though its form thereafter left something to be desired as it led to over 1700 years of compromise in what is known as Christendom. But this is now at an end.
People all around the world are persecuted for knowing Jesus or simply having a Bible. With Islam on the rise we can expect more and more that the tolerant society will no longer tolerate Christians who want to live as Jesus wants us to. But from this we should also gain hope and boldness for even where Islam is on the rise and in places like China people are becoming Christians despite the many odds against them. What is the worst anyone can do to us in the UK? Kill us? Yes, maybe – but what do we suffer now for the Gospel? A door shut in our face, loss of friends, words flung against us? Is that it?
The thing is that people, individual persons for whom Christ died, cannot respond without someone telling the Gospel – and you might just be surprised that someone may become a Christian – for the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. As we heard on Wednesday:
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Jesus made Himself of no reputation, made Himself nothing to seek and save the lost. This is the heart of God. Paul understood it. For he himself was lost and was once a persecutor of the Church. Paul understood that God wants to save people and reconcile them back to Him. This is what we are called to too. We are called to love people.
We are in a spiritual war – one which it would appear the devil is winning – the Kingdom of darkness is on the rise – but the Kingdom of God will never be defeated – it has already won – the very moment Jesus said: It is finished! Our battle is not against people but against the spiritual powers that influence them. We are called to pray for those in authority so that we can have a peaceable life – is this just so we can live in comfort? No, but so that the Gospel can go forth. The Church exists to make Jesus known – how are we going about this? How many people are we going to invite to hear the Case for Christ on February 17th? Will we have opposition…well, that is yet to be found out.
We are doing what we are called to do if we make Jesus known and tell others what He has done for us. This cannot be done by keeping silent just because we think that some people will think we are crackpots. Some think that we can witness to people simply by doing good works but this is not true. Doing good works does not make other people become Christians. Many people who are not Christians do so-called good works. The thing that distinguishes us is that we proclaim what we believe as well as doing good works, as well as fighting for justice, as well as defending the poor.
Paul talks about the defence of the Gospel. We are not people who simply have blind faith. We believe the Gospel because we have trusted in the One who has given us more than enough evidence and proof of His existence and the work He has done by dying and rising from the dead. This is no ‘leave your mind at home’ faith. We are called upon to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our minds, with all our soul and with all our strength. We cannot love God with all our minds if there are intellectual doubts about God. Believing in Jesus is first and foremost a heart faith but it is also one that makes intellectual sense too. This is no leap of faith – no, faith means trust – and Jesus can be trusted completely. You cannot defend the Gospel by simply saying you must believe. Evidence plays a part in it – though it is not all of it for it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin, righteousness and judgement and bring to salvation but we still have a part to play in its presentation especially when we are asked to by enquirers:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
We respect that other people have their points of view but we are trying to convince others that the Gospel is the right point of view not in a combative way but in love for are we not yet convinced that Jesus is the only way?
To take up our cross and follow Jesus means we are taking the road of suffering, it is to make Him known in word and deed, to make ourselves of no reputation so that He is exalted. When we are ready to do this we can expect God to act too. When Jesus sent out the seventy to make the Gospel known we find them returning with joy in:
Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
The powers of heaven are released when we go in faith doing what He wants us to do and many respond, are healed, and are set free. The reason why this does not happen is because we do not go – but I must warn you that whilst you will definitely see God at work suffering will also come – but your reward in heaven will be all the more greater.
For Paul his only concern was what his whole life was dedicated to the spread of the Gospel and rejoiced that the message was spreading. What do we think that we should be dedicating our lives to? Our career? Our families? Or, maybe, to Jesus, Who gave His all for us?
So, we now turn to what He has done.
The good news is available to us and the world all because of what Jesus did at Calvary. He came to the world to declare this good news but it cost Him dearly to bring it. The good news is only possible because Jesus bore the sins of the world on the cross granting us forgiveness because He paid the penalty, the punishment due to us, in full. Was this easy? Was it without pain? Was it without blood being splattered on His head, His back, His hands and His feet onto the ground and on the cross? When Jesus looks at us He says: it was worth it. His abundant love is lavished upon us for this is what these symbols of bread and wine mean. Are we thankful? Do we rejoice? Let’s pray:
Thank You Father for this precious time of reverent reflection on all that Christ did for us at Calvary. And as we partake of these hallowed symbols at this holy communion table, we humbly take this bread and bless it and break it – and eat it in remembrance of you .. for Your own dear body was broken for us.
May we continue to feed on You in our hearts, by faith and with grateful thanks from this day forward and may we walk worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus and live a life that is honouring to You, in Jesus name we pray. Amen.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Heavenly Father we come to You today in grateful; remembrance of what the Lord Jesus Christ achieved on Calvary’s cross for all or us, when He shed His precious blood on the cross, to pay the enormous price of our sin.. and became a ransom for many.
We share this cup of blessing in His name, remembering how He Himself took the cup in the upper room, as the hour of His crucifixion drew near and said, “this is My blood which is shed for many – do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. Amen.
25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.