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Characteristics of a Christian

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“THANK GOD FOR THE CHURCH”

(Philippians 1:1-11)

A.        The Relevance of the Sermon

I heard about a little boy who had a jigsaw puzzle that on one side had a map of the world and on the other side had a picture of a man.  His mother asked him to try and work it and before long the little fellow had put the puzzle together.  The mother was surprised to find that the little fellow knew so much about geography.  She asked him, “How on earth did you do that?”  “Oh,” he said, “I worked the other side first.  When I got the man right, the world was right.” How true that is!  We will never fix this world until we get ourselves right with God!  We will never reach the world with the Gospel until the church is right with God.  What, in particular, needs putting right in the church to insure the greater progress of the Gospel in the world?  Paul answers that question in the letter to the Philippians.    

B.        The Review of the Setting

Last week, we began a series of messages on Paul’s epistle to the Philippians.  You will remember that the letter of Philippians was written from Rome while Paul was under house arrest.  Paul learned about the prevailing conditions at Philippi through a messenger and minister sent by the church at Philippi.   From the letter, it is clear that Epaphroditus informed Paul that the Gospel was being hindered.  We saw last time that Paul describes seven main hindrances to the progress of the Gospel:

  • The Hindrance of Complacency (1:1-11)
  • The Hindrance of Circumstances (1:12-30)
  • The Hindrance of Conceit (2:1-30)
  • The Hindrance of Compromise (3:1-21)
  • The Hindrance of Contention (4:1-3)
  • The Hindrance of Cares (4:4-9)

and,

  • The Hindrance of Cynicism (4:10-23)

Because of this information, Paul takes up his pen, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and writes the letter that we hold in our hands today to insure the greater progress of the Gospel.  Hence, let us consider how Paul addresses the first hindrance in verses 1-11. 

C.        The Reading of the Scripture    

Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.  For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.  And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Prayer:  Our Father in Heaven, we ask that the Holy Spirit might work in such a way in the services today that the saints who are present might be brought to sing, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!”  Help us Lord to know that we are yours that we might be a blessing to others.  In the precious name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen. 

Paul’s concern in the first eleven verses is to help believers overcome the hindrance of “confusion” by assuring them of their standing with God.  So, by observing to whom Paul addresses his letter, we may know whether or not we have the character of a Christian.  What are the characteristics of a true believer?  A Christian is a servant, a saint, a soul-winner, and a sculpture.  Let’s consider each of these characteristics so that we might know that we are right with God for the sake of the Gospel!   

I.                   A CHRISTIAN IS A SERVANT.

(Philippians 1:1a)

            “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus . . .”

The lack of the definite article, “the”, before the designation“ bond-servants” highlights that Paul did not consider himself and Timothy as slaves by title, but by nature.  In other words, it was not just something that he and Timothy did that made them bond-servants, but it was what they were.  Hence, Paul and Timothy viewed themselves and every other Christian as servants of God by nature!  He uses the designation of himself at the beginning of three different epistles, Romans, the present epistle, Philippians, and Titus.  In 2 Corinthians 4:5, Paul proclaims, “. . . we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” The designation does not extend merely to apostles and leader, however, but to every believer.  In 1 Corinthians 7:22-23 when Paul writes, “. . . he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.  You were bought with a price . . . ”  Again in referring to Epaphras and Tychicus in Colossians 1:7 and 4:7 respectively, he designates both as “bond-servants” for Christ!  To call oneself a Christian is to identify one’s self with Christ who Paul describes in Philippians 2:7 as taking on the “form of a bond-servant.”  In short, a Christian is a servant!                                                 Now while “servant” is an appropriate English rendering of the term douloi, the readers of the letter would have understood the word to have only meant “slave.”  The word denotes a person who is not at his own disposal, but is his master's purchased property.  Bought to serve his master's needs, to be at his every beck and call, the slave's sole business is to do as he is told.  Christian service therefore means, first and foremost, living out a slave relationship to one's Savior.  What work is indicative of Christ’s servants?

A.                A Christian Serves Christ Biblically.

(1:1a-1)

            “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Christ Jesus . . .”

A Christian is one who serves Christ according to His will.  In the time of Paul, all that was done contrary to the orders of a master was disobedience, not service; and if anything was done without orders, it certainly was not service. 

My friends, many think they are serving God when they have never looked to the Scriptures, they have not turned to the commandments of the great King as we have them written in His Word, but have rendered to Him service after their own fancy.  If we are to serve the Lord, the church must avoid all activities that the Lord does not require.  Otherwise I warn you that you may be borne along the rapid stream of church activity to mere tradition, and may never render acceptable service to the Lord; or you may be relentlessly busy on your own account, and after your own will, but your exertions will not be service to God, because you consulted not his will.  As a Christian you must bow your neck to the yoke of Christ.  Do you all have respect unto the Lord’s commandments?  I will ask concerning one of them—have you, as believers, been obedient to his command to be baptized?  Have you given this answer of a good conscience towards God?  “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”  As plainly as anything in Scripture, it seem, at least to us, that believers, baptism is commanded; have you attended to it?  Some of you know your duty, but you not do it; I pray the Holy Spirit to convince you of your sinful neglect, and to lead you into all the commandments of your Lord.  Our will must bow, and our heart must obey, or otherwise we shall be strangers to “serving the Lord.”

B.                 A Christian Serves Christ Willingly.

(1:1a-2)

            “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Christ Jesus . . .”

The term douloi describes willing service.  It reflects the attitude of an Old Testament slave who refused the opportunity for freedom and voluntarily resubmitted himself to his master for life.   The law of Moses provided that “. . . if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost.  And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.”  A Christian is one who does not serve legalistically, but does so from the heart.      

A few years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Massachusetts where the great evangelist D. L. Moody held the great Northfield Bible Conferences in the late 1800s.  A large group of European pastors came for the Conference during the 1800s.  Following the European custom of the time, each guest put his shoes outside his room to be cleaned by the hall servants overnight.  But of course this was America and there were no hall servants.

Walking the dormitory halls that night, Moody saw the shoes and determined not to embarrass his brothers.  He mentioned the need to some ministerial students who were there, but met with only silence or pious excuses.  Moody returned to the dorm, gathered up the shoes, and, alone in his room, the world’s most famous evangelist began to clean and polish the shoes.  Only the unexpected arrival of a friend in the midst of the work revealed the secret.

When the foreign visitors opened their doors the next morning, their shoes were shined.  They never knew by whom.  Moody told no one, but his friend told a few people, and during the rest of the conference, different men volunteered to shine the shoes in secret.  [Gary Inrig, A Call to Excellence, (Victor Books, a division of SP Publ., Wheaton, Ill; 1985), p. 98]. 

My friends, the episode with Moody is a vital insight into why God signally used him to win so many to Christ.  He was a man with a servant’s heart.  If we are to reach the world for Christ, we must be willing like our Lord to wash feet. 

C.                 A Christian Serves Christ Exclusively.

(1:1a-3)

            “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Christ Jesus . . .”

Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.”  Much that is done religiously is not done unto God.  A sermon may be preached, and contain excellent truth, and the language in which the truth is stated may be everything that could be desired, and yet the service rendered may be to the hearers, or to the man’s own self, and not to God at all.  You may go to your Sunday School class, and with great perseverance you may instruct your class, but yet you may have served your fellow teachers, or the general community, rather than have served your God.

To whom do you look for a reward?  Whose smile is it that gladdens your heart?  Whose honor do you seek in all that you are doing?  Remember that which is uppermost in the heart of a true servant is his master.  If your motive is to win commendation for taking your share in the church’s work, you have, not served God, though you have sacrificed unto others.  

Paul writes in Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?  Or am I striving to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”  O beloved, this is a point; which, though it be very simple to speak of, is very searching indeed if it be brought home to heart and conscience, for then much of that which glitters will be found not to be gold, and the glory of much apparently excellent serving will dissolve in smoke. The Lord must be the sole object of your service; the pursuit of his glory must, like a clear crystal stream, run through the whole of thy life, or you are not yet His servant. Sinister motives and selfish aims are the death of true godliness; search and look, lest these betray you unawares.

II.                A CHRISTIAN IS A SAINT.

(Philippians 1:1b)

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  . . .”

Paul describes believers as saints here in the latter part of verse one.  By doing so, he reveals some of the marks of a true saint.  What are the characteristics of a saint? 

A.                A Saint Is a Christian Person.

(1:1b-1)

                        “To all the saints . . .”

Unfortunately the Roman Catholic system officially canonizes people as saints if it is found that after their death they meet certain stringent requirements.  But the Bible makes no such distinction.  I hear people sometime say, “I am not saint, but I do the best I can.”  Well, if you are not a saint, you are not a Christian.  Time and time again the Word of God makes clear that all believers in Christ are saints!  In Acts 9:32, Luke refers to the believers at Lydda as saints.  Paul designates the believers at Ephesus and Colossae as saints (Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:2). 

B.                 A Saint Is a Christ-Centered Person.

(1:1b-2)

                        “. . . in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.”

You notice that the verse does not say ‘to all the saints who are in Philippi,’ but “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi.”  Paul uses the expression “in Christ” forty-eight times in the letter.  He talks about being “in Christ Jesus” thirty-four times.  And he refers to being “in the Lord” fifty times.  So, what’s the point?  The point is that it is not enough to be just an exceptionally nice and devout person. 

            You will remember that when Paul arrived in Philippi, he came to the riverside and found a little group of women already praying and doing a lot of religious things.  Lydia, I imagine, as a businesswoman, probably gave to benevolent causes in town.  Yet, since Christ was not at the center of all that was going on, he shared the Gospel with them!  Paul knew that Christ is absolutely essential for a person to be a Christian!  Paul knew of no Gospel apart from Christ. 

My friends, if Christ is not completely essential to your life, if He is not the center of your life, if He is not your all in all, then according to Paul, whatever else you might be, you are not a Christian!  You may be very moral, benevolent, and religious, but you cannot be a Christian!  If Christ is not absolutely the core and center, whatever else it might be, it is not Christianity!   

C.                 A Saint Is a Capable Person.

(1:1b-5)

                        “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  . . .”

A Christian is a person who has divine resources at their disposal.  Christians are not those who lack the ability to carry out what God called them to do.  All things pertaining to life and godliness are granted to every believer by His divine power (2 Peter 1:3).  When someone says, “I can’t control my temper.  I can’t control my lust.  I can’t control my spending.  I can’t control my appetites.  I can’t do this or that or the other.”  I must respond by reminding them that we “. . . can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  When God saves us, He equips us. 

In Exodus 12:35-36 we read, Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

My friends, the children of Israel did not go out of Egypt poorly clad; they went out with their best clothing on, and moreover, they had borrowed jewels of gold, and jewels of silver, and raiment, and they went gladly out of the land.  Ah! beloved, that is just how a child of God comes out of Egypt.  He does not come out of his bondage with his old garments of self-righteousness on: oh! no, as long as he wears those he will always keep in Egypt, but he marches out with the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ upon him, and adorned with the grace and peace of God.  Oh! beloved, if you could see a child of Israel coming out of the bondage of sin, you would say, “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness?”  Is this the poor slave that was making bricks without straw?  Is this the wretch who had nothing but rags and tatters on him?  Is this the poor creature whose whole person was soiled with the mud of Egypt’s river, and who labored in Goshen’s land without a wage or pay?  Yes, it is he; and now he is arrayed like a king, and apparelled as a prince” [Spurgeon, MTP, Vol. 2, p 23].    

1.                  A Christian Is Capable because of Grace.

(1:1b-4a)

Grace to you . . .”

Two pastors were on their way to Alanta, Ga. for a large Christian mens gathering.  One of them had never been in the south before.  After staying in a motel overnight, they stopped at a nearby restaurant for breakfast.  When their meal was delivered, the pastor who had never been south before saw this white, mushy looking stuff on his plate.  When the waitress came by again he asked her what it was.  "Grits", she replied.  "Ma'm I didn't order it and I'm not paying for it".  "Sir, down here you don't order it and you don't pay for it, you just get it." How like the grace of God!  [Ray Raycroft]   

My friends, we are capable not of ourselves but because God’s grace is sufficient for us.  I read about a man who to whom a large sum of money was given to dispense to a poor pastor.  Thinking that the amount was too much to send all at once, the man forwarded just a portion along with a note that said simply, “More to follow.”  In a few days the man received another envelope containing the same amount and with the same message, “More to follow.”  At regular intervals, there came a third, and a fourth.  In fact, they continued, along with those cheering words, until the entire sum had been received.

C. H. Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, used this story to illustrate that the good things we receive from God always come with the same prospect of more to follow.  He said:

“When God forgives our sins, there’s more forgiveness to follow.  He justifies us in the righteousness of Christ, but there’s more to follow.  He adopts us into His family, but there’s more to follow.  He prepares us for heaven, but there’s more to follow.  He gives us grace, but there’s more to follow.  He helps us to old age, but there’s still more to follow.”

Spurgeon concluded, “Even when we arrive in the world to come, there will still be more to follow.” 

2.                  A Christian Is Capable because of Peace.

(1:1b-4b)

                                    “. . . and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  . . .”

Matthew Henry wrote, “Peace is such a precious jewel, that I would give anything for it but truth.”  Telemachus was a monk who lived in the 4th century.  He felt God saying to him, “Go to Rome.”  He was in a cloistered monastery.  He put his possessions in a sack and set out for Rome.  When he arrived in the city, people were thronging in the streets. He asked why all the excitement and was told that this was the day that the gladiators would be fighting and killing each other in the coliseum, the day of the games, the circus.  He thought to himself, “Four centuries after Christ and they are still killing each other, for enjoyment?”  He ran to the coliseum and heard the gladiators saying, “Hail to Caesar, we die for Caesar” and he thought, “this isn’t right.”  He jumped over the railing and went out into the middle of the field, got between two gladiators, held up his hands and said “In the name of Christ, forbear.”

The crowd protested and began to shout, “Run him through, Run him through.”  A gladiator came over and hit him in the stomach with the back of his sword.  It sent him sprawling in the sand.  He got up and ran back and again said, “In the name of Christ, forbear.”  The crowd continued to chant, “Run him through.”  One gladiator came over and plunged his sword through the little monk’s stomach and he fell into the sand, which began to turn crimson with his blood.  One last time he gasped out, “In the name of Christ forbear.”

A hush came over the 80,000 people in the coliseum.  Soon a man stood and left, then another and more, and within minutes all 80,000 had emptied out of the arena.  It was the last-known gladiatorial contest in the history of Rome.

God grants us peace so that we can be the instrument to bring peace to others! 

III.             A CHRISTIAN IS A SOUL-WINNER.

(Philippians 1:3-5)

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

The Philippian believers were participants in the spread of the Gospel!  What were the Philippian believers doing to spread the Gospel?  Verses three through five highlight the three-fold responsibility of soul-winners. 

A.                A Soul-Winner Is To Habitually Commemorate the Gospel.

(1:5a)

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel . . .”

When Paul looked back over what was perhaps a ten year relationship with the Philippian church, it brought him to continually glorify God in prayer with joy.  Why?  What was it about the Philippian believers that elicited such a response?  Paul’s answer was simple, “. . . because of their participation in the gospel from the first day until now!”  Paul’s singular passion was to tell others about Christ and to train others to spread the Gospel.  When he thought of what these believers were doing to spread the Gospel, it caused him to glorify God due to their participation in the Gospel.

The memory of a Christian’s participation in the spread of the Gospel should bring others to glorify God!  I wonder what kind of thanksgiving we produce in others.  If others were to contemplate our participation in the Gospel over the past ten years, Would they continually glorify God with joy in their every remembrance of us?  Would they think of singing the song written by Ray Boltz? 

I dreamed I went to Heaven, you were there with me.

We walked upon the streets of gold beside the Crystal Sea.

We heard the angels singing, then someone called your name.

You turned and saw this young man, and he was smiling as he came.

He said, "Friend you may not know me now," and then he said, "But wait -

You used to teach my Sunday School, when I was only eight.

And every week you would say a prayer before the class would start.

And one day when you said that prayer,

I asked Jesus in my heart."

Chorus

Thank you for giving to the Lord,

I am a life that was changed.

Thank you for giving to the Lord,

I am so glad you gave.

Then another man stood before you, he said "Remember the time,

A missionary came to your church, His pictures made you cry.

You didn't have much money but you gave it anyway.

Jesus took that gift you gave

And that's why I'm in Heaven today"

Chorus

Thank you for giving to the Lord,

I am a life that was changed.

Thank you for giving to the Lord,

I am so glad you gave.

One by one they came, far as your eyes could see.

Each life somehow touched by your generosity.

Little things that you had done, sacrifices that you made,

They were unnoticed on this earth

In Heaven now proclaimed.

Chorus

Thank you for giving to the Lord,

I am a life that was changed.

Thank you for giving to the Lord,

I am so glad you gave.   

Not only do soul-winners commemorate the Gospel, soul-winners participate in the Gospel.  The term “participation,” in verse five, highlights a two further responsibilities regarding the Gospel. 

B.                 A Soul-Winner Is To Habitually Communicate the Gospel. 

(1:5b)

 “. . . in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

The Greek word is koinonia refers to active participation in spreading the Gospel.  It means to have fellowship in spreading the Gospel.  The first responsibility of every believer is to begin telling others about Christ.  When should this happen?  Well, Paul says that the Philippian believers began to tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ from the very first day!

Does that surprise you?  The fact that the believers immediately began to share Christ might seem extraordinary today, but it was the common expectation in New Testament times.  Jesus expected believers to share immediately what He had done for them.  In Mark 5:19, Jesus tells the man who He delivered from the demons,

“Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”

Again, when the woman at the well trusted in Christ, John records what happened in John 4:39,

From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’” 

When Paul himself was saved, Luke records what took place in Acts 9:18-20,

And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened.  Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “‘He is the Son of God.’” 

My friends, Christians are soul-winners!  Is that true of us?  Can we say that from the first day until now that we have been participants in spreading the Gospel?    

Darrell W. Robinson, in his book “People Sharing Jesus,” described all too accurately the state of evangelism today.  He wrote,  

“Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen.  And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around.  In fact, the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish.  And the fish were hungry.

Week after week, month after month, and year after year, these who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing.  Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be a primary task of fishermen.

Continually, they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing.  Further they said, 'the fishing industry exists by fishing as fire exists by burning.’  They loved slogans such as ‘Fishing is the task of every fisherman.’  They sponsored special meetings called ‘Fishermen's Campaigns’ and ‘the Month for Fishermen to Fish.’  They sponsored costly nationwide and world-wide congresses to discuss fishing and to promote fishing and hear about all the ways of fishing such as the new fishing equipment, fish calls, and whether any new bait had been discovered.

These fishermen built large, beautiful buildings called ‘Fishing Headquarters.’  The plea was that everyone should be a fisherman and every fisherman should fish.  One thing they didn't do, however:  They didn't fish!

In addition to meeting regularly, they organized a board to send out fishermen to other places where there were many fish.  The board hired staffs and appointed committees and held many meetings to define fishing, to defend fishing, and to decide what new streams should be thought about.  But the staff and committee members did not fish.

Large, elaborate, and expensive training centers were built whose original and primary purpose was to teach fishermen how to fish.  Over the years courses were offered on the needs of fish, the nature of fish, where to find fish, the psychological reactions of fish, and how to approach and feed fish.  Those who taught had doctorates in fishology, but the teachers did not fish.  They only taught fishing.  Year after year, after tedious training, many were graduated and were given fishing licenses.  They were sent to do full-time fishing, some to distant waters which were filled with fish.

Many who felt the call to be fishermen responded.  They were commissioned and sent to fish. But like the fishermen back home, they never fished.  Like the fishermen back home, they engaged in all kinds of other occupations.  They built power plants to pump water for fish and tractors to plow new waterways.  They made all kinds of equipment to travel here and there to look at fish hatcheries.  Some also said that they wanted to be part of the fishing party, but they felt called to furnish fishing equipment.  Others felt their job was to relate to the fish in a good way so the fish would know the difference between good and bad fishermen.  Others felt that simply letting the fish know they were nice, land-loving neighbors and how loving and kind they were was enough.

After one stirring meeting on ‘The Necessity for Fishing,’ one young fellow left the meeting and went fishing.  The next day he reported that he had caught two outstanding fish.  He was honored for his excellent catch and scheduled to visit all the big meetings possible to tell how he did it.  So he quit his fishing in order to have time to tell about the experience to the other fishermen.  He was also placed on the ‘Fishermen's General Board’ as a person having considerable experience.

Now it's true that many of the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties.  Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day.  They received the ridicule of some who made fun of their fishermen's clubs and the fact that they claimed to be fishermen yet never fished.  They wondered about those who felt it was of little use to attend the weekly meetings to talk about fishing.  After all, were they not following the Master who said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Imagine how hurt some were when one day a person suggested that those who don't catch fish were really not fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be.  Yet it did sound correct.  Is a person a fisherman if, year after year, he never catches a fish?  Is one following if he isn't fishing'

[Darrell W. Robinson, People Sharing Jesus, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), pp. 21-23].

Dr. A. B. Simpson:  “Press on our heart the woe, and put in our feet the go!”

A Christian is to habitually participate in soul-winning, but not only so, a Christian is to contribute to the spread of the Gospel. 

C.                 A Soul-Winner Is To Habitually Contribute to the Gospel. 

(1:5)

“. . . in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

The term “participate” not only carries the idea of participation as in actively doing evangelism but also it carries with it the idea of partnering or contributing to the furtherance of the Gospel.  The word is used in this sense in Romans 15:26 where Paul writes,

For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution [koinonia] for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.”

Again in 2 Corinthians 9:13, Paul writes,

Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution [koinonia] to them and to all . . .”

Jim Elliot, the great missionary who was martyred wrote,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

A. T. Pierson: "There is enough jewelry, gold, and silver plate buried in Christian homes to build a fleet of 50,000 vessels, ballast them with Bibles, crowd them with missionaries, and supply every living soul with the gospel in a score of years. Only let God take possession and the gospel will wing its way like the beams of the morning.'

IV.             A CHRISTIAN IS A SCULPTURE. 

(Philippians 1:6-11)

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.  For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.  And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Paul tells us here that a Christian is a person in whom God is working.  So, we must consider the description to identify the work that God is doing in His children.   

A.    The Creator of the Sculpture Is God. 

(1:6)

            “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began . . .”

Notice that Paul wrote, “He who began a good work . . .”  Paul does not refer to the good work that he and Timothy did at Philippi.  Do you remember how Paul went over to Macedonia and preached the Gospel to certain women at the riverside; then was instrumental in the deliverance of the girl who was possessed by a demonic spirit and how he saw the Philippian jailer and his whole family saved?  Yet when he comes to write his letter, he doesn’t refer to what he had done.  No, it was God’s work through Paul.  There is a very interesting statement at the end of Acts 14.  Luke gives an account of Paul and Barnabas’ return to the Antioch church after their first missionary journey.  We are told they gathered the church together and gave the following account in Acts 14:27,

When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”

Christians are those in whom God is working and who acknowledge that the work that is ongoing in their lives is all of God!  C. H. Spurgeon wrote, “Christ is a very different kind of Savior, he has a propensity when he does a thing to do it all. You may think it strange, but he never likes any assistance. When he made the world, he did not ask the angel Gabriel so much as to cool the molten matter with his wing, but he did it entirely himself.  So it is in salvation: he says, ‘My glory I will not give to another’” [Spurgeon, MTP, Vol. 2, p. 210].

Is that true of us?  Is a work ongoing in your life that you acknowledge is all of God? 

B.     The Character of the Sculpture Is Good. 

“. . . that He who began a good work in you . . . “

Paul emphasizes here that believers have a good work going in them.  Two aspects of the good work are important to note, namely, the root of the good work and the realm of the good work. 

1.                  The Description of the Work Is Beneficial.

“. . . that He who began a good work . . .”

The Greek word interpreted “good” is agathos.  It describes that which, being good in its character, is beneficial in its effect.  In other words, it means that when God does a work, the work has a beneficial effect for the cause of Christ.  God so fashions His church so that each person has a purpose, a benefit in the body of Christ.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:18-25,

But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”

So, we need to ask ourselves the question, Are we of benefit for the cause of Christ?

2.                  The Domain of the Work Is Believers.

“. . . in you . . .”

Notice the apostle Paul writes, “. . . He who began a good work in you.”  In other words, says Paul, the work that God does is not merely an outward work, but an inward work.  What happens to the Christian is not a mere reformation or a surface improvement.  It is not merely a cosmetic improvement.  The Gospel is not just something that changes a person and makes them a little bit better, it is not a moral reformation!   It is a vital work that is done by God in the heart.  The Holy Spirit regenerates a person and gives them a new heart.  As a result, the person will desire to read the Word, pray, and desire to be with the people of God.  Is that true of us?   

C.     The Certainty of the Sculpture Is a Guarantee. 

(Philippians 1:6c)

“. . . For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” 

A Christian is one in whom a work of God is being done and the work is certain to be finished.  God never starts a work and leaves it half done.  We might start something and never finish it, but not so with God. 

  • Romans 5:10— For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

  • 2 Timothy 2:19— Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.

The question, therefore, to ask ourselves is, Is there a continuous work going on in us?  Are we becoming more and more like Christ as the days, weeks, and years go by?  Can we look back over a period of time and see real progress?  Remember the Bible teaches us that progress is a certainty guaranteed by God! 

D.    The Confirmation of the Sculpture Is Godliness. 

(Philippians 1:7-11)

For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.  For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.  And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Paul tells us in verses 7-11 why he feels so confident about the Philippian believers.  Why is he so confident that the work of God is going on in them?  Paul cites two confirmations, namely, the fellowship of grace (vv. 7-8) and the fruit of righteousness (9-11). 

1.                  The Confirmation of the Sculpture Is the Fellowship of Grace.

(1:7-8)

For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.  For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

The word translated “partaker of grace” is the Greek word sunkoinonia.  It means to “fellowship or share in with.” 

     A friend was in front of me coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands.  He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside.

      

      The Pastor said to him, "You need to join the Army of the Lord!"

      

      My friend replied, "I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor."  Pastor questioned, "How come I don't see you except at Christmas and Easter?"

      

      He whispered back, "I'm in the secret service."

You can be sure that the good work of God is in you if you share in the defense and spreading of the Gospel!

2.                  The Confirmation of the Sculpture Is the Fruit of Righteousness. 

(1:9-11)

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

The key phrase here is “having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”  If you are in Christ and Christ is in you then the inevitable result will be the fruit of right living.  A true Christian will make progress in love, knowledge, and holiness bringing glory to God until the day of Christ.     

CONCLUSION

 

 

Paul describes the Christians that he wrote to as servants, saints, soul-winners, and sculptures.  The question we must answer is, Does Paul address us?  Does our lives line up with what Paul describes here?  Do we acknowledge Jesus as our Master and consider it a joy to do His bidding?  Are our lives holy and separate from the world?  Is Christ the center of our lives?  Is there cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving unto God because of our participation in the Gospel?  Is the work of God ongoing in us? 

When Lawrence of Arabia was in Paris after World War I with some of his Arab friends, he took some time to show them the sights of the city.  But they found little interest in the city.  The thing that really garnered their interest were the faucets in the bathrooms in the hotel.  They spent much time just turning them on and off.  All they had to do was turn the handle, and they could get all the water they wanted.  Sometime later, when Lawrence’s friends were ready to leave Paris and return to Arabia, Lawrence found  them in the bathrooms trying to remove the fixtures from the bathrooms.  When he asked them, Why?  They said,

“It is very dry in our land.  We need these faucets so that we will have all the water we want.”  My friend, it is more possible to have water from a detached faucet that it is to have assurance of salvation without Christ and the marks of a Christian.

 

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