Faithlife Sermons

Philippians 1:27-30 - A Life Worthy of the Gospel

Philippians - Joy for the Journey  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:44
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A Christian lives in a spirit of unified fearlessness for the truth of the Gospel



A couple of weeks ago I received an email at work from the Office of Veterans Programs at University Park detailing the procedures for granting a temporary leave of absence for students in the National Guard who had been called to active duty. This was in response to the massive mobilization of tens of thousands of Guardsmen who were sent to Washington D.C. ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. It is simply astounding that we now live in a country where the transfer of power has to be accompanied by threat of lethal force—as if we have all somehow been transported back to the old Soviet Union instead of the United States of America.
And yet, here we are. And every day that passes we find ourselves in more and more uncertainty over what the future holds for our nation, our freedoms, and particularly our religious liberties. The propaganda arm of the administration (the media) have already begun designating pro-life convictions as “domestic terrorism”, the head legal counsel of PBS wants to forcibly remove the children of conservative parents and place them in “re-education” camps, and Amazon has begun removing evangelical Christian content from their streaming services. We are long past the time when we could comfort ourselves by saying “It can’t happen here”. It is happening here, and it has only begun.
And so what can we do? How shall we live and minister under this new regime? Our verses this morning were written by the Apostle Paul while he was unjustly imprisoned in Rome on charges of inciting an insurrection at the Temple in Jerusalem. (The Romans had good reason to be nervous about such insurrections, as tax revolts had been taking place in Judea for decades during that period.) As Paul writes to the Philippians, his words here seem as though he might well have been looking over their shoulder and addressing us in 2021 as well:
Philippians 1:29–30 ESV
29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Indeed, we are “engaged in the same conflict” as Paul was—we are facing days when we will be unjustly accused of supporting an insurrection, and that we are a danger to the civic order and need to be stopped by any means necessary. The word “conflict” there in verse 30 is the Greek word where we get our word “agony”—a hard, difficult, painful and exhausting struggle.
Like Paul under the Romans, we are living under a regime that does not want Christ to be preached, and so they will attack and smear and denigrate us in whatever way possible (up to and including imprisonment, don’t doubt it) in order to stop Christ from being proclaimed.
But notice how Paul talks about this "agony” we are in—does he say, “Wow—tough break, kids! You guys are in for a real rough patch, that’s a real shame about the persecution coming your way!” No—look at what he says: “It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should… suffer for His sake”!
Do you see that? The word “granted” there in Greek shares its root with the word for grace! In other words, suffering for Christ is a gift of God, just the same as believing in Christ is a gift of God! The first thing for you to understand, beloved, about what we are about to go through in the coming months and years is that this is a great privilege! You are being counted worthy to suffer for the Name! So part of your prayer life during these trials must be an attitude of thankfulness that God has graciously invited you into the sufferings for the sake of Christ.
Paul finishes up this first chapter of his letter to the church in Philippi with instructions on how to live under conflict. He says in verse 27, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ”. This is Paul’s answer to our question, “How do we live under a regime that wants to silence the voice of the church?” How do we live in a world that calls the preaching of Christ “hate speech” and “racist” and “homophobic” and “white nationalist”?
There will be much more to say in future weeks about how Christians are to live under tyranny and unjust rule. But before we go any further, we need to understand what Paul says here—the very first step in living under this new regime is to “let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ”. And as we read the rest of verse 27 and 28, we see that there are three elements to “living a life worthy of the Gospel”—three things that Paul wants to see in their lives if he comes to visit them:
Philippians 1:27–28 ESV
27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
Three elements of “living a life worthy of the Gospel”--
Standing firm in one spirit
With one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel
Not frightened in anything by your opponents
So here is my attempt to summarize what Paul is teaching us about a life worthy of the Gospel:
A Christian lives in a spirit of UNIFIED FEARLESSNESS for the TRUTH of the GOSPEL.
Look again at verse 27:
Philippians 1:27 ESV
27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,
The first way that we live lives worthy of the Gospel is that we live

I. UNITED in the SPIRIT (cp. Ephesians 4:1-3)

The passage that we read earlier in our worship, Ephesians 4, is a very close parallel to what Paul wrote here to the church in Philippi. Turn there with me (page 977). See if you can spot the similarities:
Ephesians 4:1–3 ESV
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Once again, Paul is writing from prison, and he is urging his readers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”—the calling they received when they were called to repent and believe the Gospel. Walk in a manner worthy of your calling (Ephesians), walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Philippians). And in verse 3 he appeals to the “unity of the Spirit” the same way he does in Philippians: “Standing firm in one spirit”. I would argue that Paul is talking about the same “unity of the Spirit” in both places: The unity that we share with one another because of the same Holy Spirit of God that dwells in each of us.
Paul unpacks the idea of living worthy of our Gospel-calling here in Ephesians, and I think it helps us understand what he is getting at in Philippians as well. To live united in one Spirit means to be united in
Walking worthy of the Gospel means walking in humility and gentleness. Paul’s competitors in ministry responded to his imprisonment with arrogance and harshness—trying to make him ashamed by their spectacular successes while he was in custody. Paul says, “Don’t start down that road! Don’t start measuring how you handle opposition in relation to how someone else does!” Don’t be tempted to compare how “bold” your witness is compared to someone else’s, don’t start thinking that other Christians or other churches are “less” than you because of how they handle shutdowns or restrictions. We are called to be united in one spirit as we walk worthy of the Gospel, and harsh pride and conceit have no place in a faithful Christian or a faithful church.
To be united in one Spirit is to be united in a spirit of humility and gentleness, and it means to be united in
A spirit of PATIENCE and LOVE
Living a life worthy of the Gospel means living in a spirit of patience with one another, characterized by love for one another. As Paul says in Colossians
Colossians 3:13–14 ESV
13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Christian, you know how much Jesus has forgiven you—so you must be ready to forgive always. A life worthy of the Gospel is always ready to heal a rift, not hold on to it. In Philippians 4 Paul has to call out two faithful women in the church, Euodia and Syntyche, because their quarrel was threatening the church. Just as a small crack in the wall of a dam can introduce a weakness that can lead to catastrophic failure, so a church that allows the small cracks and strains of unforgiveness and grudges will introduce weaknesses that can lead to collapse when the weight of opposition and threats come its way.
A life worthy of the Gospel wants to reconcile as soon as possible, wants to heal a rift and restore fellowship—and that is why our Church Covenant includes the pledge to “be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay”. This isn’t just for the sake of a good testimony before others, but because allowing those rifts to continue threatens the existence of the church when it comes under opposition. We must not give the devil an opportunity to weaken and attack our church by allowing grudges and slights to go unaddressed. We “stand firm in one spirit” when we stand in a spirit of humility and gentleness, a spirit of patience and love.
We are called to live in a spirit of unified fearlessness for the truth of the Gospel—this is what we see at the end of verse 27 of Philippians 1—that we are standing firm in one Spirit, and “with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel. We stand united in the Spirit, and

II. SINGLE-MINDED in our pursuit of the GOSPEL (Philippians 1:27b)

The end of verse 27 says that a life worthy of the Gospel is of “one mind striving side-by-side for the faith of the Gospel”. I think there is an illustration that can be useful for us in grasping Paul’s point here. The word “striving” here is a Greek word that is the basis of our word “athletics” - sunathleo. So picture the single-minded focus that we are called to as a church in terms of an athletic team about to take the field. If you’ve ever been in organized sports, you know the feeling, right? You’re standing in the locker room, pads strapped on, ankles taped up, geared up for battle. You look around the room at your teammates as the coach talks to you, and you think to yourself, “We’re ready! We are going to go out there and dominate!” But you’re not thinking about going out there as an individual, are you? You’re a team, you are single-minded in your purpose to get out there and win that game.
That’s the image here—a group of people knit together by a single-minded purpose and absolutely committed to one another, who will give 110% to achieve their goal. Beloved, that is the way a church is called to pursue the Gospel! Paul says that a life worthy of the Gospel is a life that is unified for the truth of the Gospel.
Notice that he says that we are to “strive... for the faith of the Gospel”. I think we can understand the phrase “the faith of the Gospel” in at least two ways. First, we can take this phrase as meaning that we must
Strive to BELIEVE the Gospel
Paul says in Romans 10:17 that
Romans 10:17 ESV
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
And so, if we are to strive for the faith of the Gospel, surely part of what that means is that we must strive to hear and proclaim this Gospel! We must be single-minded in our pursuit of growing and enriching and nurturing our faith in the Gospel of Christ. That means that when we meet together as a body, we must be all about the Gospel. The Good News of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins for all who call on Him by faith should be the cornerstone of everything we do here: From the songs we sing in worship to the lessons we teach our kids to the reading of God’s Word together to the attending to His Word as it is preached. We must be like a football team (or basketball or volleyball or soccer or wrestling or whatever sport you want to put in there!)—that we are single-minded in our pursuit of our goal. Only our single-minded purpose isn’t a Super Bowl ring or the Stanley Cup or a NCAA championship—our goal is knowing and growing in our faith in Jesus Christ.
We strive with single-minded purpose for the faith of the Gospel—we strive to believe the Gospel, and we must
Strive to LIVE OUT the Gospel
The phrase “the faith of the Gospel” can mean the faith that connects us to the Gospel (believing it), and it can also mean the faith that comes from the Gospel. Just as we are to strive to grow and nourish our faith by hearing and proclaiming the Word of God, so we are to strive to demonstrate this Gospel reality in our lives. We must be single-minded in our goal of showing others the reality of the Gospel in our lives. Living a life worthy of the Gospel means that it is obvious to those around you that you don’t live the same way. Now, I’m not just talking about not having the same sinful habits and pleasures that others do (no drinkin’, cussin’, smokin, goin’ to the cinema, etc.).
What I mean is that when you strive to live in the faith that comes from believing the Gospel, you don’t live in the anxiety that others do, you don’t live with the fear or uncertainty or isolation or self-preservation that others do. At my day job people are clamoring to know when they can get the COVID vaccine, they are anxious in their demands for more PPE, they fret over the fact that students come into the classroom not wearing their masks properly, and on they go. (And these days they are beginning to fret over the fact that they are a tiny little blue dot of higher education progressivism surrounded by a deeply red-state conservative community!)
But don’t you see, Christian, how your faith in the Gospel means that you are free from all of that fear and anxiety and worry? When you are part of a church family that is knit together in unity of the Spirit and single-minded pursuit of the Gospel, you just don’t worry the way they do—you may be heartbroken over what is happening around us and deeply saddened by all of it. But the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in you means that you have nothing to lose! You know that your life, your home, your job, your education, your safety and security, your future are all in the nail-scarred hands of your King, who gave His life for you and promises to keep you for all eternity!
Romans 8:31–37 ESV
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
A Christian lives in a spirit of unity for the sake of the Gospel—and we see in verse 28 of our text that it is a fearless unity:
Philippians 1:28 ESV
28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
We live united in the Spirit, we live in single-minded pursuit of the Gospel, and we live with

III. FEARLESSNESS before the WORLD (Philippians 1:28)

The Greek word “frightened” here in this verse has the idea of “intimidation”— Paul says that a life worthy of the Gospel is “not intimidated in anything by its opponents”. And this is precisely the game plan that is currently being run against us in this country. All of the propaganda that is coming out about the racism and hatred and white nationalism and domestic terrorism of conservatives, and the bigotry and homophobia and ignorance of Christianity is not meant to change anyone’s mind. It is meant to intimidate people into silence. If you speak up for the truth of God’s Word and read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 ESV
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
you will be threatened with being “cancelled” or called a “domestic terrorist” or a “homophobe”, and in the days ahead very well may be threatened with legal action. Paul makes it very clear that the proper response to those threats is: “I. DON’T. CARE.” That weapon of intimidation does not work on us. Because if proclaiming the Good News that a sexually immoral person or adulterer or homosexual or lesbian or transgender or queer sinner can be delivered from that sin and washed and sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ will get you cancelled or sanctioned or arrested, then you get the privilege of being counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the Gospel! And the angels in heaven have to tear down the back wall of your mansion and build a bigger extension just to house the fifty metric tons of reward that will come your way!
And when you look them in their beady little eyes and say “I don’t care what you do to me, the Gospel is true whether you want it to be or not, and I won’t stop sharing Christ!”, you have taken away the only weapon they have against you! They are powerless to stop someone who will not be intimidated! And Paul says that your refusal to be intimidated is
A sign of their DESTRUCTION
The word for “destruction” here is the same word that is used of the destruction of the Beast of Rome in Revelation 17—your refusal to be intimidated by their threats means that they will lose this fight. When their tactics don't work against you because you are standing fast in the faith that comes from believing the Gospel, it shows that they have no power over you! Whatever they take from you, they cannot take away your security in Christ, His watchcare over you, His provision for you and His promise that your last breath in this life will be followed immediately by your first breath in His presence in glory! They can't have you! They lose, and someday that loss will be revealed in their utter and total and final destruction before the throne of God as you shout with the innumerable company of the saints, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever!”
Christian, your fearlessness before your enemies is a sign of their destruction, and it is
A sign of your SALVATION
The only way that you can exhibit this kind of fearlessness against the intimidation tactics of our government against us and their lapdog propaganda arm of the media, the only way you can stand up to their slanders and lies and false accusations and their attacks on your faith, your children, your money, your church, is if you really do believe what this Gospel tells you! That you really believe that you are now under NO condemnation, that there is NOTHING that can happen to you to pluck you out of God's hand, that there is no one who loses mother, father, sister brother, houses, money or lands for Christ's sake that will not receive back a hundredfold, that there is no fear of those who can kill the body and after that can do nothing more, and that the moment your enemies should succeed in separating your spirit from your body you will instantly awaken in the presence of your Savior who will spend eternity showing you the riches of His kindness, and that you will see the smoke of the destruction of every last one of your enemies (His enemies) rising up forever and ever!
Beloved, that is what it means to live a life worthy of the Gospel! United with one another in a spirit of patience and love and humility and gentleness, honed in like a laserbeam on believing and living the Gospel, utterly refusing to be intimidated by the empty threats of tinpot dictators who are committing high treason against the reigning King of Heaven, Jesus Christ, demonstrating their damnation and your salvation by your Gospel-fueled fearlessness! Your song is the ancient warrior-psalm of King David, who sang
Psalm 27:1–6 ESV
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. 3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. 4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. 5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. 6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Do you have that Gospel-fueled confidence today? Do you realize that you don’t have it because you don’t know if you belong to Jesus Christ by faith? Come and talk to me right after the sermon this morning, get hold of one of our elders, ask someone who is a member here at Bethel—we are absolutely single-minded to pursue the faith of the Gospel in your life! We will show you exactly how you can “know that you know that you know” that you belong to Him, and that in all the insanity of the days ahead you will be able to live a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Jude 24–25 ESV
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.


What are some ways that churches are being challenged in their unity in the Spirit? What kinds of stresses and disagreements should we be watching out for here at Bethel in the days ahead? Read Ephesians 4:1-3 again. What do those verses tell us about how we can protect our fellowship from breaks in fellowship that can destroy our church?
What does it mean to share a single-minded purpose of “the faith of the Gospel”? What does it look like when the Gospel is the main goal and purpose of a church’s gathering? What does it look like when the Gospel is the main goal and purpose of a Christian’s life?
Read Romans 8:31-37 again and take note of the ways the enemies of the Gospel try to intimidate Christians. Do you see any of those tactics being used against Christians today? What Gospel-promise does Romans 8:32 give you as you stand up to the threats being made against you for your faith? Take time this week to thank God for His promise that nothing will ever separate you from Him!
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