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Unity in Christ - The letter to the church at Phillipi  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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3 Categories of a life worthy of honor

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Philippians 2:1-4 and PRAY...
Philippians 2:1–4 ESV
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Paul is going to show us 3 categories that are worthy of honor in life.
A little reminder on where we are in the Bible. This letter to the church at Philippi was written by the Apostle Paul while he was in prison in Rome. Philippi is an important town on the Egnatian Way, a major trade route between Rome and Asia. It's importance had the Emperor of Rome turn it into a military retirement colony of sorts. And when Rome comes in they make slave of everyone else, so the town is made up of both free Romans and slave Greeks. The church at Philippi reflects the overall demographics of the town, in other words there are both free Romans and slave Greeks in the church. Paul planted this church and they still have a very dear spot in the Apostle's heart. He loves them. Yet, he needs to encourage them because there are many things that can rip a church apart. After the introductory remarks, Paul writes to them about staying focused on the Gospel. 3 weeks ago when I last preached from Philippians, we looked at chapter 1 verses 27-30 and saw that Paul wants the church wants to be one confident disciple in the face of outside persecution. They need to remember the Gospel is what they are all about. But Paul realizes that danger for the church is not just from outside persecution. One of the most insidious problems in the church today is disunity. So, he commends the church to live lives worthy of honor. Specifically, he mentions 3 categories of life that are worthy of honor.

The first honorable category of life is to be saved.

Philippians 2:1 ESV
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,
The “if” repeated here in verse 1 is not conditional like it might not be, it is what is called a first order comparative which means that it is a sure thing. We could render it in English as “if” whatever condition “and it certainly is.” Another way to think of this “if” is “since”. So we get Since there is any encouragement from being united with Christ. Since any comfort from his love. Since any fellowship with the Spirit. Since any tenderness and compassion. In every case the condition is more of a given than a comparison. There is no room in the Greek grammar here for there to be doubt as to whether or not these things exist. These are the truths upon which the rest of the passage is based. So, let's look at the 4 assumptions in detail.
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ – The “you have” is actually better translated as “there is” so If there is any encouragement from being united with Christ (and there certainly is such). When we belong to Christ, He encourages us through His Word to be one with Him. And here Paul is saying they need to hear the encouragement of Jesus to be united in Him!
If any comfort from His love– Does the love of Christ bring us comfort? He was tempted in every way we have been, yet without sin. His love is what took Him up that Golgotha Hill. His love is what kept him on the cross. His love is what prevented Him from calling 10,000 angels to rescue Him fro the cruelest of human death and suffering. Love is how we are saved. It is John 3:16 for sure. Say it with me, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
If any fellowship of the Spirit – are you a sharer in the life of the Spirit? This is a key element of being saved. The indwelling Spirit of God. He guides us and comforts us. He speaks to each of us and we are united under Him. We share life with His guidance.
If any tenderness and compassion – the encouragement of Christ, the comfort of His love, the fellowship of His Spirit should build within us a tenderness and compassion. We need to not be so harsh. Especially in the church. There must be evidence of the Spirit of God and work that includes compassion and tenderness towards one another.
These are all traits of someone who has given their life fully to Jesus. This is in keeping with our guiding documents here at Immanuel. To be a member of the church, you must be a member of Christ's followers. You must have given your life to Him.
So, since there are these 4 traits of those who TRULY belong to Christ and His church, what are we to do? Paul tells us.

The first honorable category of life is to be saved and the second is to be singular in purpose.

Philippians 2:2 ESV
2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
He says since all those things are true of those folks in the church at Philippi, he has great joy. They have been saved and that is the beginning of Paul's joy, but they could make his joy complete by doing 3 things. And all 3 of those things are about being united, or singular in purpose.
The first is to be like-minded – in Greek it is literally “one mind”. Is Paul telling us that we all have to think alike here? No, because we mustn't take this phrase out of context with the passage. It is clear that Paul is talking about remembering their mission. Of being united around the work of advancing the Gospel. He is tying this back to verse 1:27 where he tells them to stand firm in one spirit. They must be united in purpose. They need to keep in mind that they have one goal. That they all have the same goal.
The second thing about being united is to have the same love. The same love that Christ had for them. This is agape. It is not an emotional response, but a choice. A deliberate choice to love in action and not just in emotion. Those in the church must love one another with the same agape Christ has for us. His love took Him to the cross. Do we have that kind of love? We are all to have it.
And finally, being one in spirit and purpose. This is almost a restatement of being like-minded. Very similar grammatically, yet different. We are to seek to work together in spirit and purpose. To control our emotional responses and put on the mind of Christ.
Paul wrote about this unity in more detail in Colossians 3:12 – 16, Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Col 3:12-16)
We have to be singular in purpose.

The first honorable category of life is to be saved, the second is to be singular in purpose, and the third is to be selfless.

Philippians 2:3–4 ESV
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
He calls them to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Selfish ambition would include any agenda you might think of that isn't about growing God's Kingdom. It is trying to have your way above all others. Vain conceit is literally translated “empty glory”. This is seeking to have others talk about how good you are. Jesus warned about this kind of attitude in Matthew 6:5, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (Mat 6:5) The only answer these hypocrites will receive to their prayers is the empty glory of men. And that is the same kind of attitude Paul is warning about here. Don't do whatever it is that God has called you to do in order to be recognized or to get your own way.
Instead, in humility consider others better than yourselves. The wording used here is like that of a slave who is serving his master. He knows the master is better. And he submits humbly to what the master wants. But here we are to consider others like our masters. We are to serve one another.
And he goes on in verse 4, not looking only at your own interests, but to the interests of others. There are some things we have to do in order to continue in service to our Father. We have to eat. And it is in our interest to feed these bodies. So, this is not a call to a false acetism, which is living like a hermit with absolutely nothing. No, This verse means to make sure your own interests are not your all-consuming desire. It is a dual purpose. You must look after your own interests, but you also should look out for others' interests. Keep your eyes open to the needs around you. Fill every need you can, however you can. Think about others.
This is really what the end result of being saved and singular in purpose will look like. It will be a church that is diverse and yet united. Imagine, if you will, just who Paul is writing to in this letter. The mixture of free Romans and slave Greeks. They are in the church. Some of those slaves may desire to be free and Paul says don't just look at your own interests, but the interests of others also. And those Roman slave-owners. Paul tells them to consider others as their masters. This is one radical exhortation by the Apostle Paul. But then, he usually was pretty radical.
As I wrap this sermon up, I want to remind you of the 3 categories worthy of honor. But I want to go over them in reverse order. We need to be selfless and singular in spirit and purpose. In short, we need to be the opposite of what Charles Stanley wrote back in 2007. Let me read this for you.
An old Marine Corps buddy of mine, to my pleasant surprise, came to know Christ after he was discharged. I say surprise because he cursed loudly, fought hard, chased women, drank heavily, loved war and weapons, and hated chapel services.
A number of months ago, I ran into this fellow, and after we’d talked awhile, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You know, Chuck, the only thing I still miss is that old fellowship I used to have with all the guys down at the tavern. I remember how we used to sit around and laugh and drink a pitcher of beer and tell stories and let our hair down. I can’t find anything like that for Christians. I no longer have a place to admit my faults and talk about my battles-where somebody won’t preach at me and frown and quote me a verse.”
It wasn’t one month later that in my reading I came across this profound paragraph:
The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit that there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality-but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets, and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers. With all my heart,” this writer concludes, “I believe that Christ wants his church to be unshockable, a fellowship where people can come in and say, ‘I’m sunk, I’m beat, I’ve had it.’ Alcoholics Anonymous has this quality-our churches too often miss it.”
It is unpleasant to hear this kind of comparison drawn. Do the bars have a fellowship that we don't have? Is it better there where there is no God but self? I hope not. There is a selflessness in what is being said here. But what the bar doesn't have that the church is supposed to have is a real, life-changing experience with Jesus. In short, the church is supposed to be composed of people who are saved.
What do I mean by that? I mean church membership starts with membership in the larger body of Christ. Our lives must be fully devoted to following Jesus and His leading. The church should be made up of people who exhibit what Paul said in verse 1 of our passage today. People should be able to see encouragement from being united in Christ, comfort from His love, fellowship with His Spirit, and tenderness and compassion. Where these are lacking, then I think we have Scriptural warrant to ask about the reality of your salvation. Are you truly saved by the blood of Jesus? Is your life devoted to pleasing Him and following Him? If not, this part of the sermon is just for you.
You see, Jesus came to earth by virgin birth, a miracle from the moment He stepped on the planet. He lived a perfect, sinless life. The only man ever to do so. And He died a criminal's death to take our just punishment. Or, as Paul put it in his letter to the church at Rome.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom 3:23)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Rom 10:9-10)
Would you agree, or confess, to make Jesus boss, or Lord, of your life today? Why don't you talk to Him directly as we pray.
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