Summary: Sermon 2 in a study in Philippians
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. 12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. 15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,”
One of the surest tests of a believer’s level of spiritual maturity is how much it takes to spoil his joy; or how much it takes to get him to throw up his hands and say, ‘That’s it, I quit. I can’t do this any more.”
I say it is a mark and measure of spiritual maturity, because the kind of abiding joy and unwavering faithfulness to God and calling demonstrated in the life of the Apostle Paul can only be born of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and can only owe its strength and continuance to the ongoing sanctifying work of that same Spirit.
Here sits Paul in Roman captivity, unable to move about as he pleases and uncertain of his own immediate future, and so far in this letter all he has talked about is joy and rejoicing and thankfulness and the love of the brethren and praise to God.
When his circumstances are mentioned, he has nothing to say about them in the negative at all. He just talks about the good that has come as a result and even finds cause for rejoicing at what most of us would consider very unsettling news.
We’ll talk about these things in more detail, but first I want you to see something else about this man’s priorities.
By the time we get to the end of today’s text verses, that is, in the first 18 verses of this letter, Paul has already managed to refer to Christ eleven times. In addition, he has mentioned God six times and the gospel 5 times. That is, he has used the word ‘gospel’ 4, and referred to the word of God once, which in a real sense is a reference to the good news specifically of Christ.
I wanted you to take notice of these things early on, because as I read down through these verses again and again what keeps popping out at me is a theme of faithfulness. The faithfulness of the Apostle to his calling, the faithfulness that he calls for in the Philippian church toward one another, and most importantly, the overarching theme we see in the whole thing, of faithfulness to Christ and the proclamation of the gospel.
FAITHFULNESS TO THE CALLING
I think that many Christians labor under a misconception of what it means to be a Christian. It may be largely the fault of Christian leadership over the past generation or two due to a change of focus from the teaching of the Word to a teaching of Christian morality and its application to the immoral world.
In any case and for whatever reason, I think many people think that being a Christian means believing the gospel, then trying to live more cleanly in daily life and in the meantime attending church and Bible Studies and being involved in church activity and perhaps for some, in politics and community service.
This is not however the New Testament picture of the Christian. At best it is an incomplete one.
If you stop to consider for a moment who it is that Paul is writing to, you might come to the awareness that these were just folks like you and me. They were from all the occupations that made up first century Greek society, they were of all ages and personal interests, in other words, they weren’t Apostles and only the few of them were preachers and teachers in the assembly.
Nevertheless, Paul writes to them as those in full time ministry. Not in the sense that we mean that term today, in the role of Pastor or Missionary, but full time in the sense that ministry to one another and the holding out of the gospel to the lost was now to be their primary focus in life and all that once was given preeminence in their lives now only served to sustain them and take second place to their participation in the gospel (1:5).