Summary: What exactly does the phrase "sola scriptura" mean? This expository message from Philippians 2:14-18 follows Paul’s thoughts and motivations regarding "holding fast" to the Word of life.
“Holding Fast. An Expository Sermon on Philippians 2:14-18. By Matthew Everhard. Originally Preached at Hudson Presbyterian Church October 29th, 2006.
The Vote: This morning we are a mere seven days away from making one of the most momentous decisions that Hudson Presbyterian Church has made in its history of around 25 years. For those that may not be aware, our elders have proposed that this local body of believers should separate from our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). In fact this is arguably the single biggest decision we have been called to make since the original decision that there should BE a Presbyterian Church in Hudson in the first place. I want to commend the church about how well it has struggled with this: returning to Scripture, praying, discussing.
As we study this passage from Philippians chapter two, it is not my intention to tell you WHAT to vote next Sunday the 5th of November, but rather to suggest, through Paul’s own words, HOW we as believers ought even APPROACH this decision, or any other. From there, it will be your conscience, informed by Scriptures that will determine your vote.
Every Generation: Let me start out by suggesting that every generation of believers, every generation of God-followers, is confronted with a crisis of faith that must be met head on. As I study Scripture and Christian history, I am convinced more and more that every era of believers must inevitably face a crisis of faith that demands either accommodation to a godless culture, or a firm declaration of faithfulness to God no matter what the costs.
We could start way back in the OT and talk about the enormous socio-political pressure that Israel had to conform to the worship of the pagan deities their neighbors, the gods of the Canaanites, Baal and Asherah and Molech. We could mention Daniel in the Lion’s den as he defied the King’s edict by praying only to the true God. We could mention the NT church as it faced severe persecution as it sought to spread the gospel at the risk of life and limb. Yet the generational tests continue long after the last piece of Scripture was written: The Fathers of the Early Church, Irenaeus, Origen, and Athanasius warded-off tremendous heresies as they sought to understand and interpret the Scriptures. Calvin and Luther’s generation was called to fight against a deeply entrenched institutional church that was more interested in selling indulgences and collecting relics than the gospel. Dietrich Bonhoeffer resisted the Nazis regime in Germany until it cost him his life.
As I said before, so I say again, every generation of believers is confronted with a crisis of faith wherein they must choose between assimilation into the culture at large, passive accommodation to a godless world—or else total commitment to Christ alone. Can I suggest this morning, that the mainline denominations in America have reached just such an impasse.
Paul and the Letter to the Philippians: This morning we are looking at Paul’s letter to the Philippians—the letter he wrote to a small church he founded on his second missionary journey. He wrote as he sat confined in a Roman jail cell. We have time for just a snapshot of his work to determine how he struggled with the crisis of his generation. Simply stated, Paul could either obey the Roman authorities by ceasing to preach the gospel, or else preach on and face Rome’s wrath. He chose the latter. This morning we are looking for clues about HOW Paul makes his decision. What will he refuse to compromise? What will he give up? What will he cling to when all else fails? These are the same questions we must answer, not only next week, but also every day of our lives.
Life is A Series of Difficult Decisions. In life, you will constantly be asked to make important decisions that will determine what kind of person you will become, who you will worship, and to what extent you will obey. Every day, sometimes instantaneously, life will demand that you choose one thing over another. Like a river carving its course over time, each decision you make will condition the next. We are constantly pressed to choose our priorities: how we will spend our time, how we will spend our money, what books we will read, who we will marry, what shows we will watch, when to speak and when to remain quiet.
Crooked or Shining? In this short passage, that we study this morning, Paul offers two great alternatives: he says we can either assimilate to what he calls this crooked and perverse generation or else stand out like righteous stars in a dark night. The problem is: its not always easy to tell the difference. He calls his own generation “crooked”. It’s the Greek word from where we get our word “scoliosis” the curvature of the spine. You see sometimes, the wrong choice looks a lot like the right one. A superficial glance reveals similar content. The difference is that the wrong one is twisted and bent, sometimes just slightly, a small deviation from the truth here, a slight warp from righteousness there, but the results are as contrasted as a blazing star against the dark backdrop of total darkness.