Summary: What if there were no grace? Grace is God’s answer to our greatest need.
When I was in a previous place of service, there was a rather vocal atheist, who constantly wrote letters to the editor of the local paper, promoting his atheistic viewpoint. A lady met him, in connection with some business matter and invited him to come and have dinner with her husband and her. He said, “I will come providing there’s no grace.” She told him that was fine. When they sat down for the meal, her husband said, “Let’s pray,” and he thanked the Lord and asked the Lord’s blessing on the food and their time together. The atheist looked at the woman and said, “I told you my condition for coming was that there be no grace.” She said, “Oh, I thought you said, ‘no grease!’”
You really can’t even imagine a world without God’s grace. We are the recipients of God’s grace to such a degree, that we largely take it for granted. What if you only got what you deserved? What do you think you’d have, right now? Where do you think you’d be?
The letter to the Philippians is the most upbeat of all the New Testament letters. The words joy and rejoice are used numerous times. Philippi was a great church, but they faced two dangers that churches continue to face even to this day: bad teaching and broken fellowship.
Let’s look first at the matter of bad teaching.
About ten years ago, a survey came out indicating that when churches are seeking a new pastor, a major consideration is the length of his sermons. More important than his Christian testimony, his call to the ministry, or even his moral track record was the question, “Will he let us out on time?” The Bible tells us in 2Ti.4:3, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;” People’s motives of wanting to have church without hungering after God, will get them into all kinds of bad teachings.
For the Philippians, there were these folks who were trying to get them back into the practice of Judaism, telling them that, “Yes, believing in Christ was essential, but they must add to that, the rituals of the Old Testament Law, evidenced by the men being circumcised.
In verse 1, Paul said, “It is safe for you listen to what I’m saying. I’m not endangering your security with the Lord, but just the opposite.” Then, in verse 2, he says, “There’s some people and some doctrines that you need to watch out for.”
Paul was not a man with his temper out of control, but he was a man with a temper! When he called these folks, who were promoting this false teaching, “Dogs,” he was speaking as strongly as he could without cussing! He was not trying to be nice, concerning these people.
In verse 3, he gives a three-fold attitude of the person who is born again, with his thinking on the right track:
1. We are the circumcision who worship God in the Spirit. Look at Romans 2:29: “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” The Old Testament ritual of circumcision was a symbol of the real alteration that was to take place in Christ. Instead of an alteration of a most private outward part, it is an alteration of a most intimate inward part, our hearts.
Real worship happens in the Spirit. Look at John 4:24: “God is Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” You can offer what you do with your hands as act of worship to God, but the real worship takes place on the inside of you. If it doesn’t happen there, what you do on the outside will not impress God, at all.
2. We rejoice in Christ Jesus. I love the word, “rejoice.” It is one of my favorite words in the English language. It means to experience joy again and again. I’ve heard it compared to a cow chewing a cud. Have you ever looked closely at a cow? It looks like they’re chewing gum. That’s not gum they’re chewing! It is actually something that they have swallowed and have regurgitated, and they chew it a while longer, and then do it over and over again. That’s the way our joy in the Lord is supposed to be!
But it’s not that we just rejoice without reason, we have a reason. It’s in Christ Jesus. We rejoice in Him, because we are in Him. Look back at Philippians 1:1: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:”