Living Worthy of the Gospel

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Philippians 1:27-30

INTRODUCTION: We are working our way through the book of Philippians, and we are learning what it means to be Partners in the Gospel. Today’s passage is really a turning point in the book. Up to this point, Paul has really been talking about himself. Now that might seem odd at first, but remember, this is a letter that Paul was writing to the Philippians. And what do you do when you write a letter? You tell them what’s happening in your life, and then you move on to ask them about yours. Well, that is similar here, except that Paul is an apostle, and so instead of asking questions, he will actually give them instructions, solid teaching from God on how to live their lives. (Read Philippians 1:27-30 and pray)

So what does it mean to live worthy of the gospel? We have to be careful here, because part of the gospel message is that we are not worthy! We do not earn or deserve God’s favor in our lives. We have all sinned against God and are deserving of punishment. And yet the good news of the gospel is that God sent his Son Jesus to die for our sins to bring us back to God. The gospel is all about God’s grace, and grace has nothing to do with being worthy. It’s just the opposite. We were not worthy to receive God’s salvation, but God gives us his salvation as a free gift. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

So when we talk about living worthy of the gospel, we are not talking about living in such a way as to earn the benefits of the gospel. Rather we are talking about living in such a way to reflect the reality that God has already forgiven you in Christ. If you are in Christ God has forgiven your sins, he has adopted you as his child, he has given you his Holy Spirit to guide you, he promises always to be with you, and he will never leave or forsake you. Those are amazing gifts from God, and they should make a difference in how you live your life. You cannot live worthy to receive the gospel,; rather you should live worthy of the gospel which you have received.

So what does it mean to live worthy of the gospel? Well, of course it means a lot of things, but we will look at three things Paul tells us in our passage today. And I want to put those three things in the form of three slogans. Here are three two-word slogans that will help you to capture the flow of Paul’s thought here. 1) Whatever happens! 2) One man! 3) No fear! Did you get that? Say them with me. 1) Whatever happens! 2) One man! 3) No fear! One more time: 1) Whatever happens! 2) One man! 3) No fear!

Let’s look at these three slogans together, and see what they can teach us about living worthy of the gospel.

I. Whatever happens! (27a)

First of all, whatever happens. Look at verse 27 with me: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27a) Remember, Paul has just been filling them in on the details of his life. Paul is in prison for preaching the gospel. He is waiting on the verdict and knows that he faces a possible death sentence. He is not afraid of death, in fact he longs to depart and be with Christ which is better by far, but it is more necessary for the Philippians that Paul remains alive so that he may continue to minister to them. Convinced of this, Paul believes he will remain and will be restored to these partners in the gospel whom he so dearly loves. But he doesn’t know for sure, so he tells them, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27a)

   A. Determine to live for Christ no matter what happens

There are two important principles we can learn from this verse. First of all, determine to live for Christ no matter what happens. That phrase “whatever happens” translates the word “only” in the Greek: “only live worthy of the gospel.” In other words, Christ and the gospel come first. You may take this job or that. You may go to one school or another. You may live in Florida or move out of state. But whatever happens, Paul says, “Only, only, only this: live worthy of the gospel of Christ.” God gives you a lot of freedom. He gives you a lot of latitude in the choices you make. But no matter your choices, no matter your circumstances, put Christ and the gospel first. Determine to live for Christ no matter what happens.

Those words “conduct yourselves” translate a word that means “to live as a good citizen, to discharge your duties as a good citizen.” Philippi was a Roman colony, and so they had the amazing privilege of Roman citizenship and all the benefits that came with it. Now Paul is reminding them of the amazing benefits of citizenship in the kingdom of God and all the benefits that they have in Christ. God has given us so much through the gospel. And so we are to put Christ and the gospel first in our lives. Determine to live for Christ no matter what happens.

   B. Trust God in the good times and the bad times

And the second principle we learn from this verse is this: Trust God in the good times and the bad times. Paul didn’t know whether he would be executed or released. The Philippians didn’t know whether they would see Paul again or not. But either way Paul was determined to live for Christ. Remember Paul’s words from last week? “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21)

Paul was in a tough situation, but it did not affect his relationship with God. He had learned to trust God in the good times and the bad times. Just because Paul was in one of the bad times did not mean that God had abandoned him. In fact God was using Paul where he was to further advance the gospel. And so Paul could rejoice even though he was in prison facing a potential death sentence.

Part of living worthy of the gospel of Christ is developing this “whatever happens” attitude of Paul. Determine to live for Christ no matter what happens. Trust God in the good times and the bad times.

II. One man! (27b)

So that’s our first slogan: “Whatever happens!” The second slogan is this: “One man!” We see this in the second part of verse 27: “Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:27b) It is clear that just as Paul is facing persecution for his faith in prison, so the Philippians are facing persecution for their faith in Philippi.

It is not easy living a life worthy of the gospel. When you start taking a stand for Christ and the gospel in your life, you will face opposition. When the church takes a stand for Christ and the gospel, the church will face opposition. The enemy attacks hoping that we will back off and the gospel will fade away into the background.

Paul has two instructions for us when we face opposition for Christ: 1) Stand firm in the Holy Spirit, and 2) Work together as a team for the gospel.

   A. Stand firm in the Holy Spirit

First of all, we must stand firm in the Holy Spirit. Back to verse 27: “Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit.” (Philippians 1:27) Even though some translations spell “spirit” with the lowercase “s” in this verse, I believe Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit here. It is the Holy Spirit who unifies us in Christ as we shall see next week in chapter two. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us power to witness. Jesus told his disciples in the book of Acts: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:8) We can’t face the opposition on our own. Thankfully we don’t have to! We have the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit to help us stand firm for Christ.

   B. Work together as a team for the gospel

So Paul’s first instruction is to stand firm in the Holy Spirit. Secondly, he tells us we must work together as a team for the gospel. Paul describes this as “contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.” That word contending means “to work together as a team, to strive together side by side.” It is the picture of an athletic team on the field of contest, or a company of soldiers on the field of battle.

Think of the athletic team first. In order for a team to be successful they need to work together. The team must work as one man to achieve the goal. If the team is splintered and divided and full of internal conflict, it will never succeed on the playing field.

Paul says we need to work together like a well-trained army. Think of a company of soldiers fighting side by side, shoulder to shoulder, staying in formation, and advancing against the enemy as one man. This is not just unity, but unity for a purpose, to win the battle or perhaps even to survive.
Paul says our purpose in the church is the faith of the gospel. We contend as one man for the spread of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. The problem with the Philippians, as we shall see in the coming chapters, is that some of them were fighting each other instead of fighting with each other against the enemy. Paul says, “Live worthy of the gospel of Christ. Stand firm in the Holy Spirit, and work together as a team for the gospel.”

III. No fear! (28-30)

So our first slogan is “Whatever happens!” Our second slogan is “One man!” And then finally we come to the third slogan: “No fear!”

   A. Do not fear those who oppose you

First of all, Paul says do not fear those who oppose you. Verse 28: “without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God.” (Philippians 1:28) That word frightened means “to be startled or to panic.” It was used of horses on the battlefield which were suddenly startled or panicked in the heat of war. Paul is saying: Don’t be intimidated. Don’t panic. No fear! Stand strong in the face of opposition.

     1) You are on the winning team
Do you know why you can take this no fear attitude as a Christian in the face of opposition? Because you are on the winning team! I like the church sign we’ve had out on Broward Blvd. this week. You plus God makes a majority! You have God on your side! You are on the winning team! I read the back of the book – we win! You don’t need to be afraid.

     2) Your fearlessness is a sign to them

Not only that, Paul says your fearlessness is a sign to the opposition. Look at verse 28 again: “This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.” (Philippians 1:28) Have you ever seen two basketball teams warming up on the court before the game? Their coaches teach them to come out strong, brimming with confidence, taking strong layups, getting in a huddle and shouting in unison. Why do they do that? It’s a sign. They’re showing the other team, “We’re not afraid of you. You’re going down.”

Now of course, a lot of that is bravado, and one of those teams is going to lose. But now imagine you are on the Miami Heat, and you are coming to play against a high school basketball team. I don’t care how good that high school team is. The Miami Heat is going to crush them. The Heat would show no fear – a sure sign that they are going to win, and the opposite team is going to be destroyed.

That’s how we should be as Christians. When you face opposition for the gospel, show no fear. This will be a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.
There are some marvelous stories of the early Christians and the bold stance they took for Christ and the gospel. One early Christian was mocked by the Romans: “So what is your Carpenter doing now?” He answered boldly: “Making a coffin for your emperor!”

Do not fear those who oppose you. You are on the winning team, and your fearlessness is God’s sign to them of your salvation and their destruction.

   B. Do not fear suffering for Christ

And then finally, Paul says do not fear suffering for Christ.

     1) Suffering for Christ is a gift of God’s grace

There are two things to consider here. First of all, suffering for Christ is a gift of God’s grace. That may sound odd at first, but look at verse 29: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” (Philippians 1:29)

That word “granted” means “to give graciously, to do a favor for someone.” In God’s eyes suffering for Christ is as much a gift of God’s grace as believing on Christ. Suffering is not a sign that God has abandoned you, but rather that “God looks upon you with favor.” (Lightfoot, p. 106)

The disciples in Acts rejoiced “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name [of Christ].” (Acts 5:41) Think about that. Part of living worthy of the gospel is that God counts you worthy to suffer for Christ.

Jesus described discipleship as following him and taking up the cross daily. (Matthew 16:24) Taking up the cross means suffering for Christ. The Philippians were suffering for Christ, and Paul wanted them to understand that this was part of their Christian discipleship. D.A. Carson writes: “If their salvation has been secured by the suffering of [Christ] on their behalf, their discipleship is to be demonstrated in their own suffering on his behalf.”

   2) Other believers are suffering for Christ too

Paul says, do no fear suffering for Christ, first of all, because suffering for Christ is a gift of God’s grace, and secondly, because others are suffering for Christ too. Look at verse 30: “since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:30) Paul had suffered persecution when he was in Philippi. Now the Philippians are going through the same struggle they saw him have when he was still there, and that he is still experiencing as he writes to them from his prison cell in Rome.

The Bible says that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Others are suffering for Christ, why should you be exempt? Remember, we are all partners in the gospel together. And so we should expect opposition. In fact if we are not experiencing any opposition, then perhaps we need to evaluate whether we are indeed standing firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose us. Perhaps we are at peace not because of God’s favor, but because we have let ourselves be intimidated.

Paul says, “Don’t be afraid of the opposition. And don’t be afraid of suffering for Christ.” We need to develop this “No fear!” attitude as believers in Christ.

CONCLUSION: In closing let me make several application points for us today.

1) First of all, we must make the gospel our number one priority as individuals and as a church. We need to believe the gospel, we need to respond to the gospel, we need to allow God to shape our lives by the gospel, and we need to proclaim the gospel.

2) Secondly, we must work hard to maintain unity in the body of Christ. If we are busy fighting each other, we will never be able to make a united stand against those who oppose the gospel of Christ. We were talking about this in our Wednesday night study in Acts and how God often uses severe persecution to build a new unity in the church. When things are smooth, it is easy for the church to lose her focus and to bicker about things that don’t really matter. But no church undergoing severe persecution ever wastes time arguing about the color of the carpet in the sanctuary. We become united in our stand for the gospel in the face of opposition.

3) And then thirdly, let us be bold in our Christian faith and witness. We don’t need to be rude or disrespectful. In fact I pray that you won’t, because that would be a poor witness. But let’s stop being intimidated by those on the losing team, and let’s be bold in our witness for Christ.

What does it mean to live worthy of the gospel? We can sum it up in three slogans:

1) Whatever happens! Determine to live for Christ no matter what happens. Trust God in the good times and the bad times.

2) One man! Stand firm in the Holy Spirit. Work together as a team for the gospel

3) No fear! Do not fear those who oppose you. You are on the winning team, and your fearlessness is a sign to them. And do not fear suffering for Christ. Suffering for Christ is a gift of God’s grace. And remember other believers are suffering for Christ too.

© Ray Fowler

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