What Does a Church Consumed for the Gospel Look Like? (Philippians 4:1-3)

The following is a sermon delivered at Lake Drive Baptist Church on Sunday morning June 14th, 2015. You will find both the audio and sermon notes below.


Sermon audio (click here)


Introduction/broader context:

Series theme/theme of Philippians To live a life consumed by the Gospel, i.e., the message of God’s saving activity in the person of Jesus.

  • Theme verse: 1:27 – “Live worthy the Gospel,” i.e., live a life consumed by and in keeping with the nature of the Gospel.
  • 2:1-11 (esp. v.5) – To be so consumed by Christ that we reflect the very humility of Christ.
  • Paul’s motto in 1:21 – “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Corollary theme To be consumed by the Gospel for the Gospel, i.e., for the cause of advancing the Gospel.

  • In 1:12-26, because Paul’s motto is, “to live is Christ” (i.e., his life is consumed with Christ), he views his imprisonment as an opportunity to advance the name of Christ. –Consumed for the Gospel.
  • In his opening prayer (1:3-11), Paul speaks of the Philippians as partners with Paul in advancing the Gospel (1:5-7). –Consumed for the Gospel.
  • And through the book, Paul identifies various ways in which the Philippians are to be consumed for the Gospel. E.g., …
    • 1:27 – “Striving together for the faith of the gospel.” How? “Standing firm [i.e., steadfastness, persistence, perseverance] in one spirit, with one mind [i.e., unity, harmony].”
    • 2:14ff – They are to be “lights in the world” [i.e., a people consumed for the Gospel” by (2:14) “doing all things without grumbling or disputing [i.e., in unity]” and (2:16) “holding fast to” the Gospel [perseverance, steadfastness].

This text (Phil 4:1-3):

  • We see many of these themes popping up in this textg., striving, unity, holding fast, etc. He’s applying these themes to a very specific situation.
  • Thus, when we read this text in light of the whole letter, we understand that what Paul is doing here is spelling out, according to a very specific situation, what a church consumed for the Gospel is to look like. See 4:3 – “…who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel.”

Sermon Text: Phil 4:1-3 (NASB)

1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.

2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Main Question of Sermon – What does a church consumed by the Gospel for the Gospel look like?

1. A church consumed for the Gospel prizes its members (4:1a).

4:1a – Paul describes the Philippians as “… my beloved… brethren… whom I long to see, … my joy… and crown.” [Foundation/basis for the following instructions.]

Cf. chapter 1:

  • 3 – “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (NASB) [Paraphrase]: “Every time you cross my mind it causes me to burst out in thanksgiving to God!”
  • 4 – Paul is “always offering” his “prayers” for the Philippians “with joy.”
  • 7 – “…It is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart….”

“My crown” (4:1) – Something he prizes, he values, he holds dear to his heart.

  • Illustration: Like an Olympian wearing his or her medal. // They’re a church Paul is proud of; he wants to “wear them” as a crown.
  • Illustration: New parents with their new born baby. // In a similar way, Paul wants to brag on this church, he wants to show them off, he delights in everything they do.

Is this how we view our fellow believers, our fellow church members?

Family language (“brothers [and sisters]” – Taking the metaphor of the family – one’s primary community; the tightest of all relationships – and applies it to the church.

“My joy” – Taking such a prevalent theme throughout the letter—“that’s why you are to me.”

Why is it important for a church consumed for the Gospel to prize its members?

  • If we don’t love each other, how will we ever be a church that cares encourages one another, as Paul does here, to live consumed for the cause of the Gospel?
  • A church that doesn’t love each other can’t function properly—equipping each other, encouraging each other, working together. And if a church isn’t functioning properly, it will be severely handicapped in its mission to reach the lost.

 2. A church consumed for the Gospel stands firm (4:1b).

4:1 – Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.

Points back to 3:17-21 – A “hinge” verse.

  • “Therefore” (4:1) –– In light of the dangers spoken ch.3 (vv.18-19).
  • In this way stand firm” (4:1), e., in the way of fixing our eyes on models of apostolic Christianity (3:17) and living with a vision of our heavenly citizenship and our eventual full experience of it when Christ returns to resurrection our bodies [eschatological vision] (3:20-21). ß This is how we stand firm.

Paul’s focus – Their endurance, persistence, perseverance in the faith; that they are unwavering; etc.

  • (Similar language) 1 Thess 2:19-20 – “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you [Thessalonians], in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?”
    • Notice that this text, with identical language—“joy” and “crown”—has in view Christ’s return. The believers, to whom Paul is ministering, are to be his crowning achievement, so to say, when Christ returns. But that, of course, requires that they persevere until Christ returns.
  • Paul says similar things to the Philippians:
    • Phil 2:16 – They are to “hold fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ [i.e., when Christ returns] I [Paul] will have reason to glory because I [he] did not run in vain nor toil in vain” [i.e., his ministry to them wasn’t pointless; they persevered].
    • Phil 1:10 – Paul prays that they may “be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”
  • Sum—They’re his crowning achievement, because Paul has confidence that at Christ’s return, they will have persevered and remained faithful to the end.

Why is it important for a church consumed for the Gospel to stand firm?

  • Phil 2:15-16 – We are lights in the world (2:15) by “holding fast the word of life” (2:16).
    • We can’t hold forth the Gospel if you don’t hold fast to the Gospel [REPEAT]. A church that has compromised the Gospel, has forfeited all ability to reach the lost with the Gospel.
  • Do you find that you more apt, more eager, more equipped to be a witness for Christ when your slacking off in your Christian walk or when your standing firm in your relationship to Christ? 

3. A church consumed for the Gospel has members who live in harmony with one another (4:2).

4:2 – “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”

Same language as 2:2 – Commands “to be of the same mind” (2:2) and “to have this mind in you which is also in Christ” (2:5). ß 4:2 = a direct application of 2:2.

Literally: “be of the same mind.” Paraphrase: “have the same mindset”; “be like-minded.”

  • Not absolute agreement.
  • But the idea—within our diversity of gifts and perspectives, there is nonetheless a unified mindset, aim, orientation, etc.

The nature on the conflict? We can’t be sure.

  • Not significant doctrinal differences – Paul doesn’t blow such things off.
  • May have been a personal matter.
  • May have been more substantial, e.g., how to conduct ministry.

Sum: We don’t know; but it’s important enough that Paul needs to address it.

A) Rooted in the Gospel:

“In the Lord” (v.2), i.e., based on what is true of you both in Christ, based on your common faith, and relationship, and salvation (Gal 3:27-28; Eph 4—“one, one, one…”)

Book of life – In v.3 describes them as among those “whose names are in the book of life.”

  • Book of life – (figurative), i.e., the divine record of the saved; God’s roster of those who will receive a verdict of “NOT GUILTY” on the last day.
  • What a powerful way of describing someone …

Assurance: Also, what an audacious way to describe someone!

  • Paul has the audacity to make the claim, before the books are cracked open on the last day, that these believers’ have their names included in the rolls of the saints. –To peer into the divine record, as it were, and to say, “I found your names there.”
  • But he can do so, based on the work of Christ. Based on the fruit he’s seen in them and based on Christ’s death and resurrection, Paul can describe believers as those whose names are written in the Book of Life. … Our names our written in that book with the ink of the Lamb’s blood. In Christ, the books of God’s judgment have already been open for believers and we have received the verdict of, “NOT GUILTY.”

Conclusion: And so Paul says, “How can we not live in harmony with those who have their names written next to ours in the Book of Life?”

Contrast – The arbitrary so-called “tolerance” and “togetherness” promoted by our society.

  • In our society, a certain “togetherness,” a “non-judging-accepting-ness” is valued as and end in itself. And so our culture pursues and promotes this “togetherness” as something valuable in and of itself (e.g., Android—“be together; not the same.”)
  • But, this is arbitrary. Our culture tries to create a false sense of unity; but, you look around, and there is nothing that unites us. We are certainly “not the same”; but there is nothing that brings us all together.
  • …But where our culture fails, the Gospel succeeds.

D.A. Carson quote:

“Most people have their own little circle of ‘in’ people, their own list of compatible people, their friends. Christian love … [goes’ beyond that to include those outside this small group. The objects of our love … include those who are not ‘in’: it must include enemies.

…The church itself is not made up of natural ‘friends.’ It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together, not because they form a natural collocation, but because they have all been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance. In the light of this common allegiance, in the light of the fact that they have all been loved by Jesus himself, they commit themselves to doing what he says—and he commands them to love one another. In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.” (Love In Hard Places, pg. 61).

Conclusion: We live in unity because of the unity that we have in Christ.

B) For the purpose of our common mission:

4:3 – Paul describes these women as “who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel [i.e., laboring to advance the message of the Gospel], together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers.”

Illustration:

  • Military personal don’t bicker about insignificant matters in midst of war. They put all differences and conflicts aside because the nature of battle is far more pressing. They are far too preoccupied with their mission to bicker. The stakes are too high. The battle is too dangerous.
  • Corollary—the church is like a M.A.S.H. (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit. –On the front lines, equipping to send people back out. We don’t have the “luxury” on wasting time and energy bickering. We have a far too pressing mission to be disunified.

Sum: We are united by the Gospel (A); but we are also united (B) for the Gospel.

Two things to note…

A) Women – Paul identifies these two women as individuals serving in what he considers Gospel ministry.

  • Certainly they were doing so in a way appropriate to the uniqueness of men and women.
  • But the fact that he includes them those laboring in Gospel ministry pushes against some notions that may float around in more conservative circles that women only serve by making brownies and babies.

B) Variety of forms – In light of what the rest of the book says, this Gospel ministry can take a variety of forms.

  • E.g., through giving money (4:15); in sending Epaphroditus to Paul (2:25, 30).
  • Explanation
    • Gospel ministry include all properly functioning members of the body of Christ.
    • Even if one’s role and task is not directly evangelistic, they are serving the church in its task to advance the Gospel.
  • Point:
    • Everyone of us, no matter what our gifts, need to view them as apart of Gospel ministry, and, thus, incredible important. Paul describes such people as co-workers.
    • The proper functioning of every member is vital to this church’s ability to advance the Gospel.

4. A Church consumed for the Gospel has members who help other members live in harmony with one another (4:3).

(v.3) Addresses “true companion” (or “partner”) – We are not sure who this is.

  • Could be a personal name – in that case, to be translated, Syz-y-gus.
  • May be a nickname, cf. “Barnabas” (“son of encouragement”).

Either way, they knew who this was.

3rd party involvement:

  • Many texts in Philippians encouraging unity – you (2nd) get along.
  • But what’s unique about this text is that it’s not just telling people to live in harmony with others, but it’s telling people to help others live in harmony with others.
  • Mt 18 (paraphrase) – “If a fellow-Christian sins against you … and he doesn’t listen to you, bring another Christian with you.” Principle—Unity and conflict resolution often requires 3rd party intervention.

Application:

  • This implies that we have to be involved enough in each others lives to do this.
  • This isn’t just, “Watch out for yourself. Make sure you’re not in conflict with other Christians.” Watch out for your fellow members. You have a responsibility, not just for yourself, but for your church family.
    • Boy, does this push against the common practice of our day that Christianity is a lone ranger project, that you don’t really need to become a part of church, that you can just come and go, and not really be involved.
    • The instruction to help other Christian maintain unity presupposes your involvement in their lives. I don’t even know how you have the possibility of fulfilling this text if you’re not intimately involved in a church. 

Summary/conclusion:

  • Previous themes are poured into this text; and Paul is giving a specific application of them – an application for how this church, that has partnered with him in advancing the Gospel, can continue to do so effectively and with faithfulness.
  • We’ve identified 4 traits in this text of a church that is consumed for the advancement of the Gospel.
    1. It prizes its fellow members.
    2. It stands firm.
    3. It has members who live in harmony with one another.
    4. It has members who help other members live in harmony with one another.

Phil 4:1-3.

Advertisements