Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Sermon Title: What are the life priorities of Gospel Partner?
Scripture Text: Philippians 1:12-30
Rejoice so long as Christ is proclaimed (1:12 – 18a)
Revere Christ whether in life or death. (1:18b – 26)
Resolve to stand united for the Gospel of Christ. (1:27 – 30)
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Blessed morning to all. As a church, we are in the midst of our CG Open Month. Together we are journeying through the book of Philippians.
And through CG Open Month, we encourage all CGs to meet each Sunday to discuss the text preached and how we can apply God’s word to our lives.
It is the prayer of our leaders that everyone of us can experience this interaction.
If you are not yet in a CG, may I encourage you to try it out. Try it out just for this season as we go through Philippians.
I’m quite confident that you will find it meaningful.
If someone were to ask you, how can you tell if a person was a career-minded individual or a professional sports person?
I’m sure we would answer, we can see it in their life’s priorities.
The way they spent the time, the attitude they have towards certain things, the way they allocate their financial resources and even what they wear and eat.
From today’s passage, we want to observe what are the life priorities of a gospel partner.
The overall theme of Philippians is about being Gospel Partners. And as believers, this is our call. As disciples of Christ, we are to be gospel partners.
If you have been with us over the past 2 Sundays, you would remember we looked at the heart of a gospel partner and also how does the prayer of a gospel partner sound like.
This current health pandemic has been, I feel a good pause in rat race of society. It has forced us to differentiate between what is essential and what is not important.
It has for many, caused us to face the reality that we are not masters of our own destiny and that death is a present reality whether you are 5 years old or 50.
So may today’s passage, help us, figure out God’s wisdom for the life priorities of a gospel partner.
I want to thank Ps Luwin for his suggestions towards the title and the outlines of this sermon.
Rejoice so long as Christ is proclaimed (1:12 – 18a)
Let’s remind ourselves again of Paul’s situation.
Paul is in prison and is being chained up constantly to a Roman soldier. I’m sure we can agree that this is not a comfortable position to be in at all.
And definitely in our eyes, not be an ideal situation to carry out one’s ministry.
Yet in such a predicament, Paul tells the Philippian believers, I want you to know that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.
And because his sole focus is the advancement of the good news of Jesus Christ, Paul ends this section by sharing his attitude (18a) – whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed and in that I rejoice.
Paul is filled with gladness. He is filled with joy because of what his dire situation has produced.
Happiness we will find is very dependent on circumstances, but the joy of the Lord is not dependent on our current situation.
Being glad in the Lord is when we have a proper perspective of our situation. It is to see our circumstances with biblical lenses.
What makes it even more encouraging, is when we appreciate the details of Paul’s situation.
To the enemies of God, throwing the chief preacher of the Gospel into prison would be a logical way to kill his ministry.
But Paul says, even when in prison, even when chained to the Roman soldier, the Gospel still can be shared.
V13 says, it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.
Paul’s perspective of his present situation is not that he has been constrained, instead his perspective is that he has a captive audience.
The soldiers guarding him, have to go on shift, so he gets to share it with many. And the guards have family and friends and so, news spreads.
Could Paul’s example help us view our current situation with better perspective?
Say you are going to be called back for in-camp-training. I know putting on the army uniform can be depressing. But can we see instead that our ICT gives us a captive audience to advance the gospel?
How about if we have been pushed to another group for project work in school. A group you are unfamiliar with or do not like.
Can we change our perspective and put on gospel lenses, see these new group mates as captive audiences for the gospel?
Not only did the gospel advance through the imperial guards, there was also an impact on other believers.
V14 says, many believers became confident in the Lord and were made bolder to speak the Word without fear.
I’m sure many of us are familiar with Jim Elliot. The missionary killed along with 4 others as they attempted to bring the gospel to the natives in Ecuador in the 1956.
Jim famously said “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
God used the death of these men not only to bring the natives to God but to also galvanized the missionary effort in the United States.
Their death sparked an outpouring of funding for evangelization efforts around the world.
Of those who were emboldened to share the gospel, positively, there were believers who did it out of love for Paul.
To them, knowing that he was imprisoned for the defence of the gospel, the Lord stirred in them more confident to share the gospel.
As it were, they felt that they were part of the same relay team. Paul couldn’t run and so they picked up the baton and continued the gospel race.
But interestingly Paul shared, that there were others who were emboldened to share the gospel, but their motives were wrong.
They preached out of envy and rivalry. They did it with the intention of rubbing salt into the wounds of Paul.
Now we must note significantly that they did not preach a different Gospel. That I’m sure would have brought on a strong rebuke from Paul.
No, they shared the same Gospel as Paul, but instead they did it out of envy.
So Paul was teaching the Philippians, what should be the proper perspective of a gospel partner.
A gospel partner’s perspective is that the message of the gospel is most important, not the messenger of the gospel.
Believers are to be primarily concern that the correct gospel is preached. Yes, motives of the messenger are important but that is a secondary one.
But when he came back to England and took a church near to mine, it was something different. The old Adam in me was inclined to jealousy.
But I got my heel upon his head, and whether I felt right toward my friend, I determined to act right.”
“My church gave a reception for him, and I acknowledged that if it was not necessary for me to preach Sunday evenings I would dearly love to go and hear him myself.
Ps Meyer goes on to testify “But just see how the dear Lord helped me out of my difficulty.
There was Charles Spurgeon preaching wonderfully on the other side of me. He and Mr. Morgan were so popular, and drew such crowds, that our church caught the overflow, and we had all we could accommodate.”
Ps Meyer had the same perspective as the Apostle Paul.
Church, as gospel partners, we need to learn that too. Let us rejoice in all circumstances so long as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is advanced.
Revere Christ whether in life or death. (1:18b – 26)
We have just seen how the life priorities of a gospel partner influences the way he sees the present circumstances.
Now let’s see how the life priorities of a gospel partner influence the way she sees her ultimate perspective.
Paul repeats again the affirmation that he will rejoice in the 2nd part of v18 and then goes on to give the reasons for his confidence.
He says he can rejoice because he knows that the prayers of the Philippians and the Spirit of Jesus Christ will be effective for his deliverance.
The word ‘deliverance’ in the original is more often translated as ‘salvation’.
So there is some ambiguity whether Paul is speaking about his deliverance from his current imprisonment or his deliverance in the form of eternal salvation.
Since Paul is willing to revere, to honor God in both life and death, maybe he is speaking of the possibility of both situations.
I submit, Paul is rejoicing in the efficacy of the prayers of his gospel partners and in the sovereignty of God.
And may this be the encouragement for us to be prayer warriors. Prayer warriors who truly understand what it means to end our prayer with ‘in Jesus Name, Amen’.
For when we pray in the name of Jesus, we pray according to the character and purposes of Jesus, ending it with the confidence that Jesus has the power to answer.
And so I’m sure our attitude in prayer would be of reverence to Jesus.
Our attitude thus as Ps Luwin has reminded us last week should be – Our Father who is in heaven, hollowed be Your Name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
So for Paul, be it release from current imprisonment or release to eternity, Paul will rejoice.
And so Paul succinctly captures it in the famous verse, v21 – for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Let’s consider for a moment, if this sentence were to be given to us today to fill – ‘for to me to live is ___________’. How would we fill in that blank?
Would it be money, sex, career, fame, power?
Some of these things God can give us and we can receive them as good stewards.
But if we were to fill them in the blank provided, the likelihood of it being an idol is almost certain.
If we were to put any of the world’s desires in the blank, how do you think we will fill out part B – ‘and to die is ________?
I submit, if we put anything else but ‘Christ’ in the first blank, we can only put ‘lost’ in the second blank.
At the end of the day, when we are at our death bed, we can take nothing with us. And if we do not have Christ, we will be lost forever.
Speaking about lost, 2020 has lost the Olympics in Japan due to COVID-19. Many I’m sure are hoping that it will still happen in 2021.
The Olympics is the pinnacle for athletes. It’s what they live and breathe for. It’s what they sacrifice 4 straight years for. They are willing to sell literally all their possessions to fund this Olympic dream.
But what would a Christian Olympic athlete look like?
I commend Eric Liddell for us all.
Eric Liddell of Scotland won the 400m in record timing in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. But that was not his pet event.
A devout Christian, Eric Liddell refused to run in a heat held on Sunday and was forced to withdraw from the 100-metre race, his best event.
In 1925, a year after the Olympics, Liddell returned to Northern China to serve as a missionary, like his parents. And he served as a missionary till 1943 – first in Tianjin and later in Hebei province.
He returned to Scotland only twice, in 1932 and in 1939. On one occasion he was asked if he ever regretted his decision to leave behind the fame and glory of athletics.
Eric replied, “It’s natural for a chap to think over all that sometimes, but I’m glad I’m at the work I’m engaged in now. A fellow’s life counts for far more at this than the other.”
During the war, Eric could have left China but he stayed and was interned in a Japanese camp. Eric died on 21 February 1945, five months before liberation.
I submit Eric Liddell lived out v21.
Through v21, Apostle Paul sets a dilemma before his listeners. Paul wants us to see this tension between living for Christ and dying and returning to Christ.
I believe Paul is saying, Gospel partners should have this tension in our lives today.
For Paul, because Christ is all the world to him, he says in v23, my desire is to depart and be with Christ for that is far better.
Would this be our attitude when we face death ourselves? That death is but a door in which we walk through to be in the very presence of our Lord and Saviour.
Yet, if the Lord were to say, it is not time yet, will we say to live then is Christ?
And to make it very clear, Paul’s shows us what it means to live for Christ.
It means to live so that he can be God’s channel of blessing to the Philippian believers. In v25, Paul says he will live for the progress and joy in the faith of the Philippian believers.
To live for the maturing of our fellow believer is the life priority of a gospel partner.
Church, such a priority would give so much meaning in our lives. That truly is gospel partnership.
And this speaks against the individualism that is so prevalent in society today.
Humans live and breathe and plan and strive each day only for ourselves. And the wisest man ever in history will tell you, that is vanity. All this is a striving after the wind.
Apostle Paul shows us what meaningful living is about. It’s when we live to encourage the progress in the faith of others.
Church when we revere the Lord in our lives, when we put him first, then it matters not whether we live or die.
Because in both, we will seek that God’s name be magnified.
Resolve to stand united for the Gospel of Christ. (1:27 – 30)
Let’s now go into the final segment of today’s text. We will look at v27 to v30.
From sharing lessons the Philippians can learn from Paul’s experience, Paul now moves towards addressing the Philippians directly.
In the first section, by sharing with them his response towards his imprisonment, Paul is helping to shape their current perspectives.
In sharing with them his response to his deliverance, Paul is helping to shape their ultimate perspective.
Now in sharing with them how they should live as gospel partners, Paul is helping to shape their ongoing perspective.
So he says, in v27, let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Now the phase ‘be worthy of the gospel’, in the original can also be translated as ‘only behave as citizens worthy’.
Philippi was a Roman colony that was proud of being part of the Roman empire.
During those times, there was great privileges attached to being a Roman Citizen. Many in Philippi receive it due to the various things they achieved for the Romans.
With such privileges also came a certain level of responsibility to uphold the societal standards of being a Roman Citizen.
So Paul is speaking to them in the language they can understand. Walk worthily of being a citizen of God.
God and not Caesar is to have your ultimate allegiance. God is the one you should resolve to please.
How then are gospel partners to resolve to please God?
Paul says we are to do so when we are standing firm in one spirit with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.
So gospel partners must resolve to build unity in the body of Christ.
One commentator remarks, we are to be so linked together that we are like magnets which are linked by something internal and not like a bag of marbles, just looking alike.
Paul leaves no doubt that this internal unity we have is based on the gospel of Christ. And the way we become united is through our faith, our belief in the gospel.
And we will subsequently learn in chapter 2, that the essence of the gospel, is the incarnation of the Son of God, His servanthood, His sacrificial death on the cross and His exaltation over everything in heaven and on earth.
Church, what binds us together is spiritual, it is deep and abiding. And it cost God the Father, the life of His son Jesus Christ.
Such unity is worth fighting for, it is worth defending.
So Paul uses the military phase ‘standing firm’. It means to dig in, to yield no ground.
Now if God is King and Caesar is not, then Paul says expect much opposition from society.
And so the Philippians believers need to stand firm together as they get attacked, scorned, persecuted.
Another image that Paul gives is that of an athlete. He says believers are to strive side by side.
Many commentators link this to the gladiator arena. Gladiators fight side by side against great odds.
Both these images give us the picture that the challenges the believers will be facing are going to be very tough. Much sweat and tears are needed as they content for gospel unity.
So Paul is exhorting them, they need to resolve to stand united.
To resolve thus mean we recognize that there is a battle around us.
Remember Ephesians 6 teaches us that we need to put on the whole armour of God so that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
In v28, Paul further encourages them, for he says when you face opposition because of your faith in Jesus Christ, this is a sign of your salvation.
It means you belong to God, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Church, the cross is the symbol of our faith and so as they have persecuted our Lord Jesus Christ, His followers will also share in that.
So as gospel partners, if we are not standing side by side, striving for unity against great opposition, we have to wonder if we are even saved.
Paul goes on in v29 to further explain that such sharing in the suffering of Christ is a gracious gift of God.
V29 says it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ, you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.
If you have been touched by God’s grace, you have been given also the privilege to suffer for His sake.
How I wish it stopped at the first point. That God has graciously given me the ability to believe in Jesus.
But God says that is not the end, it is also His gift for us to suffer for Christ.
Suffering for Christ, goes against the grain of much of a certain type of faith teaching which many are attracted to nowadays. A message that wealth and health await the believer.
In contrast Paul is saying, if you suffer for Christ, that is a sign of assurance of your salvation.
And this is where we are always reminded of the Hall of Faith recorded for us in Hebrews 11.
Church, I submit that the way to stand firm is to seek unity. A cord of 3 stands cannot be broken.
As individuals we will fall easily. But when we resolve to strive as one united body of Christ, we can withstand the flaming arrows of the devil.
Church, let us resolve as gospel partners to stand firm and stand united for the gospel of Christ.
Let me end by sharing a testimony that was mentioned in a particular sermon of D.A. Carson and it is related to one of the commentary writers whom we are referencing for this series.
Carson shares, when Peter O’Brien was a youth, neither of his parents were Christians. But his mother became greatly impacted by the faithful witness of a neighbour.
This neighbour was a simple lady with sincere faith in Christ, who unfortunately lived with an incurable disease and suffered day after day. But she never complained.
Her attitude and witness made a tremendous impact on O’Brien’s mother, who eventually trusted Christ as her Saviour.
Humanely speaking, it was because of this simple lady’s faith that O’Brien’s mother became a Christian. Because of that, O’Brien later believed.
Peter O’Brien would then go to seminary and get a PHD. Then he would go to India and make the gospel known for years. He subsequently taught in Australian seminaries and wrote commentaries.
Carson concludes by saying “when we are in the middle of our suffering, we never know what will happen, but we must trust that God is sovereign and that He can and often advance the gospel through great personal hardships, such as imprisonment or cancer.
Our job is to stay faithful, joyful and Christ-centred through the suffering, confidently trusting in His wise, sovereign will.”
May the life priorities of a gospel partner be evident in all Hermonites.