This sermon is number 1 in a series of 24
Philippians - Part 1
"Introduction To Philippians"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2002 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Philippians chapter 1 is our text, and I would encourage you please to familiarise yourself with this little book - it's only four chapters long. It would be good if you could read it as much as you possibly can, obviously not neglecting your own devotional reading, but as far as you can to just familiarise yourself with the truths and sentiments that Paul is bringing to the church at Philippi. Also 1 Corinthians as well, and do come along tomorrow evening as we'll be looking at a similar study, as it were, as we look at the introductory words of both of these epistles. Now often it's easy for us to scan over these words and think that they're unimportant and they're just a matter of convention as Paul is writing a letter, but that is wrong because within these words there are the keys to interpreting the whole epistle and indeed the theme of the epistles we have before us.
So let's read verses 1 and 2: "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ". Now I want to read it for you from another version of the Scriptures which is, I believe, more accurate in these two verses. I want you to listen very, very carefully to the differences, look down at your own version and look at the differences in this version. This is how the Greek really bears out, it may look minute to you, but you'll see in a few moments later how it bears upon the whole meaning of this epistle. "Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Christ Jesus", note the difference in the order - not 'Jesus Christ', but 'Christ Jesus'; and not just 'servants', but 'bondservants'. "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi", not 'of Philippi', but 'in Philippi', "including the overseers and deacons: grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ".
The letter to the Philippians is, and has been known as, the epistle of joy, or the letter of joy. Twenty centuries ago an itinerant tent maker by the name of Paul was tossed into prison for creating a public disturbance. As he's in prison in the city of Rome he takes it upon himself to use the time well and industriously, and he writes many epistles - several of which we have within the New Testament - to churches around the Mediterranean particularly, and Asia. He sits down and upon probably a dozen pieces of scratchy paper, he writes the letter to the Philippians. Few people would recognise who the Emperor of the day was when Paul was writing these words, it was Nero of course. I don't know whether you know this, but Nero the Great was a great author, a prolific author, but there is nothing whatsoever that remains of anything that Nero wrote. People don't really know anything about him, apart from historians, classicists, who study these things - but if you were to ask even a man in the street who Paul the apostle was, he would know probably all too well at least a few things about him, perhaps even his Damascus Road experience and his wonderful conversion. Indeed, the time has come, as T. R. Glover put it, when people call their dogs 'Nero' and their sons 'Paul'.
One of the important cities in the region which Paul was going to on his first missionary journey was the city of Philippi. We might wonder why Paul in particular went to Philippi, but as we analyse particularly the book of Acts we find out that Paul didn't just choose himself to go to Philippi. In fact, if you look at Acts, particularly chapter 16 and the chapters before it, you will find that Paul's intention was to go to a place called Bithynia. But we read that the Lord didn't want him to go there, in fact we read that the Spirit of Jesus stopped Paul entering Bithynia and led him to go to a place called Troas. When he was in Troas, asleep one night, God the Holy Spirit gave to him a vision. He saw a man standing before him, a Macedonian man, and that man was calling to Saul - Paul - 'Come over and help us, come over and help us'. In obedience that vision Paul and Silas, and Timothy and Luke, set sail to Macedonia, and from Macedonia they travelled into Philippi.
We read in the book of Acts that their stay in Philippi was quite short but it was very eventful. If you're familiar with the book of Acts, and I would encourage you that if you read the book of Acts you can get a lot of the context regarding the epistles of Paul that we have in the New Testament. But you'll be familiar with the fact that often, in his first missionary journeys, Paul always went to the synagogue in the town first. He went to the Jews first, he preached the gospel of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, to the Jews so that they would understand - and that was God's commendation through the great commission. But when they didn't hear him then he went to the Gentiles and preached the Gospel to them, but when he went into the town of Philippi things were a little bit different because there was no synagogue in Philippi, probably because there wasn't enough Jewish men to make or warrant a synagogue. But as Paul travelled outside the city, just outside the city gate, beside a river there was a group of some women, Jewish women some of whom were Gentile proselytes, Gentiles who wanted to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - and there they were at the side of the river, at a place, the Bible says, where prayer was wont to be made.
The reason they were probably outside the city of Philippi was because Jewish-Roman relationships were not very good at that time, and of course we know that they really never were good even between the Jews and the Greeks. The people in Philippi, the Romans and those who came from that particular town itself, just saw Paul the apostle and Christians in general as a sect of the Jews. They hated them just because they seemed to spawn out of Judaism. In Acts chapter 16 verses 22 to 21 we find that Paul cast a fortune-telling demon out of a young slave girl, and because of doing that the owners were so indignant and angry that they brought Paul and Silas before the city magistrates for causing an uproar in the town and for teaching traditions that these Roman people did not understand and were not their customs - but particularly they were levelling against them the accusation that 'these Jews' were stirring up trouble again.
Because of that Paul had to leave the city, and as he left the city he left behind him a diverse group of converts. If you cast your mind back and study particularly Acts 16 you will remember that there was a merchantwoman by the name of Lydia, a seller of purple, whose heart the Lord opened. Indeed we're led to believe that her whole household, whatever that means, were converted also. We know the famous story in Acts chapter 16 of the Philippian jailer, probably a Roman guard, and there he is as the earthquake happens to free Paul and Silas from the jail, he realises that his life is going to be taken from him because he was falling asleep there and these two people - as far as he was concerned - had escaped. He cried out: 'What must I do to be saved?', Paul said: 'Do thyself no harm, for we are all here! Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thine house' - and the jailer and the family were all converted. The slave girl that I've mentioned already, most likely was converted to Christ and added to the church in Philippi, and they probably all met - according to Acts 16 verse 40 - in Lydia's house, because she was a wealthy businesswoman she probably had the biggest house to meet in for the church of Jesus Christ there in Philippi.
So as this motley crew of young converts to Christ, in the city of Philippi, all from varied and different circumstances of life and backgrounds, and they are the first church in the whole of the European continent to come to Christ and be formed as the 'ecclesia', 'called out ones' from different backgrounds and circumstances - but all called together to the name of Christ, by the grace of God, to be a light in this dark place, to be salt in the earth, and to work together in the awful persecution that the church is facing at this time to the glory and name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the first Church in Europe, people converted from different backgrounds, different traditions, even different cultures. You would imagine that in the midst of persecution from outside there would have also been problems inside, and as Paul was calling for them to all work together for the cause of Christ you can imagine that the task was not easy. In fact, we know from this letter that the task was extremely difficult.
Look at chapter 2 of Philippians for a moment and verse 14, chapter 2 and verse 14, Paul tells them: 'Do all things without murmurings and disputings', without grumblings. Everything that you do, don't complain about it - which insinuates that they were complaining about the work they had to do for the Lord Jesus Christ. They weren't working together well. If you go to chapter 4 and verse 2 we see there another insinuation: 'I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord'. There was contention, there was fighting between individuals, perhaps even factions in this little small church at Philippi. Yet Paul was calling them to come together and to work together for the call of Christ.
Now I want you to see this, for this is extremely important: Paul is in prison in his particular situation, and he is writing out of prison to these Philippians' circumstances of fighting within and tribulation and persecution from without, and he's telling them from his experience to rejoice in the Lord! You've got to feel the import of what that means: a prisoner for Jesus Christ is writing a letter to these people who are wrecked by factions, fightings and persecution from without, and he's telling them: 'Rejoice, again I say rejoice in the Lord'. That is why this epistle is called the epistle or the letter of joy. When I was studying this I thought of Louis Armstrong, you know the black jazz singer, his song that you often hear over the airwaves and on television: 'What a Wonderful World, What a Wonderful World'. But the world in which these Christians lived, and I would vouch to say the world in which you find yourself living, is not a wonderful world. It is a fallen world, we have the Bible to prove that to us, and we know it from our own experience even without the Bible that we live in a fallen world that is acquainted with despair, depression, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and a longing in most people for a general sense of lasting happiness that will not be fleeting, that will not disappear after one night or one day. For many people in this world long years are spent and invested in the pursuit of true meaningful happiness.
You can scan the bookshelves of even Christian bookshops, secular bookshops, and you'll see self-help books. You can go to hotels in our country and in our capital and you can hear motivational speakers about how to be successful in business, how to be successful in life. You can read in periodicals and magazines, in your daily newspaper advice columns that are all purporting to have the key to what true happiness really is. Yet for most people, many people at least, the door of happiness remains shut in their face - it's locked to them, and they still as yet have not found the key to true happiness. Why is that? Well, if you break up the meaning of the word 'happiness' it's 'hap-ness' - happenings, where your circumstances determine how you feel. You see, we cannot determine our circumstances, that is the problem with finding true happiness. We can't control our circumstances, and indeed it would seem it's the reverse: our circumstances often control us, and we feel ourselves cocooned into things that we cannot change - many people in the world call it 'fate'. Kay-sera-sera, whatever will be will be - maybe it's your job, maybe it's a relationship that you're in, maybe it's the house that you live in, maybe it's the church that you worship in - you're seeking for happiness in those things, but you just can't seem to find it. You feel perhaps a bit like Paul, you're imprisoned!
People like this normally move from one gap-filler to the next on the merry-go-round of life. Indulging in all sorts of pleasures, some legitimate and illegitimate, trying to gratify their self and their ego and number one - trying genuinely to feel happy, to feel satisfied, to feel that their life means something, that it fits into the whole circle of the universe in some important significant way. But like Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes, who went after that pursuit of happiness himself, everybody who follows down that yellow brick road finds that it never leads to that place, but rather they declare: 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity' - all!
So how do we find it? Is it there? Can it be found? If it can be found how do we get there? Well the first important elementary thing that we need to do today, before we enter into any of the rest of this epistle, is to show you and get into your mind the fact that there is a difference between happiness and joy. There is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is determined by our circumstances, and because it's determined by circumstances it's elusive, it's fleeting. It's like soap in our hands: one minute we think we've got it, and the next, when we go to grasp it, it escapes us, it disappears. Whereas joy, that is written about in this epistle and throughout the word of God, which is opposed to happiness, we find the word 96 times in the New Testament - the Greek word for 'rejoice'. Ninety six times, so that the whole import of Scripture is trying to encourage us and enthuse us to be a rejoicing, joyful people in the sight of God. It is expected of us! The noun 'joy', not the word 'rejoice', but the noun 'joy' is there another 59 times. We are to be a people who are joyous!
The two words, both the verb and the noun are found thirteen times in the epistle to the Philippians, and Paul is saying: 'You people, I'm writing to you from prison, you're imprisoned in your own circumstances: you've got problems in the church, and you've got persecution from outside the church - but I am commanding you on God's behalf to rejoice!'. Now that's hard. The theme of this epistle is, indeed, divine joy, but you're sitting there asking the question: 'How is this possible?'. Stuart Briscoe entitled a series on the book of Philippians: 'Happiness in Life's Happenings' - how can you have true joy in the midst of all circumstances that are going on around you?
Well, this is where we look at verses 1 and 2, because the primary concerns and themes that Paul has in this epistle, and indeed probably every epistle, if you examine these opening two phrases and sentences you will find that they are not meaningless pleasantries. It's not 'Dear John', or 'Yours Sincerely', just the way that people wrote letters in these days. We know from seeing other first century letters that Paul did use the normal convention when he was writing a letter, and that usually was simply writing the name of the writer first of all: 'Paul and Timothy', and after this there's some sort of a prayer or a wish for the person that you're writing to - so you also get the addressee and what you want for the addressee: health, or wealth, or happiness or whatever. As we look down at these first two verses we find that Paul follows that normal convention, but a careful reader and student of the word of God will look and see clearly that he diverges from the convention and he adds a couple of things to the introduction. Now I want you to see this, because this will bear out our whole sermon this morning, and indeed the whole theme and understanding of this book.
He is telling us, even in these first two verses, how you can know true joy from God. There are three important changes that I want you to see in these first two verses. The first is this: Paul doesn't just mention his name and Timothy, but he describes them as bondservants - bondservants. Now you would expect it to begin like this: 'Saint Paul to the Christians at Philippi', but rather we get 'Slave Paul to all the saints in Philippi'. That's the first thing I want you to note. The second thing is this: he doesn't refer merely to believers in Philippi, but he uses these terms specifically: 'All the saints together with the overseers and deacons'. So the letter's not addressed to just one or two individuals, but it's addressed to all the church. Although he recognises the leadership of the church, and he gives them their place, he wants them to know that this is a letter to all these special people who have been set apart by God and for God in the city of Philippi.
Now before we go to the third difference I want you to notice this, how different this is from many of Paul's other epistles - because if you go to the first and second verses of many of them, what he does right away is he lays down his authority. He lays down who he is, the qualifications that he has, 'the apostle Paul, made an apostle not of men but of God'. In some places he even goes into the experience of the Damascus Road where he was made a Christian, and made an apostle, and ordained of Christ to be the apostle to the Gentiles. But he doesn't do it here. He prefers rather to emphasise that he and Timothy are just nothing more than common slaves, bond slaves. Yet he's careful on the other hand not to recognise his own authority, but whose authority is he recognising? He's recognising the authority in the assembly: 'to the overseers and the deacons', so he's putting himself down and he's raising this church and its leadership up. Now why is he doing this? This is the key to joy, it's the key to the epistle of the Philippians, and I want you to get above everything else - you've got to get this today and right throughout the incoming weeks! The key is found in chapter 2 and verse 4: 'Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others'.
Why is this greeting constructed in this way? Because Paul, by example, even in the first couple of these words of the book, is trying to bring to the Philippians' and indeed our hearts by the Holy Spirit the fact that true joy is found when we don't look at ourselves and look to ourselves and find joy in ourselves, but when we show concern for others at the expense of ourselves. Do not merely look out of your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Get this, please get this: do you want to be joyous? Do you want to know the real, true, living supernatural spiritual joy of God deep down and overflowing in your soul? Well, you've got to learn to be humble! Humility is the key to joy.
Paul hopes this will happen, he wants them to stop murmuring and complaining, he wants Euodias and Syntyche to stop fighting. He wants humility between all the saints, he's not taking sides between the elders and between the members, he's not taking sides - maybe Euodias and Syntyche wanted him to take either side of their debate and their argument, but he didn't do it. He came in and he humbled himself, and he came before them and wrote this letter to all of them.
Then the third difference is found in the fact that Paul expands the traditional greetings in verse 2. This was normally given, it's a bit like 'Dear Sir' in our language, 'Hope all is well' or something like that, and in verse 2 he says: 'Grace to you'. Now the Roman and the Greek greeting was normally 'Greetings to you', but he changes it to 'Grace to you, and peace' - that's another change - 'from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ'. He changes 'greetings' to 'grace', he changes a simple sentiment of wanting happiness for the people to peace, which is the outflow of grace. Now why does he do it? Because again in verse 2 he's bringing to us the real theme of his epistle. He said on another occasion to the Corinthians, listen carefully and let it all slant together: 'For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor that we through his poverty might be made rich'. Do you see it? He's teaching them, he's instructing them that they need grace, and only through grace will they have the joy of peace. What is peace only the outcome of reconciliation through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ? Reconciliation between us and God, but also reconciliation between our brothers and sisters in Christ!
Oh, how Paul is teaching them. Someone has said, rightly so, that whatever Paul touches it turns into the Gospel. He touches this normal greeting of the day and it turns into the Gospel. He can't help it, because the Gospel is just welling up in his heart. But do you see how he's teaching them right at the very beginning, in two verses in the introduction of his letter, what the theme of everything is going to be - and we're going to unpack it in the weeks that lie ahead. But I want to unpack a few here that are found even in these two verses in the time that's left to us, and it's five things that I want you to note in these two verses.
The first: 'Paul and Timothy' - Paul and Timothy. Now here's how you'll know true joy, and we're breaking up this word 'humility' in a practical way that Paul is teaching them in these two verses. You will know true joy when you prepare selflessly for the future - get that. You will know true joy when you prepare selflessly for the future. Why did he mention Timothy? I believe one of the reasons why he mentioned Timothy was that he was preparing this church, and indeed other churches, to be under the authority of Timothy when Paul moved on. Timothy's the young man, Paul is the older man - youth and age are being yoked together in the service of God, and again he's showing how there's this unity, how there's this humility. He's not thinking: 'This whipper-snapper down here, I'm not going to mention him in my letter', but he unites together youth and age in the servants of God. As Jowett, the great preacher, said: 'It is the union of springtime and autumn, of enthusiasm and of experience, of impulse and of wisdom, of tender hope and quiet rich assurance'. We as a church, now mark this young people and older people or middle-aged people, or whatever you class yourself as - we will know joy as a church when we selflessly prepare for the future, and when there is selflessness between the young and the old.
Do you know why there are certain problems in some churches in our land today? It's because the young people want to rule the roost, and they want everything their way. That causes a problem because it ostracises older people who have different tastes and different needs and different wants in the congregation. But the converse of that is also another problem, where the young people are ostracised and it is the selfish needs and wants and tastes of older people that are always given the sway. But Paul says that there will be this joyous harmony and peace and unity when both of us, no matter whether we're young or old, sacrifice our own wants in the interest of others. Don't argue with me about it, it's all here in the book!
If you want to know that joy you've got to die to yourself. The first two words he's teaching them! Then look at the next word 'bondservants', this is the second thing, bondservants. This is what I want you to note here: when you give self-denying devotion to your Master, you will know the true joy of God deep down in your heart - when you give self-denying devotion to your Master. 'Bondservants', the Greek word is 'doulos', it's a slave, it's someone who is owned by someone else, who has got no will of their own, who goes and does things and goes places in obedience to their master - their will is not their own. I believe it's an allusion to Exodus 21 where we read there of the servant who's given his emancipation and is allowed to go free, but he loves his master so much that he knows that he's better off with his master. He stays with his master, and his master puts him up against a post and puts an awl through his ear and pierces him, and he becomes a devotee - not of duty, but of love toward his master.
This is what Paul meant when he said in 1 Corinthians 7: 'For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman'. We are free, but we choose to be slaves for the Lord Jesus Christ: 'Likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant'. Praise God, we've been freed from the bondage of our sin, but never forget child of God that we are expected to have devotion, service and bondslave devotion, toward our Lord Jesus Christ - and until you have that selflessly you will not know the joy of God deep down in your heart. Do you see how he's teaching these people? You know, if you're a slave of your master, your master has to worry about your keep, about the roof over your head, the clothes on your back, and the food on your plate. What does he say in this epistle? Philippians chapter 4 verse 19: 'My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus'.
The third thing I want you to notice: 'Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Christ Jesus' - not as the Authorised says, but 'of Christ Jesus'. Now here's the thing I want you to note here: when you follow your Lord's humble example, you will know the joy of God deep down in your heart. Some of you men will already know this, it's elementary, but I want you to bear with me because many of the young people will not know this. There's a reason for this change in order in the name of Christ, Christ Jesus rather than Jesus Christ. 'Christ Jesus', when Christ comes first in the name it's speaking of Him as the Exalted One who emptied Himself. First of all 'Christ', 'Messiah', that's what He was in glory, that came first, the pre-existent One in heaven - but He emptied Himself, and He humbled Himself and came to earth as the Lord Jesus. Do you see it? So Paul, even in this name, is speaking of the condescension of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now whenever we read of Him as Jesus Christ it's talking about how He was despised and rejected of men. First of all, when He came to the earth, that's what happened - but He is Christ afterwards, when He's exalted, He is risen from the dead and He's given a name that is above every name in heaven. Do you see the difference? When it's 'Christ Jesus' it's speaking of how He was in glory, but He condescended and became humbled to the earth; when it speaks of 'Jesus Christ', it speaks of how on the earth He was despised, but one day He became exalted through His resurrection and ascension - and some day every knee will bow, and tongue confess that He is God.
'Christ Jesus' speaks of His grace, coming from heaven to earth. 'Jesus Christ' speaks of His glory, how the One who was despised and trodden of men is now exalted. Now why does Paul choose this order, 'Christ Jesus'? Because he wants these Philippians to follow their Lord's humble example. James, Peter, John and Jude usually mention Him as 'Jesus Christ', because they knew Him on the earth - but remember when Paul first got to know Him? He had been exalted, He was in heaven, and it was the heavenly Christ - that's why we find so many times in his epistles he speaks of 'Christ Jesus'. But what is perhaps the 'magna carta' of this whole epistle, the key to it all and the most beautiful passage in it all? It's chapter 2, let me read you it in this literal translation, listen:
'Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there's any consolation of love, if there's any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in the Spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit; but with humility of mind let each one of you regard one another as more important than himself. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped: But emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant', there's the word again, He is the Bondservant of all bondservants that we are to look to and we are to follow.
It's all becoming clear, isn't it? Well, let's move on: 'Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints' - all the saints. Now here's the next thing: when you dwell with brethren in unity you will know the joy of God deep down in your heart. What does the Psalmist say? I love this Psalm: 'How good and how blessed it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It's like the precious ointment upon the head that ran down upon the beard of Aaron, that went down to the skirts of his garments; as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life forever more' - where's the blessing commanded? When God's people lay aside their own selfish rights, and start loving one another! Putting others before yourself.
Do you know what the biggest threat to this little church was? It was disunity. Do you know what the biggest threat to the church of Jesus Christ in Ulster is? It's disunity. It baffles me you know, and I know I have my doctrines, and you have yours, and everybody has theirs - but I go into wee towns, I was even driving through one yesterday, and there must have been half-a-dozen churches! Now I know we have liberty of conscience, but it's getting ridiculous today! You think one thing different than another brother and you go off! Can I just tell you here that the reason why Paul directs everything towards the saints is this: because one mark of holiness, that's what saints mean, not somebody on a stained-glass window, but every child of God is a saint - but it means they're called to live holy lives. One of the greatest marks of living a holy life is unity with your brothers and sisters.
We have spawned a doctrine in this nation and in this land that separation is a mark of holiness - and it is, separation from the world and separation from false doctrine. I'm not talking about the fundamentals of the Gospel here, but what I am talking about is this: one of the greatest marks of holiness is unity with your brethren and sisters in Christ, and we've lost that somewhere. Leslie Flynn wrote a book called 'Great Church Fights' - must have been a long one! He penned this verse:
'Believe as I believe, no more, no less,
That I am right and no-one else, confess.
Feel as I feel, think as I think,
Eat as I eat, and drink as I drink.
Look as I look, do as I do,
Then I'll have fellowship with you'.
'Paul...to all the saints'. Well, finally, 'in Christ Jesus, who are in Philippi' - in Philippi, yet in Christ Jesus. You see the fifth thing that I want you to notice is: when you recognise your heavenly citizenship and your position you will know the joy of God deep down in your heart. Now that's just like a resume of the whole epistle, and it's only in the first two verses - but it really excites me! They're in two places at the one time: they're in Christ Jesus, yet at the same time in Philippi. What he's saying is: 'Christ is your source of life, yet Philippi is your sphere of life'. You're living in one place, but in another sense you're in a heavenly place - and that is how to survive life's circumstances, it's the secret of joy in the Christian life: to be in Christ when in Belfast, when in London, when in Los Angeles, when in Paris, when in Japan, when in the workplace, when in school. Wherever you are the secret of it all, of joy, is being in Christ and bringing Christ into those places, and changing those places through Christ.
You will know the joy of God when you abide in Christ. It's all summed up: joy comes in Christ, through humility, and through unity. That's what this epistle is about, and isn't it interesting that his own joy is unrelated to his circumstances? He's in prison, they're in troubles and persecution, but the contentment and the joy that he knows is the fact that even though he is locked up and they're in problems, he's confident that the grace and Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is advanced. Here's the real crux of the matter of his joy: he doesn't care that even his own inconvenience comes upon him, his own pain, he's beaten, he's downcast, he's put into prison, as long as the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes forward! That's the key to joy, when you see people saved, the church built up, and Christians deepened no matter what it costs for you - that's joy.
As we enter into this epistle, as we finish our sermon this morning, can I quote Alec Mateer and what he says? I want this to be our sentiment: 'Why should the world heed our evangelism if it does not see in the church that Christ has solved the problems of isolation, alienation, division, which curse and blight its own life? This is what the world is waiting for today, as it did in Philippi in Paul's day. It waits for the sight of a people who have solved its problems through the reality of being in Christ, and whose lifestyle sets forth the old God-given morality with fresh loveliness as the holy likeness of Jesus is seen in them'. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
Father, there are those in this building at this moment who are going through very difficult days, those who feel imprisoned by happenings and circumstances. But we pray in the weeks that lie ahead, Father, that we will know the emancipation of the Spirit of God in our hearts as we realise that it is through the cross that we have life. Thank You for our Lord, and for how He humbled Himself. Father, help us to trod the path that He trod, that others may see Him and His humility in us. Help us to stop fighting for our own rights, what we want, but put the interests of others before the interests of ourselves. Help us all to render up our sword, that Thou shalt conqueror be. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the first tape in his Philippians series, titled "Introduction To Philippians" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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