This sermon is number 9 in a series of 24
Philippians - Part 9
"The Marks Of A Spiritual Church - Part 2"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2002 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Philippians chapter 1 verse 27: "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me".
We've been studying in these last few verses of chapter 1, verse 27 to the end, marks of a good church - or, if you like, better put 'The Marks of a Spiritual Church'. We saw last week that the language that Paul uses tells us that there is a war on, and in this war the matter that is at stake is the very gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. For that reason, he says in verse 27, let your conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ. The gospel of Christ is what is at stake in our land among the witness of those who believe in the Lord Jesus, the Church of Jesus Christ. We were asking last week how we ought to fight the battle for the gospel, and that is the answer that Paul gives us right away in verse 27: 'Let your conversation', your way of life, or specifically the word generates from the word that is used of citizenship, 'Let your citizenship be that which becometh the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ'.
The gospel is fought, primarily, on the battleground of our livelihood, our citizenship down here on earth, and how we represent the Lord Jesus Christ in the way that we live our lives. We saw last week that there are certain types of clothing that belong to the old nature that we have left behind in our old way of life, and we are to put those clothes off and put on the new clothes that become the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, our livelihood, our lives, our conversation, our citizenship ought to enhance the gospel, rather than detract from the gospel.
We saw how important that is, because the testimony of this little church was going abroad, and Paul was saying: 'I want to hear of your affairs, that whether I come to you or just hear about your testimony, that I hear that you're standing fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel'. Whether we like it or not, or whether we want to admit it, or whether we know about it, the testimony of the Iron Hall, the testimony that we hold as believers goes forth and goes abroad, and other believers hear about it. If we were to home in specifically to your individual testimony and personal conversation before the Lord Jesus we could say the same, that your affairs - whether people see it, as Paul wished he could see it, but he was in prison and he couldn't, but even in prison he was hearing about their affairs - how their lives were testifying, or not testifying, to the gospel and to that which becometh the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Really the crux, and the common denominator of our conclusion in the message last week was this: that there is no greater weapon fighting for the gospel, and fighting against the devil and his empire and his forces, than the consistency of a godly life and a godly church. Now we're going to move on today, because Paul says that if we are to be worthy, as a church he's talking to of course, but we can apply it individually to ourselves, that if we are to be worthy of the gospel of Christ we must be three things - or, if you like, we must do three things.
The first thing we find in verse 27 at the end: 'that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind'. So we're going to see today that the first thing Paul says is a mark of a good church, spiritual church, or a church, as he says specifically, that is worthy of the gospel of Christ, is a church that stands fast, a church that stands together in one spirit and in one mind. If we go on we see that he makes it more specific by saying: 'striving together for the faith of the gospel'. So not only are we to stand together, Paul says, but we are to strive together for the gospel of Christ. As we read on in verse 29 we find that he says: 'For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake'. Now he's talking to the church, a body of believers, to stand together, to strive together, and they were called to suffer together for the name of the Lord Jesus.
There we have a threefold mark in Paul's mind of a spiritual church, of a good church, of a church that has a testimony, that is worthy of the gospel and calling of Jesus Christ. So let us look at the first today: to stand together, and he says - look at verse 27: 'stand fast together', or it could be translated 'stand firm together'. This Greek word that Paul uses is used of a soldier who was to defend his position and his post at all costs, and even if he was to come to the point of losing his own life, losing his family of course and the relationship he would have in this live, he was to stand fast at all costs. If it came to the point of giving his life for his cause, he was to do it. Paul is saying to the church: 'You have got to stand fast together for the conviction, the post that God has called you to despite all the opposition that comes your way'.
Now remember the great apostle is in prison as he's writing this, and he himself can say this because he is standing fast. We learnt in recent studies, a couple of weeks back, that Paul's testimony of how he stood fast in prison for the gospel was actually bolstering and encouraging and strengthening the other Philippians to go out and to preach the gospel because they saw in Paul's testimony something great of a man standing firm upon his convictions - and no matter if the whole Roman Empire was against Paul, he was going to stand fast, not be moved! Of course, it's twofold, standing fast - it's standing fast for God, and it's standing fast against the devil. Paul was doing both of these things.
I believe, perhaps, the picture that Paul has - and remember he's seeing soldiers everyday, in fact he can't get away from one because one is chained onto his arm - he's thinking about a military band or battalion, and they're all marching together. Sometimes you see this on our television, or if you've been to Buckingham Palace to the changing of the guard you see this: all of these soldiers, perhaps a hundred of them, stand and march as if they were all one man. They're consistent, they're shoulder to shoulder, there's not a man out of place, not a step out of time - they're all like one soldier. That is exactly what Paul is saying, look at it: 'stand fast, having the one spirit, and having the one mind'.
Now the 'spirit' here's not the Holy Spirit, he's talking about the spirit that you have - and you need to know that you're made up of three pieces, you're a tripartite being. You have a body that we can all see; you have a soul that is like your personality, it is the seat of your intellect, your emotions, and your volition, your will - you decide with your soul, you think with your soul, you feel with your soul. But this is not what Paul is talking about here, he's talking about your spirit: that part of you that is in contact with God, that was deadened before you were saved and now has been quickened, and you're made alive toward God in your spirit. Now he's talking about how we are to have a purpose and an aim in our spirit, and if our spirit is in connection with God our purposes and our aims will be whose? They will be God's.
'Be of one spirit', and that means have the aims and the purposes that God would have for you, be unified as the church of Jesus Christ in your purposes and in your programmes. If we can put it transversely, there are to be no divisions in the church of Jesus Christ. This is the mark, one of the marks, of a good spiritual church - having God's desires as our desires, having God's purposes as our purposes, having God's programme as the programme of the Iron Hall! That's what Paul is talking about here.
Then he goes on and he says: 'and being one in mind'. Standing fast together, one in mind - now the word for 'mind' here is the same word as 'soul', which is the Greek word 'pseukae' (sp?), and they are interchanged at times within the Bible. I've told you that one of the facets of your soul is your mind, your intellect: there are emotions, there is your will, your determination, but there's also your intellect - you think in your soul, and that's why the word 'mind' can be translated in this way. But I believe that Paul specifically here means how you think in your mind, through your soul, with a determination and with a will to accomplish what is in your spirit given by God. OK, you get it like this: you're in contact with God, and God reveals to your spirit what His will is - well, you need to interact your soul and execute the will of your soul with determination to do what God has purposed and planned for you.
I hope we're getting the whole picture here today: a spiritual church is a church that allows God to speak spiritually to our hearts, and to display and disclose, and to diffuse His own will to our hearts. But it doesn't stop there, it's not all about knowing what God's will is, but the mark of a spiritual church will not only be of one spirit but of one mind - the seat of your will - an execution where you do what God has declared to you. Where the 'pseukae', the soul, is active; where you don't just have an aim, but you have aim and action; where you have a purpose. What we need today in our church, and among believers, and for the testimony of the gospel, is people who have a purpose, but act upon that purpose and go for it!
You've heard the old saying that if you aim at nothing you'll hit it - isn't that right? Sometimes, I must admit, it appals me the way we treat the Lord's work. We even make a plan to go out and do the shopping - not that I would know much about that, but I see sometimes a little list being made - and there's even a bit of thought being put into going and buying the groceries. There's thought about washing your car, there's thought about baking and doing the house cleaning and your finances, but at times when it comes to the work of the Lord there is this attitude: 'Ach, that'll do rightly'. My friend, if Paul is true, and we know he's true because he is inspired here by the Spirit of God, we cannot aim at nothing within the work of God. We cannot have no aims and no objectives, and we cannot be satisfied with knowing what we ought to do, but not having the will and the determination, the volition to actually execute - and, whatever it costs, to go for it!
I'll tell you this, in the light of Paul's letter to the Philippians, and in the day in which he is living, and in the day in which we are living - which isn't a million miles away to his own personal civilisation and experience - I believe that the only way that the gospel can succeed today is with a church that will stand fast together in one spirit and in one soul. That's what we need. Turn with me, we're never going to get through this again, we'll probably only get through the first one here, but Acts chapter 4 verse 32. I really feel that the Lord is speaking to us as a church through these verses, and that's why I'm spending a little more time than usual over them. Acts 4 verse 32, and of course you've got the acts of the early church here as well as the apostles, you see how the early church - probably in its most purest form - operated. Verse 32: 'And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul'. You may ask the question: 'Why was the early church so successful in their execution of gospel ministry? Why was it that simple men and unlearned and ignorant men, were able to turn the world upside-down?'. I could point you to their prayer life, I could point you to their holiness, I could point you to how they gave everything that they had and put it altogether and clubbed together for the gospel - but certainly we couldn't ignore this: they believed with one heart and one soul '...neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common'.
They were working together for the cause of God in one spirit and in one mind. Of course in Ephesians 6 and verse 6 we read about the armour of God, that we as individual believers are to put on, and effectually when we all put on the armour of God we become a Christian army that we were singing about at the beginning of our meeting. We all walk together like armour-bearers, shoulder to shoulder, and we move like one whole soldier. Paul says we are to put on that armour and work for God, not with eye-service as men pleasers, but as the servants of Christ doing the will of God from the 'pseukae', the heart.
The reason why we have to stand fast together in one spirit and one mind is because we fight an enemy. Of course there is an enemy within in false doctrine and those who come among us unawares, but the primary enemy perhaps that we have is the devil himself. Our job is to fight with the forces of evil, and not be ignorant of that evil. Turn with me to Ephesians chapter 4 please, Ephesians chapter 4, and we studied these in the Bible Reading a year or so ago. Verse 1, Paul is expressing the same sentiment about standing fast together: 'I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord', writing again from prison, 'beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called', that's the same thing as he said to the Philippians, that your conversation would be that which becometh the gospel of Christ. 'With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep', now that word 'keep' is the word for 'guard', 'at all costs guard' - it's a bit similar to 'stand fast', defending your post and not moving at all costs - keep what? 'Keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' - why, Paul? Why keep this unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Because that is when the testimony of the gospel will be the greatest, and that is when we will do the most damaging work to the enemy, when we are united together in the gospel!
I say it again because I want it to get through, that there is nothing that mars the testimony of the gospel as much as disunity in the church of Jesus Christ. The irony of these verses that we're reading together is that we ourselves, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, could be doing the devil's work in defeating the gospel through disunity in the assembly! Imagine that, for just a moment, those who have been liberated by the grace of God and by the power of the blood of Christ; delivered from the world, the flesh, and the devil by His cross - doing the devil's work! I tell you, if you're involved in this work of disunity and slander and backbiting and scheming and rebellion, you're the best disciple that the devil's got here in the Iron Hall! Do you hear that from the word of God today? If you don't take it from me interpreting the word of God, listen to the Lord Jesus in Matthew 12: 'A house divided against itself will fall' - sure, it's common sense, isn't it? But we as believers don't seem to be able to grasp this, or maybe we just don't want to grasp it! When we are divided, and people see that we are divided, the gospel testimony is done harm and we are not walking worthy of the gospel that we're meant to wear and enhance.
If you turn to John chapter 17 for a moment, and I want to show you very clearly that this is from the word of God. This is called the high priestly prayer, commonly, of the Lord; or could just be called His intercessory prayer. John 17 and verse 21, and here's one of the petitions that the Lord gives - He's been praying already and this is another petition, verse 21: 'That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us', now here's the reason that the Lord Himself gives that they should be one, 'that the world may believe that thou hast sent me'. Now let's go backward: 'Father', He says, 'if the world is going to believe that thou hast sent me, it's going to be necessary that my people are one as we are one'.
This is serious stuff, it's alright for the Pastor the preacher to be up here preaching about these type of things, but when you see the Lord Jesus Christ Himself on His knees before His Father praying that we would be one - does that not make you want to be one? When we realise that His gospel that He bled and died for is at stake, should that not make us want to be one? It was F.A. Noble that said: 'A church in which the sentiment of unity has been displaced by the bitterness of mutual will, might as well go at once into the hands of a receiver. The days of its usefulness and prosperity are at an end'. Do we stand fast together in one mind and in one spirit? I know that some of you can have a wounded spirit; I've no doubt that some of you in the seat of your emotions, the soul, has been hurt by another believer, or perhaps by something that has gone on in this assembly - I just do not know - perhaps in your mind, your intellect, the seat of your intellect in your soul, you have been hurt because you disagree with the odd thing here or there. I don't know what it is, maybe your will is hurt, but you just seem not to have it in you to obey God and to be at the Lord's Table, to be at the prayer meeting, to do what the Lord asks you to do, to do what the assembly expects you to do. Can I tell you: we have, as the Captain of our salvation, as the Commander of the Lord of hosts, the Overcomer and the Conqueror who defeated these things in His own life, and on your behalf has defeated these things - and He says through His Spirit using that same word 'pseukae' in Hebrews 12 and verse 3: 'For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your pseukae, in your mind'.
Now let's get personal this morning: what is it that hinders you standing fast with the rest of the believers in this assembly, with one spirit and one mind? Why is it that there are certain people who are busy bodies and bitter, and won't talk to one another, and backbite? Why is it? It could be that they themselves have endured the contradiction of sinners, but the exhortation today is: don't give back what you get, but rather do not faint or be wearied in your soul, be steadfast, be unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Let me address some folk in this building who have been a long way on the road of faith with the Lord Jesus Christ. I tell you, it's wonderful when we're first saved, isn't it? It's wonderful to be excited with the things of the Lord and to stand fast for the defence of the gospel, but I'll tell you there's something greater than starting well. It's good to begin, but it's better to keep steadily on until the end!
I want to ask you today: where are you on your road of faith? We see the young enthusiastic soldier coming into the thick of the battle in the dawn of the day with his gleaming armour, and the light shining off it dazzling and blinding - what a great sight that is! But do you know what a greater sight is? When all the stench and the smoke of battle is fallen, and as Paul says in Ephesians 6 and verse 13, that 'having put on the armour of God, that we stand, and having done all to stand'. Are you standing today? Come on now, where are you in the work of the gospel? Where are you in the work of the assembly? Are you out of step? Are you not walking shoulder to shoulder? Are you standing at your post that you once stood at, but you've given in being fearful? My friend, this is a battle, and I'll tell you this: if we want to see people converted, if you want to see the glory that is in the gospel of Christ, and if we want to see an assembly and conversation, lives, among our assembly that becometh the gospel of Christ; we've got to stand firm fast together in one spirit and in one mind!
I'm led to believe that in World War II the RAF used to employ psychologists, psychiatrists. And one of the psychologists noticed that whenever the pilots, the Spitfire pilots, were out in the thick of the battle, whenever the bombers were doing their sorties, their nervous system was hyped up to such a peak, such a knife edge, and they were aware of every single thing that was going on around them - they were so conscious, so focused. Then they would come in towards - after surviving that fight, and that battle - they would come in towards the landing ground and the runway, and the psychologists and the psychiatrists noticed that there was an almost irresistible tendency to relax. Do you know when the most accidents happened? When they were coming in for their final landing.
Child, I say in grace to you today, and as I do to my own heart: have you relaxed in this spiritual battle? I address you as a people of God: have we relaxed? Have we relaxed in the work of God? This is a fight, and it's a fight to the death! The great prophet Daniel had many attributes that are worthy of our consideration today, but I'll tell you this, one that is perhaps his greatest that you would very easily scan by with your eye reading the story is in chapter 1 and verse 21, and it says this: 'He continued' - he continued. What the world needs today is not a flashing star or a blazing meteor, what the world needs to see today is churches and people who will stand fast with one spirit and with one soul. My question to you today is: will you be that people?
Let us bow our heads: now friends, I don't know about you, but I know God has been speaking to my heart through these messages - and that's why we're spending time on them. I hope sincerely He's been speaking to you, every one of you. Can you ask yourself the question: do you stand fast with this assembly? Or are there times that the assembly is mentioned on your lips in disdain, in criticism? Do you stand fast with the oversight and the deacons, do you help in the work? Have you a work for Jesus to do, or do you just do nothing? This is serious, this is the fundamental question that will lend to whether this testimony is here in ten years or not, and we need to face up to it now before it's too late. The rallying call of our Commander, Jesus Christ, today is: 'Come together, oh, you can have your differences of opinion, you can have different thoughts and feelings, but come together at least for the sake of My gospel, for the sake of My blood, for the sake of those who are lost, perishing and need to see consistency in the conversation of My people and My temple'. Will you give whatever's hurting you up to God? Will you let it go? Oh, I pray to God you will.
Father, we thank Thee for the two-edged nature of the sword of Thy word. Father, there is none of us here can say that we take it lightly, or that it's a great message to our hearts, because it's not - because we feel condemned, we feel slain of the Lord. We feel compelled to put aside our petty differences, because of what is at stake: the great battle, the battle for the gospel, the battle for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lord, it was Thine eternal plan and purpose to have a holy and peculiar people, separated unto Thyself, unto the gospel for a testimony to Thy name. That was the prayer of our Lord Jesus, our Father, that they may be one as we are one - God forgive us, forgive us for our divisiveness, forgive us for our slander and our talking about one another in a censorious manner and not in a manner that is seeking after the betterment of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Father, the only One we should be talking to about our brethren is Thyself and is themselves, when we come beside them and ask is it well with them. Father, would you pour in the oil of healing into our hearts, even today would we hear of brethren and sisters going to one another, and putting away their differences as the Lord told us to: if ye have ought against your brother, or if any brother hath ought against you, go to them. Lord, we're in disobedience if we don't, so let us go today - that the blessing of the gospel of Christ should rest upon this testimony, for Jesus' sake we pray. 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 ninth tape in his Philippians series, titled "The Marks Of A Spiritual Church Part 2" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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