Text: Philippians 1:27-30
Title: To Suffer For His Name
Date: December 11th, 2022
Location: Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, Washington
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; 28 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. 29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; 30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
Father, we ask now that as your word is preached, it would come with the demonstration of power and not in word only, for we ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
Well last week we closed with the charge: “Do not get to heaven without any good stories to tell.” And our text this morning continues to challenge us along that same line.
- If it is true that to live is Christ and to die is gain; if it is true that resurrection life is forever, and this life is a breath, then why do we not take bigger risks for God?
- Why do we not make seeking the kingdom a higher priority?
- Why are we still so afraid of pain, of suffering, of conflict, of people disapproving of us?
It is as if when Jesus called us to follow him, we forgot that he said, “take up you your cross and follow me,” “deny yourself and follow me.”
- Jesus says in Luke 14:26-27, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
- Many people start to follow Jesus, but not all of them continue.
- If you remember the Parable of the Sower, there are people who receive the word with gladness, endure for a time, but when “affliction or persecution ariseth, they are offended” and fall away (Mark 4:16-18).
- It is not easy to be a Christian, and depending on the time and place in which you live, it may be more or less difficult. In America we have enjoyed a couple hundred years of relative peace from overt persecution. We can gather here freely, this is not China, we do not have to hide, and yet there are many covert ways that Christians are marginalized, silenced, and shamed in our culture.
- There are Christians who have lost their livelihoods by daring to stand firm against the regime.
- We will not bake the cake for the gay wedding.
- We will not be silent as they abort and mutilate children.
- We will not play pronoun games and pretend that God never said, “from the beginning He made them male and female.” (Matt. 19:4).
- If you dare to say those things in public, prepare to suffer.
- We do not live in the same context as the Apostles or the Philippians in the 1st century. You will probably not be thrown to the lions for saying Jesus is Lord.
- Nevertheless, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will endure some measure of suffering. And Christ’s call to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Him is still the same. And for most of us that cross is going to be the loss of friends and family and public approval when they find out what you believe.
- If you do not hide your light and witness under a bushel, and people see you shining forth the truth of Christ, there will be pushback. The darkness will try to snuff you out.
- No man enters heaven with the world praising him for his great righteousness. The righteous one came, and what did they do to him? And so why should it be any different for us? This was true for the Philippians, and it is true for us today.
So as we walk through our passage this morning, I want to place this question before us all: Do we desire to be counted worthy to suffer for the name?
- Notice the question is not, “Do we desire to suffer?” We are not masochists, this is not asking you to have a “martyr complex.” But do you desire to be counted worthy in the eyes of God to suffer for His name?
- Or put another way, do you desire to be as righteous and favored as Job? Or does that scare you a little bit? It scares me, cause I don’t want to lose everything, I don’t want all my children to die, I want them to live, I want to live and watch them grow up.
- And so one of the primary ways we suffer as Christians is by receiving from God many good and perfect gifts, and then, being asked to give them back to Him whenever he says so. The challenge for most of us will be to thank God for the many gifts He has given (they are countless), and then to thank Him also when He takes them away.
- It is hard for the rich man to enter heaven, because he has so much more to lose, and if we get too attached to these things of earth, we can become blind to how fleeting and temporary it all is. So this sermon is a reminder for all of us.
- Is Christ sufficient for you? Do you love His glory more than anything? Do you desire to be counted worthy to suffer for Him? I hope this sermon can help us say to that.
With this in mind, I want to set the context for our passage by going to the book of Acts, Acts chapter 5.
- There, the apostles are beaten before the Sanhedrin and commanded to not preach or speak in the name of Jesus. And Luke says in verses 41-42, “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
- The Apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer, they saw that God was honoring them by giving them suffering, and once they are released, they keep going, they do not stop doing the thing that brought suffering upon them.
- This is the situation that both Paul and the Philippians find themselves in.
- Paul is in prison in Rome for preaching Christ. And meanwhile in the Roman colony of Philippi (800 miles away), Christians are being pressured and persecuted as well.
- Moving into our text, verses 27-30 mark a new section in the book. This section will run from Phil.1:27 thru Phil. 2:18, this is one unit of thought that focuses on how the Philippians are to conduct themselves in Paul’s absence.
Starting in verse 27, Paul says,
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
- All throughout this section Paul is going to use athletic, military, and political language to describe how the Philippians are to conduct themselves, and this is intentional.
- For example, this word for conversation (πολιτεύεσθε) could be translated more accurately by the phrase “live as citizens,” that is “live as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
- Later in Phil. 3:20, Paul will say, “our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven.”
- And so the idea here is that the Philippians are to live first and foremost as citizens of heaven, and that loyalty to Christ and His lordship will shape how they live as citizens of Philippi.
- Now we should note that, heavenly citizenship does not nullify your earthly citizenship. We know this because Paul explicitly appeals to his status as a Roman citizen in order to gain a fair trial. At the same time, it is because of Paul’s heavenly citizenship, that he is being brought up on charges in the first place.
- And so we are duel citizens in this sense, but there may be times when our heavenly citizenship, our duties to Christ, will get us in trouble.
- Sometimes this trouble will be with the governing authorities, sometimes the trouble will come from fellow citizens who simply don’t like us.
- This is what we saw in Acts 16, Paul casts the evil spirit out of the damsel, she is delivered, but then her handlers bring Paul and Silas up on charges for disturbing the peace, messing with their business.
- When the gospel goes forth, when Christians are living as citizens of heaven, it will often disrupt the status quo. Suddenly sinful business practices, sinful habits of life, get exposed, and with that comes resistance (people don’t like change!).
- So Paul says “let your conversation, let your life as citizens, be as becometh the gospel of Christ.”
- We’ll get a much fuller picture of what this looks like in future sermons, but for now notice the things that Paul is emphasizing here:“that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
- What does it look like to live as citizens as becomes the gospel?
- It looks like unity.
- Unity to stand firm in one spirit.
- Unity to be of one mind, to have the mind of Christ.
- Unity to work together for the faith of the gospel.
An Aside On Church Unity
In the history of the church down to the present day, there is constant debate over what kind of unity the church should have. And so I want to give you a few distinctions to help us think biblically about this, because this is one of the big dividing lines between Protestants and Roman Catholics/Eastern Orthodox.
- In Ephesians 4, Paul says we are to “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, for there is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” In John 17, Jesus prays that his church will be one.
- In this sense, there is an objective, invisible, spiritual unity that all believers across the world have. We are one body in Christ. The church is objectively and spiritually one.
- At the same time, this invisible unity can be more or less reflected in the visible church.
- One of the major errors of both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox systems, is that they equate institutional or visible unity with real spiritual unity. They equate communion in and submission to their specific form of episcopal church government, whether under the pope or archbishop, with the real spiritual communion and submission we have to Christ.
- And so whereas some lament the many different denominations in Protestantism, and there are certainly some divisions that are lamentable, this is not in and of itself a contradiction of our unity. The church is one in Christ. All the elect have a real unity in the Holy Spirit. But this does not mean we have to have one big denomination the crosses language and border.
- We believe that one day there will be greater visible unity and cooperation amongst different churches, but nowhere in Scripture does God command the kind of institutional unity that the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox assert.
- So notice in our text that the unity Paul calls for here, is a unity first…
- 1) to stand firm in one spirit (ἑνὶ πνεύματι), that is with one heart of love for the Lord.
- 2) to be of one mind (μιᾷ ψυχῇ) together, that is to be united with the mind of Christ in all humility and service.
- 3) from that unity of heart and mind, to strive together for the faith of the gospel, that is work together to preach and make Christ known. We might call this a unity of evangelism or witness.
- None of these forms of unity require us to all be in the same denomination. And so when it comes to preaching the gospel, witnessing to our community, we should read this letter to the Philippians like it was written to the saints in Centralia or Chehalis. The population of Philippi (and the surrounding region) was likely around 50,000 people, so about twice the size of Centralia/Chehalis. And Paul is commanding the Christians in that region of whatever stripe, to be united together.
- This doesn’t mean they have to agree on every point of doctrine, they didn’t all agree then, and we don’t have to all agree now, but nevertheless, we are to be united in our love and witness to Christ.
- And the reason we need to do this is given in the next verse.
28 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.
- The reason we need to be united is because it is hard to stand alone. It is not easy to stand against adversity when all your friends abandon you.
- There’s a church in my hometown that when the federal vaccination mandate went out, they became one of the few churches that people could go to for a religious exemption letter. And writing those letters made them wildly unpopular amongst other churches that were formally friendly to them.
- That church believed correctly, that such a mandate is unlawful, and though it is not sinful to get the jab, it is sinful for the government to mandate that we do. And taking that kind of stand in this day of government tyranny is not popular, even and especially amongst many Christians. And so here was an instance where the church should stand firm, and stand firm together, and yet many churches folded under the pressure.
- It’s hard to stand alone. It is far easier to stand when you have an army of saints at your side. And this is how God wants the church to stand united against injustice and adversity, for the sake of Christ’s kingdom.
- A divided church is easy to conquer. But a church united is a terror to the darkness.
- The sense of this verse is that, when we are unafraid in the face of our adversaries, this is a sign both of our salvation and their destruction.
- As it says in 2 Thess. 1:4-6, “We ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: 5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.”
- Christ will defend his Bride. God will avenge the blood of His saints. And so we ought to be courageous in the face of evil. This is your opportunity to have a good story to tell in heaven.
- Finally in verses 29-30, Paul tells the Philippians how to receive this suffering.
29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; 30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
- Do you believe that faith is a gift from God?
- You should because it is.
- Ephesians 2:8 says the same thing, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
- Do you believe that suffering is also a gift from God?
- You should because it too is a gift.
- And this is the key to how we can desire to be counted worthy to suffer for the name:
- We must see that God is the giver of our tribulation. God is the one who in the words of Job, “gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
- It says in Amos 3:6, “Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?”
- God says in Isaiah 45:7, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”
- For the Christian there is nothing that happens to you, that does not first pass through the kind hands of your Heavenly Father. And that means that everything painful, everything that you suffer, is conspiring for your good.
- If you believe that, if you believe Romans 8:28 and Genesis 50:20, and Philippians 1:29, then you can joyfully pray these words: “God make me worthy to suffer for Christ. I don’t want to suffer, but if suffering for You will further the kingdom and Your glory, I will gladly take up cross and follow you wherever you go.”
- Faith is a gift, and suffering for Christ is a gift too.
- We must see that God is the giver of our tribulation. God is the one who in the words of Job, “gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 21, “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost. 19 By your patience possess your souls.”
- Jesus promises that even in death, not a hair of your head will be lost. That means, there is nothing you can lose here if you belong to Jesus. Death really is gain.
- And so whatever you give up, whatever you lose, whatever you suffer for Christ, Jesus says, “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, 30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” (Luke 18:29-30)
- This offer still stands to all who believe, so come to Christ, remain with Christ, by your patience possess your souls and He will give you life forever. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.