Part 3:The Joy of Spiritual Community
Pastor Terry Inman
Philippians 1:27-2:18 NIV
At this time Paul was hoping to be released from imprisonment in Rome as he had been previously in Philippi. As a Roman Citizen, in Philippi, he was able to get his false charges dropped, and he had hoped to visit the Philippian church again. But even if it didn’t happen he wanted them to stand together united in the faith. He wanted them to experience the Joy of Spiritual Community.
If we put as much energy into sharing the good news of the gospel as we do fretting over the culture wars we wouldn't be in the mess we are in!
He knew they would encounter some of the same challenges he had faced when he was there. He writes, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Phil. 1.27 NIV)
This first line “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy” is actually a political phrase, “live as a citizen”. He was using the pride of Roman citizenship as an analogy for Kingdom or spiritual Citizenship. When Paul was in Philippi he leveraged his Roman citizenship to demand an official apology. He wants these Philippian citizens of heaven to realize that no matter what happens to them socially or politically they are ruled by a higher power.
The kingdom of God will always be in conflict with the kingdoms of this world. Some Christians spend way too much time and energy worrying about politics. It’s true we are in a culture war and we need to exercise our rights as citizens, as Paul did. However the kingdom is not in the White House, it’s in God’s house--His people!
Paul knew these believers were facing opposition, he insisted they take a stand not on political platforms but on their faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He tells them to stand strong together.
Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. (Phil. 1.27b-28 NIV)
A lot of Christians in America are living in fear and anger over the massive political and cultural changes we are experiencing. But Jesus said, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Luke 12.4-5 (NIV)
We need to revere God, not man. We are to contend as a faith community, not for political or social causes but as Paul says we are, “standing firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith”
If we put as much energy into sharing the good news of the gospel as we do fretting over the culture wars we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in!
If we live up to the gospel we will have plenty of influence. Our lives will create a healthy fear of God. Paul says, “This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved--and that by God.
We will suffer for Christ in this life but it is not with out purpose. “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (Phil. 1:29-30 NIV)
Belief includes some grief. Following Christ is more than accepting Christ.
It is accepting some discomfort and rejection in this life. The word “struggle” here is used for athletic contests or conflicts in the arena.
When we follow Christ we will have antagonists. Antagonists mature us. Paul prepared people for it. “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3.12 NIV)
When Paul was in Philippi he was stripped beaten and falsely imprisoned, but God rescued him to accomplish his purposes. Here he prepares these Philippians for similar struggles. That’s why he insists that they “contend as one man for the faith” without being frightened by the opposition.
In the next few verses Paul clearly lays out how to stand united in spirit, contending for the faith. He describes the Joy of Spiritual Community.
He begins with four, “if’s”
(1.) If you have any encouragement (support) from being united with Christ
(2.) if any comfort from his love
(3.) if any fellowship with the Spirit
(4.) if any tenderness and compassion--
…then, He says, “make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” (Phil. 2.1-2 NIV)
It gave Paul great joy to remember his connection with this church but what would make the joy complete or more fulfilling is to see them relate to each other the same way they were experiencing Christ. If you feel Christ’s encouragement, comfort, companionship, affection and compassion then support each other in the same way.
Some of us think all we need to do is make sure we believe in Jesus. We also enjoy the love and support we receive from him. But the bible makes it clear that to love Jesus is to love each other. We stand untied when we treat each other the way Jesus treats us. This validates the gospel!
We will suffer for Christ as we contend for the faith. That’s all the more reason we need love and support each other with genuine community. This kind of community is counter to our self-centered nature and culture.
Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
(Phil. 2. 3-4 NIV)
We are to replace contention and conceit with humility and selflessness. We have enough contention coming from the outside we sure don’t need it inside the church!
Paul is not taking about some kind of self-deprecation. Humility and un-selfishness requires a healthy sense of worth. It’s insecurity that contributes to conceit and self-interest.
Paul doesn’t say we are to ignore ourselves he simply says, we need to look out for the interests of others. Again this was attitude of Christ.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Phil. 2.5-7 NIV)
As I mentioned a couple weeks ago this is a creed or “statement of faith” about the Lord Jesus Christ. He is God yet He chose to relinquish His entitlements and assume the nature of a servant. He came as a man.
Humility is not the absence of importance it is the surrender of our privilege on behalf of others.
In addition to the humility of humanity Jesus also submitted to an inhumane death by false accusation and crucifixion.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Phil. 2.8 NIV) This form of capital punishment was reserved for slaves and foreigners!
Paul began by stating the benefits of knowing Christ-- encouragement, comfort, companionship, affection and compassion. We pass it on to each other.
We have to get off the throne of self, and serve each other.
As Paul recites the divinity and humility of Jesus he becomes ecstatic and continues singing the praises of the Lord. Humility leads to honor!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Because of this affirmation of faith we believe in Christ’s Resurrection, ascension, glorification and His glorious return as the exalted one. So according to Paul we have some work to do that is beyond belief, we need to let him complete his character in us.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Phil. 2.12-13 NIV)
Paul is asking for something more than performance when he is present. If he never makes it back to see them he wants to know they are united together and progressing in the faith.
Working out our salvation is different than working for our salvation.
“Working out” is exercising or experiencing our faith. Like I said earlier, it is beyond belief. It is a progressive a change in our behavior. It is letting God perform His “good purpose” in our lives.
Paul began this discussion with suffering. “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil. 1.29 NIV)Suffering often works out his will and purpose in our lives. Especially when we practice the joy of spiritual community.
Paul moves from the theological to the practical. Our relationships with each other perfect His nature in us. This is conduct worthy of the gospel.
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (Phil. 2.14-16 NIV)
There were some issues in the Philippian Church--some complaining, competition and contention. Paul is clear--If you enjoy the love of Christ share with each other. Submit to each other and serve each other!
He ends by affirming that real joy comes from the hard choices.
But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. (Phil. 2.17-18 NIV)
Paul like Jesus was suffering for the gospel. He was in prison pouring out his life for others. He is glad to do it. He is rejoicing for the privilege of stretching and strengthen their faith.
So he says, “you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”
Joy is not the absence of suffering it is the contribution of our lives to Christ on behalf of others. There is no such thing as serving Christ without serving people. This is “The Joy of Spiritual Community”!