Gospel-Centered Living (Pt 1) - 1:27-28

Introduction

Well, as we look together into the word of God, I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me the book of Philippians yet again, Philippians chapter 1. In case you are wondering, I am preaching through the book of Philippians backwards. We have gone from chapter 4 to chapter 2, now to chapter 1. It is a new trend I think that is emerging, and next week we will be in Ephesians, I guess. So, Philippians chapter 1. I want today for us to look at verses 27 to 30. The title of this message is Gospel-Centered Living. I want to begin by reading this wonderful, wonderful passage of Scripture. The word of God reads:


    
    27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I     come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

The overflowing theme of the opening chapter of Philippians is the gospel. Five times in this first chapter, Paul makes direct, explicit mention of the gospel. And I want to draw this to your attention. First, in verse 5, the apostle commends the Philippians for their participation with him in the gospel. And that is always the basis of any true fellowship, is that we share the gospel together. And if someone else does not have the gospel in their lives, we have no fellowship with them. Now, we may have friendship and show them a general love, but there is only fellowship in the one true saving gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why we have to be equally yoked with other ministries that we work with. We cannot partner with those who are not clear about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And then in verse 7, a second time Paul makes mention of the gospel. Paul affirms them for sharing with him. Note, “in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” As Paul is in Rome, he is giving defense of the gospel. And as they are there in Philippi, they are giving defense of the gospel. And no matter where a believer is in the earth, there will be opposition to the gospel. There is the offense of the cross, and it is unavoidable. And for all who are believers in Jesus Christ, we must give a defense of the gospel.

And then third, in verse 12, I want to draw this to your attention. I want to trace this thread through the first chapter of Philippians. In verse 12, Paul acknowledges that he sees his present imprisonment, he is now in Rome imprisoned, and he sees his present imprisonment as working out positively, “for the greater progress of the gospel.” I am sure you see that there in your verse. And so, for Paul, no matter what his circumstances were, he saw it as an opportunity for the gospel to move forward. If he is thrown into prison, he understands it is thereby a divine appointment; and there is a reason and a purpose for him to be there. And at the very apex of that purpose, it is the opportunity to give witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And no matter where you find yourself in this world, it is for the express purpose of the gospel to go forward. You may be the only believer in your office, and you may be wondering why does God allow me to work in such a place where everyone else is an unbeliever? That is a good question. And the answer according to Paul is, “for the greater progress of the gospel.” Why would there be unsaved family members among your loved ones? Why would not God just give you all Christians in your family? Well, the answer is God has sovereignly and strategically placed you where He has “for the greater progress of the gospel.” And even if circumstances seem to be out of control, you have wrecked, you are detoured, you are rerouted, and you are thrown off your schedule. No matter where you find yourself, it is the invisible hand of God that is orchestrating it all “for the greater progress of the gospel.”

And then fourth, in verse 16, Paul speaks of the gospel yet again when he identifies himself as one “appointed for the defense of the gospel.” Paul’s identity, his self-identity, is in the gospel, his belief in the gospel and his standing in the gospel. He knows that he has been divinely and sovereignly appointed “for the defense of the gospel.”

And now today, fifth, in verse 27, we see yet another mention of the gospel in this opening chapter as Paul urges the Philippians to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. Not only are they to believe the gospel, they are to live the gospel. To believe the gospel is only the first step of entrance into the kingdom. And the entire rest of our Christian experience is a living for the gospel and conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. Paul saw his entire existence as being consumed with the gospel.

And what is interesting about all five of these references to which I have drawn your attention is none of them stand at the entry level into the Christian life, in other words, believing the gospel and being converted. All five of these deal with believers on down the track, on down the path as they are living their Christian lives. And they are still to be preoccupied with the gospel of Jesus Christ. To be preoccupied with the gospel is very simply just to be preoccupied with Christ Himself, for Christ is the gospel. And earlier in verse 21 Paul said, “For me to live is Christ.” He could have just as easily said, “For me to live is the gospel,” because the gospel is Christ. It is Christ and Him crucified. For the apostle Paul the gospel was so very precious.

And so, today as we look at this section beginning in verse 27, what we see is Paul urging believers to live a gospel-centered life, for their preoccupation and for their concern to be the gospel, and for the conformity of their life to be in alignment with the gospel. And so, as we look at these verses, I want you to note several headings with me.


I. The Conduct Required (Phil. 1:27a)

    First, I want you to note The Conduct Required. That is how verse 27 begins. Paul begins this mini section by issuing this command to the Philippians, that they must live in a manner consistent with the gospel. Note how verse 27 begins, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” That word “only” should leap off the page before your eyes. You should draw a circle around the word “only” because the word “only” here means just one thing, “this and this only.” Paul’s focus in life is the gospel and living in a manner worthy of the gospel. And this is what he says to the Philippians, “Only,” nothing else, “only.” “This and this alone. “Only,” now, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” To paraphrase this, what Paul is saying is, “live in a way that honors and glorifies the gospel.” He is saying, “Live in a way that is consistent with the demands of the gospel. The gospel calls for our faith in Christ. The gospel calls for our denial of self. The gospel calls for death to self and obedience to God. The gospel calls for our submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ. The gospel calls for us to leave the world behind and to follow Christ. This is how we entered the kingdom, and this is how we are to continue in the kingdom: conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Now, let us talk about this verb “conduct yourselves.” Obviously our conduct is very important to God. How we live our life is of extreme importance to God as believers. No believers are to ever have a laissez-faire attitude and be passive in their Christian life, but with great intentionality and aggressive faith, we are to conduct ourselves in a certain manner. Now, this is a very unique word, “conduct yourselves.” It is one word in the original Greek. And it comes from a Greek root word from which we derive the English word “politics,” or “political,” or “politician.” The root word polis means “city.” And the idea is to be a citizen in a city or in a city-state. And as you do, you would have obligations to the government to be a law-abiding citizen. As you would live in this city, you would be under the laws and the rules and the regulations of the city. And you would not be free to live however you would so choose to live, but there would be statutes, and there would be parameters that would direct the way in which you live. That is the very word that is used here. It denotes civil responsibilities in an earthly citizenship. It refers to political duties whereby you are obligated to pay certain taxes, where you are obligated to render certain services. You are obligated to comply with the laws of that city or that empire. It is a very technical word. It is not the normal word for “obey,” or “keep,” or “heed.” It is a specific word that had exceptional meaning for the Philippians.

And a word of historical background I think will help us. And if you have a study Bible, the notes at the bottom of your study Bible, if it is a good study Bible, will draw your attention to this. The city of Philippi was unlike most cities of the day. It was a Roman colony. And the reason it was a Roman colony is years earlier there was a civil war that was fought. It was fought between two opposing armies. Octavian defeated Anthony. And after this victory, the Roman soldiers stayed and occupied Philippi rather than returning back home to Rome. And as a result of this Roman occupation, which is out on the far perimeters of the empire, this city Philippi was given special status. It was known as a Roman colony. And so everyone who lived within Philippi had a special protection under the law. And they had certain provisions that were afforded to them because they were a part of this city-state. But they also had special responsibilities as well. They had a greater allegiance and loyalty that was owed to Caesar because of this binding relationship.

Paul has all of this distinctly in mind when he says in verse 27, “Only conduct yourselves.” It misses it in the English, but if we had the original language with which Paul wrote this, we would clearly see the play on words that he is making here. And what he is saying is, “You believers in Philippi, you enjoy a very privileged status in the Roman Empire.” And there is an allusion here that, “You need to be a good citizen in the Roman Empire.” But more than that, “You are a member of a higher empire, a much higher kingdom: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. And there are laws and regulations that the King of kings has put in place. And as you live as a believer, you are under moral obligation to be a good citizen in the kingdom of heaven.”

In fact, turn back in chapter 3 just for a quick second, to chapter 3, and verse 20. And it will be very clear as Paul makes another allusion to this dual citizenship that the believers in Philippi had. They had a citizenship in the Roman Empire that afforded them special privileges and special prerogatives by living in this Roman colony. But there is more. Their dual citizenship, they had a higher citizenship. And it is in the kingdom of God. And so, in Philippians 3, and verse 20 Paul writes, “For our citizenship is in heaven.” Now, this is very, very intentional for Paul to say this to the Philippians. It would not have had the same impact if he had said this to the Ephesians, or to the Galatian churches, or to the churches in Colossae, or Thessalonica, or Sardis, or some of the other cities like Laodicea. But for Paul to say this to the believers who are living in Philippi, it had an enormous meaning, that they are uniquely citizens of the Roman Empire. But more than that, they have a citizenship in the courts of heaven above, and they owe loyalty and allegiance to Jesus Christ in a very special way.

This applies to us. We live in a wonderful nation. We live in the United States of America. And we have, as citizens, certain duties, certain responsibilities. Among those responsibilities, we are to observe the laws of the land. We are to pay our taxes. We are to serve as our government would call upon us to serve in different ways. And yet, we have a citizenship that is far greater and far higher. It is the kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; and our allegiance to Christ is greater than our allegiance to Caesar. We are to obey the laws of the land to the extent we are not forced to compromise our convictions to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, come back, if you would, to chapter 1, verse 27. And I hope that you are getting the picture here of what Paul is saying to those believers in Philippi. He says, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Now, this verb, I want to tell you four things very quickly about this verb. It is in the present tense. And the impact of this is that Paul is saying, “Every moment of every day you are to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel. This is to be your daily lifestyle. This is to be your ongoing manner of living.” So, number one, it is in the present tense. This is a permanent obligation. As long as you are on this earth, it is obligatory that you conduct yourself in this manner. Second, it is in the middle voice. And when we parse a verb, that simply means that the responsibility lies with each and every one of us. It is not active. It is not passive. It is in the middle, which means we must take the reins and assume this responsibility for ourselves. This is a decision that each one of us must be daily and continually making. We must do this ourselves. No one else can make this choice for us. Third, it is in second person plural. And the impact of that, or the meaning of that is, this applies to every believer. This is not merely for some believers in Philippi. This is for every believer in Philippi, but it is for every believer, in every church, in every generation, on every continent, in every place. Fourth, it is in the imperative mood, which means it is a command. It is not an indicative statement. It is an imperative command. It is not a mere wish. It is not a desire that Paul has for them. This is actually a commandment from God, through the apostle Paul, that requires the immediate obedience of every believer who has citizenship in the kingdom of God. Are you a citizen of the kingdom of God? Have you entered into this kingdom by the new birth? Then if so, this is directed to every one of us. “Only.” “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.”

Now, when he says, “a manner worthy of the gospel,” let us talk about this just for a moment. This is what we would call like an over-arching umbrella term that is a summary of every Christian duty and every Christian responsibility. We could take all of the commands in the Bible that are relevant to us, we could take all of the imperatives that speak directly to our lives, we could take the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, we could take the positive examples throughout all of Scripture of great men and women of faith who are a pattern for the way that we are to conduct ourselves; and all of that as well as the implementation of wisdom principles from the book of Proverbs, all of this can be tucked into this small little phrase, “a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

Let me just flesh this out for just a moment. To live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ means for you and me to live in submission to the lordship of Christ, for us to realize that my life is not my own, that I have been bought with a price, and that I must live for the glory of God, that every agenda in my life is to bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Further, it means that I am to be a repenter as I live my Christian life. And I am to be one who is continually confessing my sins to God; that I am to be grieved and sorrowful for the sin and the hurtful ways within me. And I am to be acknowledging these to the Lord as He convicts me and brings it to my attention. I am to be living my life with self-denial, that I have died to self and that my true interests are alive unto Christ and to God. I am to be a cross-bearer, for me to live “in a manner worthy of the gospel.” And I am to be following Jesus Christ with the world behind me, and heaven before me. And as I follow Christ, I am to do so with lowliness of mind, with humility of heart, and with a radical, sold-out commitment to the One who hung upon that cross and who suffered, and bled, and died for me to take away my sins. That is what it means for me to live “in a manner worthy of the gospel” of Jesus Christ. And so, as Paul begins this small section in the book of Philippians, he begins with the conduct required: to conduct yourself, to live as citizens of a higher kingdom “in a manner that is worthy of the gospel” of Jesus Christ.

Do you understand what the Lord requires of you this day? Do you see very clearly in His word that this is laid at each and every one of our feet? Every step that we take in this world, every word that we utter, every decision that we make, every action and reaction that we undertake here upon this earth, we are to conduct ourselves in a manner that is consistent with, and brings honor and glory to the very gospel that has saved us.


II. The Constancy Required (Phil. 1:27b)

Now, second, I want you to note The Constancy Required. Paul now asserts that the Philippians must conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel whether he is present, or whether he is absent. Notice how he goes on to say in verse 27, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Now here it is, “so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you.” And he goes on to give this good report. Paul says this in order to challenge them to live in such a fashion whether he is there or not. Paul is not their source of grace, and neither was he the source of their spiritual strength. Whether Paul comes, or whether Paul remains absent, the Philippians are being fully enabled by God Himself and the indwelling Christ to conduct themselves in a manner that will bring glory to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In fact, this is so important to Paul that in the next chapter, chapter 2, and verse 12, he repeats this very thought. And there has to be an intentionality on Paul’s part to repeat this now a second time. In verse 12 we read, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence.” Paul makes it abundantly clear that his absence at this moment, he is in Rome in jail, and they are in Philippi in the church, he makes it abundantly clear that his absence did not allow them to become lax in their Christian living, nor to use that at any level as an excuse why their Christian life would be less than what it must be in the Lord. Because in reality, all that matters is that God is with every believer, and that God sees all, and God enables all believers to do everything that He requires of them.

And so, I want to say the same to us. Whether you are at home by yourself, whether you are in an office by yourself, whether you are in a car by yourself, whether you are in the library, or in a classroom in a corner by yourself and cut off from spiritual leaders at that time and removed from even Christian fellowship, that may never be an excuse that we may use with the Lord for any weakness on our part. God will be everything to us that we need Him to be as we find ourselves alone and absent from the proper spiritual leadership that we normally need. Now, this in no way removes us from our responsibility to come to church and to be with other believers because there is an enormous strength where the word of God is being ministered to by God-gifted, God-called men. But when you are away from such God-gifted, God-called men, your Christian life may still work at full capacity because the Lord is with you. In fact, the Lord is inside of you.


III.    The Characteristics Required (Phil. 1:27c-30).

Now, I want to continue to look at this section. Now, we have seen the conduct required, and we have seen the constancy required. I want you to note, now third and finally, The Characteristics Required. And as we look towards the end of verse 27, and it will extend throughout this section, we see some specifics that help define what it is. What is the conduct that is required in living worthy of the gospel? And there are three things that Paul draws to the attention of the Philippians.

Number one, they must be standing together in the gospel. Notice, he goes on to say in verse 28, let me begin at the beginning of the verse, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that.” Now, this is what he desires to see in them. This is what will bring joy to his heart. This is what will bring pleasure to God. This is what will cause their witness and their testimony to be so strong. This is what will bring great joy to their own Christian lives. Number one, he says, “that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind.” This is what Paul wants to hear, whether he is there or whether he is absent. He said, “I want to hear this: that you are standing firm in one spirit, and [in] one mind.” And the idea is, “that you are standing firm together in the gospel of Christ.”
Now, this verb “standing firm” that you see there, it means, “to be stationary.” It means, “not to be pushed around,” “not to be moved around.” The idea metaphorically is that you are anchored in a place, and there is no reverse gear in you. You have taken your stand, and you are immovable because of your convictions in the gospel, and you are standing firm. It is a military term actually, “standing firm.” And it pictures the duty of a soldier in battle to hold his position. He has been assigned a position on the front lines. And wherever there is a breakdown the enemy can slip through, and the enemy is always looking for the weakest soldier in the army. And if they can defeat the weakest soldier, it becomes the entry point to break the rank, and to penetrate, and to infiltrate, and to be able to bring about a devastating defeat. And Paul is saying, “Do not let that happen in your fellowship, and in your church. You need to stand firm. Do not back down. Do not turn and run, but be immovable in the midst of spiritual warfare.” 

Let me just tell you something. Satan is trying with all of the arsenal of hell at his disposal to break into this church. This is a gospel preaching, gospel believing church that stands on the authority and the inerrancy of the word of God and holds high the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and preaches week after week after week, even day, after day, after day, that “there is salvation in no other name.” “There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” There is a red laser beam on our forehead. Satan has us in his crosshairs. We are the most dangerous church in Mobile, Alabama. And he will do everything that he can to find the weakest member in this church, one who is just dragging in here, half here, half out, and break in through that person’s life, and once on the inside begin to do an inside job within the fellowship of this church, and begin to pass around unbelief, and a bad attitude, and foul spirit, and to try to divide and drive a wedge into the fellowship of this church. And what Paul is saying to the church at Philippi, he says to us, “Stand firm! Hold your position! Do not back up! Do not put your armor down! Be on guard, for you may be the very entry point for the devil himself, who “prowls about as a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour!” So, he says, “I want to hear that you are standing firm. In the face of spiritual conflict, they must not flee. They must not compromise. They must not give in. They must not back down in a godless society and in a world surrounding them that is given to worldly ideologies.

Now, he says, “in one spirit, with one mind.” “In one spirit” probably refers to the human spirit. It is possible it could be a capital “S.” In case you are wondering, in the original Greek that Paul wrote this, there are no capital letters. So, it is all a translator’s decision. And therefore, it is an interpretive decision. If it is a small “s,” then “with one mind” becomes a parallel expression that further amplifies what one spirit means. And it just represents the entire inner human life of a person. In fact, the word “mind,” “with one mind,” is actually the word psuché for “psyche,” or “soul.” And it is the idea of the human soul. And so, he is saying, “You need to stand firm with one spirit and with one mind.” In other words, “You need to interlock arms with the person on your left, and on your right, and share the same convictions and the truth, and share the same allegiance and loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to hold your ground, and to stand firm.”

Now, you may say, “Who are the opponents?” Well, the opponents, there is one on the outside, and there is one on the inside. And those on the outside are the secular philosophies and the worldly ideologies that were circulating in the ancient world: the Greek myths and the Greek worldview, man-centered thinking. And on the inside of the church, if you will turn to chapter 3, and verse 2, I will show you the other adversaries, the other enemies, that they must stand firm against. And in chapter 3, and verse 2, Paul says, “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision.” All three of those refer to one and the same group. It is a parallelism where they are just stacked one on top of the other. And the next term gives a fuller, expanded understanding of what the first one was. Now, “dogs” referred to those which were unclean. In this day and time, dogs ran wild in the streets. And they went from one garbage can to another garbage can. And they were spreaders of disease. They were spreaders of all kinds of illness and sickness as they just lived in trash and lived in garbage. And Paul refers to the “false teachers” who were the Judaizers, as “dogs.” They have unclean character. They have unclean doctrine. They have an unclean manner of life. Everything about them from the inside out is unclean. They are as filthy as trash-eating dogs.

And then he calls them “evildoers.” And that is what they are about, spreading false doctrine, false teaching, about the one true saving gospel. And then he refers to them as the “false circumcision.” The reason that he calls them by this is they were legalists who tried to put the church back under the Old Testament Mosaic Law and required the adult men to be circumcised in order to be right with God, and in order to be accepted before God. And Paul is calling them out as those who are spreading false circumcision. And so, he identifies them by that term.

So, he begins and he says, “You need to stand firm together in the gospel.” And I want to appeal to all of us here this morning. It really matters what you believe, and it really matters that you stand strong and stand firm. And it is not enough that the elders stand firm. It is not enough that the deacons stand firm. This is a call to every man, every woman, every teenager, every college student, every believer in Jesus Christ; you are going to have to stand strong in this day in order that our church and our fellowship be strong in the Lord. And you let a little drop of arsenic slip through the line and get into the drinking water, and it begins to spread like gangrene. And it will be used by the devil to bring about great damage to the ministry of the church.

Now, second, not only standing together for the gospel, but second, striving together for the gospel. Notice what he goes on to say, “striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Now, this word “striving,” again it is such a picturesque word. And I do not really apologize for doing these word studies, but it is the difference between reading your Bible in black and white, or reading your Bible in seven colors. It is a huge difference to see and understand the richness with which Paul is communicating. “Striving together.” It is just one word in the original language. And it is a main root word with a prefix put at the beginning. And the main root word, I am going to pronounce it. You are going to hear the English word in it: athleo, “athlete,” “athletics.” And the idea is to compete in a contest, and specifically commentators tell us that it is the contest of wrestling, wrestling. And then the prefix “with” is put at the front, that we are to be wrestling together. We are to be contending together. We are to be competing together. And the idea is we are on the same team. We are not wrestling against one another. We are wrestling with one team in trying to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    
When he says, “for the faith of the gospel,” that is a way of saying, “for the Christian faith,” “the objective standard of truth,” “sound doctrine,” “the apostles teaching,” “the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.” And for them to be striving together for the gospel means they must maintain their unity in their fellowship. Again, any division in their fellowship will mean defeat for the full team. And it will mean defeat for the advancement of the gospel. They can only advance the gospel as they strive together.

And in fact this was already a pressing danger in the church at Philippi. Turn back to chapter 4 just for a second, Philippi chapter 4, and verse 2. And I want you to see an obscure verse that I know that you have noted before, but there is already a brewing conflict that is going on inside of the church at Philippi, and it is two women who cannot get along. But let me tell you when you have two women who cannot get along, you have got two husbands who cannot get along. And when you have two men and two women who cannot get along, you have got two families that cannot get along. And when you have two families that cannot get along, you have two friends, sets of friends, that cannot get along. And just because two women cannot get along, there is a fracture that is going right down the center of the church as everyone is beginning to take sides and stand with their friends, or stand with their families. It is an amazing thing how people stand together in a family; people you did not even realize are related together. And you see them making irrational choices on where they stand on a matter in a church. And all of a sudden, someone explains to you, “Well, that is her sister-in-law.” “That is her brother-in-law.” And you go, “This makes total sense now.” Well, in Philippians 4, verse 2, it is happening in the church at Philippi. 

And he says, “I urge.” And that is a strong statement. “I exhort.” “I plead.” “I beseech.” “Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.” Translated: “You need to get along with one another. Just lock yourself in a room and say you are not coming out until it is resolved, until you ask for one another’s forgiveness. And until you both get right with God, this church is going to be at a standstill because it is not just Euodia, and not just Syntyche, but it is their family, it is their husbands, it is their children, it is their grandchildren, it is their friends, it is their Sunday School class, it is their fellowship group, it is what all is going on in the lobby after the service is over, it is what all is going on in the beauty parlor during the week, it is what all is going on in the duck blinds during the week, it is everybody’s yakking and everybody’s talking. And everybody is becoming the entry point for Satan into the life of the church.” And he does not even have to lift a finger. All he has to do is just turn us against one another. And notice, he says in verse 2 again here, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche.” He urges both of them. He puts the responsibility with both. You need to be peacemakers. You need to be reconcilers so that the whole church can stand together in unity.

Well, come back to chapter 1 verse 27. No wonder he says what he says in verse 27. No wonder he says that you must be “striving together for the faith of the gospel.” And by the way, even as I am looking at this, I said “gospel” is mentioned five times. It is six times, because it is twice in verse 27. I undercounted the dominant, central theme in this opening chapter of the book of Philippians. So, notice what he goes on to say now in verse 28. 
    
    28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them,     but of     salvation for you, and that too, from God.

It is a troublesome little verse to the pull apart, but what he is saying is, “I do not want you to become alarmed just because there is some opposition that comes your way, either from the false teachers on the inside, or the worldly philosophies from the outside. I want you in no way to be alarmed by your opponents.” And primarily the opponents are those mentioned in chapter 3, and verse 2. And he says, “which is a sign.”

Now, the word “which” refers to their common commitment to stand together in unity and to strive together for the gospel. They are standing and striving together. And “sign” here is an indicator of something or that points to something. It is a powerful witness or testimony. And what he is saying is this, “That as you stand for the gospel of Jesus Christ, you are making a loud, clear statement. It is such a strong statement that it is a sign. And to unbelievers, it is a sign of their destruction. It is a sign of the truthfulness of the gospel that you are willing to suffer for it, that you are willing to pay a price, that you will not be turned one against another, that you will lock arms with your other believers and that you will not turn against your other brothers and sisters, but that you will stand firm, stand strong in the gospel. It is a clear testimony to unbelievers of the truthfulness of what you believe. But when you are yakking with one another, and when you are nitpicking one another, and when you are talking about others behind their back and spreading things in the church, it is a crummy testimony to unbelievers. They are more loyal to one another down at the fraternity or the sorority hall than believers are when they are stabbing one another in the back. Now, it is a strong sign, and a strong testimony, when you exercise unconditional love for your brothers and your sisters in Christ. And you will stand with them. He says, “[It] is a sign of distraction to them.” In other words, it verifies the truthfulness of the gospel that you believe. It is a strong statement of faith. Now, they may not have eyes to see it, but it nevertheless is there. And no bickering is worth giving up your testimony to unbelievers.

And then second he says, “[It] is a sign of salvation for you.” It is a testimony to you that you are really saved. Because if you keep on not standing firm and strong in the gospel, it calls into question your salvation. It calls into question, “Whose side are you on?” But when you stand strong with other believers in the gospel and choose that I will not attack one another, it is a sign of your salvation. It brings assurance of your salvation that God is at work in my life, and that there is true love in my heart for my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

And the last two words in verse 28, and we will stop here, he says, “and that too from God.” The destruction is from God, and salvation is from God. And how you stand strong and stand firm is a powerful sign to a watching world, and to your unsaved family members, and to your unsaved neighbors, and to those that you work for and with. It is a sign of their destruction if they do not believe. And it is a sign of your salvation to yourself that you are a true believer in Jesus Christ. It is an amazing thing how in times of persecution very few people are struggling with assurance of salvation because it forces the issue, “Whose side are you on?” Are you willing to take some hits for the Lord? Because false converts cave in when the persecution comes.


Conclusion

Well, I need to stop here. And we will pick it up next time. Let me conclude by simply saying this. There is one word that this message is all about, “gospel.” It is mentioned twice in verse 27. The gospel is this: 

    16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever    be-    lieves in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

The gospel is that Jesus Christ has come to seek and to save that which is lost. The gospel is that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. He lived a sinless and perfect life. He went to the cross by divine appointment for He was “the Lamb of God, slain from before the foundation of the world.” There upon Calvary’s cross, He died in the place of all those who will put their trust and put their faith in Him. “Him who knew no sin God made to be sin for us.” And there upon Calvary’s cross, Jesus Christ was lifted up, and He became our sin-bearer. And He suffered under the wrath of God in eternal judgment for our sins. He shed His blood, and He made the only atonement for our sins, the only forgiveness, the only washing away of the guilty stain of sin is in the power of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. And for those of us who are believers, it thrills our hearts just to hear that said one more time. “Come, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; Though they be red like crimson, they shall be white as wool.” And if you will believe in Jesus Christ, in a moment, in an instant, He will make you faultless to stand before the throne of God. He will clothe you with His perfect righteousness. And when He looks upon you, He will not see all the sin in your life. It will all be covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, and it will be covered by the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

This is the offer that God makes in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And there is nothing for you to earn. There is nothing for you to go achieve. All you do is receive it as a free gift by faith. You extend the empty hand of faith and receive this gift as your personal salvation, and you receive Christ as your personal Lord. If you have never believed upon Jesus Christ, why not today? Why not this moment? Why not just give your life to Christ right now? Why not surrender your life to Him? You know what? I have heard it said, “If I had thousand lives, I would give every one of them to Jesus Christ.” Well, you have just got one life. You just have one soul. Spend it wisely. Give it to Jesus Christ. Believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and if you will, He will bring you into His family. He will bring you into His kingdom. He will make you a citizen of His heavenly kingdom. And you will not be only a citizen of the United States. What a temporal, shallow thing. He will make you a citizen of His eternal kingdom, and you will spend forever with Him. If you have never believed upon Christ, this is the time. This is the moment. This very second believe upon Him, and you will be saved. Just being in church will not save you. Being brought up in church will not save you. Being baptized will not save you. Taking the Lord’s Supper will not save you. Being a good person will not save you. Doing good deeds will not save you. There is only one thing that will save you, and that is your full faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have never believed upon Christ, do so this very moment. Your eternity is hanging in the balance.

Dustin Benge

Dustin is the Director of Operations for OnePassion Ministries and the editor of Expositor magazine. He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Molli live in Mobile, AL.