Gospel-Centered Living (Pt 2) - Philippians 1:29-30

Introduction

I invite you to take your Bibles in turn with me yet again to the book of Philippians, to Philippians, chapter 1. And I was unable last Lord’s Day to complete the section that I wanted to consider with you. Imagine that! And there are still two more verses in this mini section, smaller section, that I want us to have deposited into our hearts, and into our minds. The title of this message is Gospel-Centered Living, and this would be part two. I want to begin by reading verses 27 to verse 30. Our focus this morning will be on verses 29 and 30, but I want to begin reading in verse 27. Philippians 1:27:

    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.

Our focus today is upon these last two verses of this unit, verses 29 and 30. And the theme is gospel-centered living which, according to these last two verses, means there must be a willingness to suffer for the gospel. The gospel is good news, but it is never easy news. There is always a price to pay for the gospel for those who receive it. It has been purchased in full by the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. And when He died, He cried out, “It is finished,” which meant, “paid in full.” Through the shedding of His blood and the giving of His life, Jesus purchased and redeemed the salvation of all those for whom He came to lay down His life. It is offered to us freely as a gift. It is received apart from any good works. It is received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And yet, for those who receive this free gospel, it requires much of us. It required much of us the moment we extended an empty hand to the Lord Jesus Christ to receive the mercy of His forgiveness. It required of us death to self and self-denial, repentance of sin, supreme commitment of our life to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and the submission and the surrender of our lives. That is how we entered into the kingdom.

And in carrying our cross now day by day, there is a price that we continue to pay. For those of us who have received the gospel, we must be willing to suffer opposition and persecution for this gospel in the name of Christ. To suffer for the gospel means we must be willing to suffer reproach and rejection and ridicule. And that is on the part of each and every one of us. To suffer for the gospel means we must be willing to give up popularity and pleasures, and at times even possessions. To live in a manner worthy of the gospel means we must be willing to suffer slander and shame, and even stigma. Gospel-centered living requires gospel-centered suffering. Christ’s followers cannot expect better treatment in the world than He received. Our Lord suffered for the gospel in order to purchase and secure the gospel. And even so, we must suffer for this gospel if we are to truly live for this gospel. Gospel-centered living means gospel-centered suffering.

I want to begin in verse 27 where we were last Lord’s Day and just remind us of what we said last time. And I also have an additional comment that I want to make as well. I think this is very important.


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

We began looking at verse 27, which starts this unit, and we noted the main heading, The Conduct Required. That is very obvious in verse 27. He says, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Very clearly here he says the gospel is not to merely be received and believed as a one-time event at the beginning of our Christian life, but it is to be an ongoing lifestyle every moment of every day. He says we must conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel, not in order to earn the gospel, but because the gospel has been given to us freely through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is now mandatory and obligatory upon us that our lives be marked as those who conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. I pointed out to you last Lord’s Day that this is a command. Some of you came up to me after the service and said you did not even know what an imperative is. An imperative is a command. And there is a world of difference between an indicative, which is merely telling you some facts, and an imperative, which lays a great responsibility at your feet and calls for your obedience. This is an imperative. This is a command. And we really have no choice but to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. 

What I find interesting is this is the very first imperative in the book of Philippians. To this point Paul has required nothing of his readers, nothing of his listeners. Yes, there is a sense in which every verses applicable and makes demands of us as we would seek to principlize and apply to our lives everything before verse 27. But everything that leads up to verse 27 has been merely a statement of fact. This, now, is the first time where Paul calls for action, where he calls for our conduct, where he calls us to step out in obedience and to live a particular way. That is the way it is, for example, in the book of Romans. You do not come to an imperative until you come to chapter 6. The first five plus chapters are just teaching, teaching, teaching, teaching, doctrine, doctrine, doctrine. And that is the necessary foundation until finally Paul in chapter 6 begins to speak with imperatives and issue commands, that we are to present our bodies to the Lord. The same is true in the book of Ephesians. The first three chapters are all indicatives. They are all statements of fact, teaching sound doctrine, teaching biblical theology. But when you come to chapter 4, verse 1, in the book of Ephesians, there now is this imperative that we must live in a certain way. Doctrine must always be followed with duty. Beliefs must always be followed with behavior. And by the way, the order can never be reversed. The doctrine is the basis upon which these imperatives are issued. That is what Paul is doing in Philippians. He now in verse 27 issues his first command and lays great gospel obligation, gospel duty, at the feet of the Philippians and us as well.

Now, when he says in verse 27, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel,” I can hear some today will say, “Well, none of us is worthy of the gospel. I cannot do this.” And so, that becomes in the minds of some Christians today an excuse, a free pass. They want to cry, “Well, that is legalism for you to lay an imperative upon us.” No, that is called Bible. That is called the Bible. And we are commanded by the apostle Paul to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. This does not say that we, in and of ourselves, are worthy of the gospel. In that sense, none of us is worthy of the gospel. It is a free gift of His grace. But once receiving this free gift, it makes great demands upon us. And it says that we ought to live in a particular manner. This does not mean, as some would offer the lame excuse,  “Well, Paul is calling for perfection here.” To the contrary, Paul acknowledges that everyone in the church at Philippi is in progress. 

Look two verses earlier. It is abundantly clear. The greatest interpreter of Scripture is the Scripture itself. Thomas Watson, the Puritan, said, “It is only a diamond that can cut another diamond.” Only Scripture can interpret Scripture. Look at verse 25. It is very clear. Paul says:
    
    25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress     and joy in the faith.

Paul never had any notion that they were perfect. He knew that they were in progress, in progress in their Christian life, that they too fell short of the mark of perfection. And yet, he is urging them to live in a manner worthy.

When he says “worthy,” he means to live in a manner that is consistent with the gospel, to live in a manner of obedience to the gospel, to live in submission to the requirements of the gospel. But Paul understands that they have not arrived. Likewise, Paul understands that he himself has not arrived. Look at Chapter 3, and verse 12. It is abundantly clear even in Paul’s own life that Paul is a long way from being what the Lord would have him to be. And in Philippians 3, and verse 12, Paul himself acknowledges that he is in progress and in process as well. In Philippians 3, and verse 12, he says, “Not that I have already obtained it.” What’s the “it”?  The “it” is at the end of verse 10. It is conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ. He says, “I have not already obtained it.” In other words, “I have not arrived. I have not yet reached the mark, or have already become perfect, but I press on.” Nevertheless, like a runner widening his stride and pushing himself to the finish line, not slowing down, but actually accelerating his pace, he says, “I press on so that I may lay hold of that,” and the “that” refers to Christ-likeness. With every inch and every ounce of his spiritual being, he is seeking to grasp and “lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”

Verse 13, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet.” “I have not reached full Christ-likeness.” And Paul would be the first to tell us, and he does so in Romans 7, “I am a long way off.” “But one thing I do,” verse 13, “forgetting what lies behind,” not looking back to past spiritual defeats, “and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” And what lies ahead is full likeness to Christ. Verse 14, “I press on.” There is that athletic metaphor again. We can just see Paul pumping his knees, throwing his arms, putting his chest out, leaning forward to the finish line. “I press on toward the goal.” What is the goal? The goal is Christ-likeness. “For the prize.” What is the prize? It is the realization of Christ-likeness in heaven. “For the prize of the upward call of God.” This upward call is when God calls each believer up to heaven. And in that moment we will be made like Him. We will be transformed. And so, Paul says with every ounce of spiritual energy within him, he is striving and laboring after Christ-likeness. He is buffeting his body. He is pushing himself in the process of sanctification. Paul would be the first to say, “Of course, none of us are worthy of the gospel. But in no way does that relieve us from our responsibility to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting the gospel, in a manner that is consistent with what the gospel requires of us.” That is the conduct required. That is the command issued. I trust that you see the great duty that is laid at your feet and at my feet, that we would live in a particular manner.


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

Second, The Constancy Required. We noted that. “So that whether I come and see you or remain absent.” Paul wants them to know that their spiritual life does not depend upon him being there in person, that ultimately they must look to the Lord. Ultimately, they must be able to stand on their own feet. Ultimately they must live as in the presence of God, whether Paul is there, or whether Paul is not there. It would be an unhealthy dependence for them to have otherwise.


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

And then third, The Characteristics Required. And we began to work our way through verse 27 and 28. And I want you to see that there are three specifics that Paul gives regarding conducting oneself in a manner worthy of the gospel. There is a sense in which the entire Bible is required to define living in a manner worthy of the gospel, but in this context for what the Philippians needed to hear, and what we shall hear today, there are three specifics.

    
A. Standing Together in the Gospel

Number one is Standing Together in the Gospel. He says that, “I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind.” For them to conduct themselves worthy of the gospel, they must be so anchored in the gospel that they cannot be moved around by every wind of false doctrine, that they are anchored in the truth, and they are standing shoulder to shoulder, and their arms are interlocked, and they are one line, one wave of defense, for the gospel of Jesus Christ. “With one spirit, [and] with one mind,” means that they are committed to the same truths, the same gospel truths. And it is a military term, and it means, “to hold your position on the battlefield.” Do not retreat!

That is the first thing is required for every one of us. And as you are at work, as you are with your family, as you are at school, how we must be unashamed of the gospel and how we must speak up for the gospel. And we must stand firm for the gospel, and not equivocate or compromise at any point.


B. Striving Together for the Gospel

Second, we must be Striving Together for the Gospel. He goes on to say, “Striving together for the faith of the gospel.” We noted that that is an athletic term. In fact, the very word “athlete,” or “athletic” is in this verb for “striving together.” It means to compete in a contest, to so pour yourself into something that you are striving together. You are pulling in the same direction with great unity for the gospel. And in verse 28, he says how powerful it is when we strive together for the gospel. He says it is a sign. It is a witness. It is a testimony. To those who are unsaved, it is a “sign of their destruction.” And to those who are saved, it is a sign of their salvation. It bears a powerful witness when a local church stands together and strives together for the gospel.


C. Suffering Together for the Gospel

That leads us now to the third mark of gospel-centered living, and it is Suffering Together for the Gospel, and that always follows. If you are going to stand for the gospel, you are going to suffer for the gospel. If you are not suffering for the gospel, it may be because you are not standing for the gospel. So, please note in verse 29:

    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.


    a. The People Addressed (Phil. 29a)

Well, let us dig into this. He begins, he says, “For to you.” The “you” refers to every believer in the church at Philippi, not to some of them, but to all of them collectively together. Now, this is not merely for the overseers and the deacons mentioned in chapter 1 verse 1, but it is for the rank-and-file membership of the entire flock that truly knows the Lord and has committed their life to Him. So, he says, “For to you.” It is very emphatic. “For to you it has been granted.” Now, this word “granted” comes from the same root word as we derive the English word “grace.” You know what grace means. It is God’s unmerited favor, His undeserved gifts, bestowed upon us freely. He says, “It has been granted.” It has been given as a gift freely without cost. And what is implied here, the granter is God. The giver of this is God. “It has been granted for Christ's sake.” “For Christ’s sake” indicates that it is for His honor. It is for His glory. It is for His kingdom and for His praise. 

“It has been granted for Christ's sake.” Now, watch this, “not only to believe in Him.” Let us stop there for a moment. In order to believe in Christ, it must be granted by God. Man has a free will to go to hell. He does not have a free will to go to heaven. He is dead in trespasses and in sins, the slave of his own sin and the slave of Satan. He has a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven. That is why, according to the infinite mercy of God, God who has much love for His chosen sinners, that He grants them the gift of faith, the gift of saving faith. And that is taught throughout the entirety of Scripture. In fact, it would be impossible to read one’s Bible without being aware that faith is not something that originates within ourselves. It is something that must come down from above. It must be given by God and placed within the heart and the soul. And when there is regeneration and God makes alive the dead soul, He then also gives the gift of faith. And when He gives the gift of faith, the sinner is enabled by God to do that which it could never previously do, which is call upon the name of the Lord.

I will give you some cross-references just to establish this truth. Acts 3, verse 16, says that all faith in Christ is from, or through, Christ. In other words, Christ is the mediator of the gift of faith that comes to us, that enables us to believe in Him. In Acts 11, verse 18, it says that God opened the door for repentance and granted repentance. And Ephesians 2, verse 8, says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” The gift of God is not only the grace, but also the faith to believe in the grace. In 2 Timothy 2, verse 25, it says that those who are held captive by the devil must be granted repentance, “If perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,” the very same word. No one can turn away from their sin and turn to the living God, except God give, grant, that repentance. In Hebrews 12, verse 2, it says that Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith. That He is the author of faith means, “He is the creator of faith. He is the One who sired saving faith within the womb of our hearts.” 

In 2 Peter 1, and verse 1, we read, as Peter says, “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours.” You have to receive faith. And there is only One who can give faith, and that is God. That is why James 1:17 and 18 says, “every good gift, every perfect gift, comes down from God above, the Father of unshifting shadows with whom there is no variation.” And then the very next verse speaks of regeneration. And in 1 John 5, and verse 1, John, as he writes, says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” And the verb tenses here are very specific. And sometimes you may wonder why do I parse so many verbs in the pulpit? It is necessary to understand exactly what God is saying. Past tense, present tense, future tense makes a whole lot of difference. But there are other tenses as well: imperfect tense, perfect tense, aorist tense. And for each one there is a specific, razor-sharp meaning. And in this text, 1 John 5, verse 1, it says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ,” it says, “is born of God.” The idea has already been born of God. Regeneration precedes faith, and regeneration produces faith. So, Paul says this is why you are a believer, because God granted it to you.

What humility this should put in us. It is not that we are smarter, or that we had a higher IQ, or we could access more books, or have more degrees, or went longer in college, or anything like that. It was, in fact, Jesus said in Matthew 11, verse 25, “Father, I praise you that You have hidden [it] from the wise and prudent and have revealed it unto babes.” God takes great delight in hiding His gospel truth from the upper muckety-mucks of this world and revealing it to common people like you and me. It brings great glory to Him. That is why he says, “Do not despise the poor,” in James 2. “You let them sit on the front pew because they have been chosen by God for such faith.” 1 Corinthians 1, verse 26, and following says the very same: “Not many mighty, not many noble were called, but God has chosen the base of this world to confound the mighty and the great.” That is how God works.

What humility this should put in our heart. It should also give us patience as well with others, should it not. Give God time to work in their hearts. There should be a sense of urgency about our reaching them, and a persuasion when we talk to them, but we cannot force anyone to believe. We have to be patient upon a sovereign God to work in His own time.


    b. The Privilege Granted (Phil. 1:29b, c)

But not only does God grant saving faith, what we should find amazing is that He also grants, as a gift, suffering. He goes on to say in Philippians 1, and verse 29, he goes on to say, “It has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Those are twin gifts, and they always are inseparably bound together. No one gets the first gift without the second gift. It is a package deal. And just as all the believers in the church at Philippi had been granted saving faith, all the believers in the church at Philippi had been granted the privilege of suffering for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is that not what Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3, verse 12? “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” And did not Peter say in 1 Peter 4, verse 12, and following: “Do not be surprised as though a strange ordeal has come upon you when you suffer for the gospel,” meaning it is to be expected. You should be surprised if does not come.
    
He says, “but also to suffer for His sake.” The “for His sake” is very important. He is not talking here about migraine headaches and tooth aches. He is not talking here about a flat tire. He is not talking here necessarily even about a financial shortage. He is talking here about suffering for the gospel, suffering for the Lord Jesus Christ, because one is publicly identified with Christ, with one’s family, with one’s employment. And he saying, “Just as saving faith is a gift, so also is suffering for the gospel.” This certainly sounds strange to the world, does it not? But it does not seem strange to us because we have a Savior who suffered for us and purchased at the cost of His life our salvation. And He says to us, “Take up your cross and now follow Me.” We understand that that means we will now enter into His suffering.

In what way would suffering for the gospel be considered a gift or privilege? I receive some gifts at Christmas time that I do not really want to receive. The tags never come off. And I get Grace Anne to exchange them for me. This is a gift that I do not know that we at first blush would say. “Oh, wonderful! Give me this gift!” But I want to think just for a second about why this would be a privilege. Why it would be a gift. And some of you here today are suffering for the gospel more than others. This is not a philosophical, theoretical discussion for you. You are living with opposition. You are working with opposition. Well, let me help you.

Why? Number one, suffering for the gospel, number one, brings assurance of salvation. It makes very clear whose side you are on. So many people struggle with the assurance of their salvation. Well, one way that we are given the assurance of our salvation is when opposition comes and ridicule comes, we have to make a decision. Whose side are we on? We cannot ride the fence anymore. We are going to have to come out of the closet. We are going to have to fly our flag. We are going to have to declare our colors. Where is our allegiance? Where is our loyalty? It forces the issue. Jesus said in Matthew 5, verse 10, this is a great cross-reference, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” That is who is in: those who are suffering persecution for the gospel. It is a badge of discipleship. It is a mark of being a follower of Christ. Wear that badge proudly as a medal of honor.

Second, it is a privileged gift because it brings Christ nearer to our soul. The fellowship that we have with Christ when we are suffering is a fellowship that is sweeter, and closer, and dearer than at any other time. Philippians 3, and verse 10, Paul says, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering.” There is a fellowship that we enter into with the Lord Jesus Christ when we share in His suffering. And in Colossians 1, verse 24, Paul writes:

    24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of     His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.

In other words, the world cannot get to Christ anymore to strangle Him, or crucify Him, or murder Him. What a privilege it is for us to stand in His stead here upon the earth and absorb the blows intended for Him. They come to us. It brings us closer to Christ and Christ closer to us.

Third, it separates us from the world. It is hard to be worldly when you are being persecuted. It is hard to be ensnared with the evil world system when we are suffering from the world. Jesus said in John 15:19:

    19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the     world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

And so, it puts us with Christ, to stand with Him. And we are to go into the world, but we are not to be of the world. And as we go into the world and we are not of the world, it will be obvious to the world that we do not belong to the world. And so, the world, it says, will hate us because it is already hated the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, that is why he says in the very next verse, in John 15, verse 20, “Remember the word that I said you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”

Fourth, suffering for the gospel spreads the gospel. It is the persecuted church and the suffering church that is the most effective in evangelism. We see that in the book of Acts, do we not? When the church really began to get after it evangelistically is when the heat was turned up in persecution. In Acts 8, and verses 1 and 4, after Stephen has been martyred and put to death, we read:
    1 Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great perse-    cution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the     regions of Judea and Samaria.

Verse 4, “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the [gospel].” The second century Church Father, Tertullian, writes, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” We understand what he means. The gospel has come down to us on a sea of blood. And it is the persecution, the flames of persecution, that drives the church out of its comfort zone and out of its holy huddle, and out of its security blanket, and thrusts the church out because it is scattered with persecution.

And then fifth, it is to be received as a privileged gift because suffering for the name of Christ will be greatly rewarded in heaven. And it will mean much in that day. To the degree that we suffer for the name of Christ, to that same degree we shall be rewarded in glory. Rewards in heaven will not be the same for all of us. The last will be first, and the first will be last. And it will take another world to see who the faithful Christians really were. And many behind the scenes that no one ever hears of who are faithfully putting a shoulder the plow and serving the Lord will be at the head of the line. And others who have a public platform for ministry, some of them are going to be at the end of the line. It will take another world to find out. But we do know this, that those who catch flack for their faith, God writes it all down. And on the last day, He will reward His servants who have suffered for His name. And it may seem in this world as though He has forgotten, and there is no reward coming here, but we must understand our reward is not in this world; it is in the world to come. Listen to Matthew 5, verse 11 and 12: 
    
    11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of     evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.

Did you get that? “For your reward in heaven is great.” There is no greater reward in heaven than the reward of the martyrs, those who pay the ultimate price. They are singled out in heaven as closest to the throne of God, and they will be greatly rewarded in that last day. And so, as we suffer for Christ, let us be reminded that it has been granted to us as a gift by a sovereign God for our good and for His glory. 


    c. The Partnership Forged (Phil. 1:30).

Finally, look at verse 30, and we will tie this up. Come back to Philippians 1, and verse 30. Paul now wants to encourage the believers in Philippi. We all need encouragement, do we not? And Paul wants to encourage them because they are beginning to suffer for the gospel. I mean, they live in a pagan environment. They live in a secular society. And so, Paul says in verse 30, “experiencing the same conflict.” “What I am experiencing, you are experiencing, Paul. The suffering I am undergoing, you are undergoing the same suffering as well.” And this is not a small suffering. Do you see the word “conflict,” “experiencing the same conflict?” That is the Greek word agon. Do you recognize “agony?” It was the term that represented the place, or the arena, for the athletic contest where the runners and the wrestlers and the boxers would suffer great blows and great pain. And they would push their bodies to the limit. Their bodies would often be black and blue as they would strive for the victory. And that is the very word that is used here. And the Philippians are in the fight. They are in the fray. They are contending for the gospel. And Paul is wanting to encourage them, and saying, “We are on the same team and we are pulling together on this, the same conflict!” And later this word agon came to be known for the marathon, the long, grueling 26 plus mile race. And then after that, it became known as the stadium in which the Olympics or the Isthmus Games were held. But it would also be in the very same stadium where the Christians would be fed to the lions. All the same word: agon. What an ironic thing there. Paul says we are experiencing the same conflict in order to encourage them. Paul is in prison in Rome. He is in chains. They are not in chains. But nevertheless, they are fighting the same fight, and they are running the same race, and they are waging the same war. Persecution is not always to the same degree, or to the level for every believer; but nevertheless, it is real.

And to encourage them, he concludes by saying, “which you saw in me.” When did they see this? When Paul came on his missionary journey in Acts, chapter 16. When Paul brought the gospel to Lydia’s little gathering there, it set off a chain of events; for Paul was slandered and mobbed, stripped and flogged, and imprisoned and put into stocks. And they came after Paul; they did not come after Lydia. They came after Paul. They did not come after their little group in Lydia’s household; they came after Paul. And they saw it with their own eyes. And Paul is reminding them to encourage them that, “I have suffered. You saw it. By God’s grace you can persevere in your suffering as well.”

And then he says, “and now hear to be in me.” What does that mean? Two things. “That you hear to be in me,” first of all, refers to this letter. Four times in his first chapter, four times Paul uses this phrase, “my imprisonment,” verse 7, verse 13, verse 14, verse 17. And then in verse 20, he talks about “death.” And in verse 21, “to die.” And at the end of this letter, in chapter 4, verse 14, he talked about “my affliction.” Yeah, they have heard about it. They have heard about it from Paul in this letter. But more than that from Epaphroditus, who was their pastor. They took up the love offering. They gave it to Epaphroditus, and they sent him to Rome to give it to Paul to be an encouragement to him, to help him pay for the rental of the house in which he is suffering house arrest. And Epaphroditus sat there with him and encouraged Paul. Epaphroditus almost died, the travel and the demands upon him just to get the gift there. And so, Paul sent him back to the Philippians, and that is how the letter of Philippians got back to the church at Philippi. Paul wrote it, or dictated it, right there in that prison and gave it to Epaphroditus and said, “Take it back to the church at Philippi.” And so, not only did Epaphroditus read this letter, and they hear of my imprisonment and my inflictions, and he is awaiting the outcome of his trial, whether they will call for capital punishment, and put him to death, or whether he will be released, Epaphroditus also gives careful description of the conditions and the sacrifices that are laid upon Paul as he is in this house arrest. 

And as they hear this, it is consistent with what they had seen in him years earlier. And it was to inspire them, just like when I read William Tyndale or when I read of the Marian martyrs and John Rogers, and these others who gave their life at the stake for the gospel. I probably will never have to do that, but it sure inspires me to want to be used by God at any price, at any cost. And it should do the same for every one of us as well. And that is why Paul brought it up, not to draw attention to himself, but to inspire them and to motivate them. “You are on the right track. Nothing is off course because you are suffering. I as an apostle am suffering. Jesus our Savior suffered. You continue to persevere in the same conflict.”

What Paul is saying to the church at Philippi has come down through the centuries to us. Nothing has been altered. The only thing that is different is the name of the church and the city and the location. And Paul says the same to us here: that gospel-centered living necessitates gospel-centered suffering. We are not to have a martyr spirit and go looking for trouble and put our chin out and just dare people to take a shot. That is not it. And we are not to be needlessly offensive. We are to speak the truth in love. But as we do, we must understand there will always be a price to pay for gospel-centered living. The gospel is good news, but it is not easy news. It is demanding, but it is worth the sacrifice, and it is worth the price. And we will know that one day when we stand before the Lord.

Dr. Steven J. Lawson

Dr. Steven J. Lawson is President and founder of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to equip biblical expositors to bring about a new reformation in the church. Dr. Lawson hosts The Institute for Expository Preaching in cities around the world. Dr. Lawson is also a Teaching Fellow for Ligonier Ministries, where he serves on its board. Moreover, he is Professor of Preaching and oversees the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master’s Seminary, where he also serves on its board. Dr. Lawson is also Professor in Residence for Truth Remains, a work designed to promote and proclaim God’s written Word. Further, Dr. Lawson serves as the Executive Editor for Expositor Magazine published by OnePassion Ministries.