If the priority is right, v21 – living is Christ, then you can talk about v27.
27 Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
If I were to combine v21 and v27, my paraphrase would be this. Living is Christ, now that you got the main point, just one thing, live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Living is Christ, now live for Christ. Living in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ presupposes that you already understand part 1 (v21). It assumes you understand the gospel and you’ve seen the beauty and supremacy of Christ. You can’t live in a manner worthy of the gospel until you first understand the gospel. You can’t live FOR Christ until you first KNOW Christ. Not just know Christ, but believe deeply from your heart that nothing in the universe compares to knowing Jesus.
What does living in a manner of the gospel of Christ or what does living for Christ look like practically? Another way to put it, if your life is all about the gospel of Christ and living is Christ, then what changes? What does your life look like to others?
Someone who has encountered the risen and living Christ, someone who understands the gospel will be changed. I want to talk about 3 changes. The gospel leads to 3 concrete changes. One, there is FREEDOM. Spiritual chains are broken. There is freedom in Christ. Two, a new FELLOWSHIP is created where there was only division and isolation before. Three, the person who believes in their heart, my life is Christ, nothing, no one is more important to me than Jesus, then, that person becomes FEARLESS in proclaiming Christ. Three F’s: Freedom, Fellowship, Fearlessness.
Sin actually leads to the opposite. Sin leads to 1) slavery, 2) division and 3) fear. The gospel leads to freedom, fellowship and fearlessness and sin leads to the complete opposite.
Let’s revisit the first 3 converts at Philippi and see how these gospel principles play out in their lives. Last week, we started our journey through the book of Philippians. To understand the background of the church, we went back to Acts 16 and studied how this church was established. If you recall, Paul had his missionary strategy in place. God was fulfilling his Great Commission through Paul and the gospel was spreading from Jerusalem, then to the broader region of Judea, then the region to the north, Samaria. And then the gospel was spreading to the northwest throughout Asia. And suddenly, in the midst of the gospel work expanding in Asia, Paul receives a vision known as the Macedonian call. Through this vision, God reroutes Paul from Asia to Europe.
Acts 16 describes the first converts of Europe who were part of the core group of the first church in Europe at Philippi. Three are mentioned in Acts 16. First you have a rich business woman in the fashion industry with a home in Thyatira and a home in Philippi named Lydia. Next, on the other end of the spectrum, you have a impoverished slave girl who was demon possessed. Third, you have a middle class, blue collar, retired ex-military soldier from Rome who is serving in the local jailhouse–the Roman jailer.
1) The gospel leads to Freedom
When you look at the three and you consider who needs freedom the most, of the three, which one comes to mind? Well, I think obviously, the demon-possessed slave girl comes to mind first. She’s got a demon inside of her. She can’t control her body. She has zero control over her own tongue. Words of negativity and hatred are spewing out of our own mouth and she can’t do anything about it. She is literally in chains, bound, enslaved internally in her spirit and it is obvious to the world that she is not free. Because her bondage is manifest externally.
What about Lydia and the Roman jailer? One is a successful business woman and the other is a blue collar security guard. Before Lydia or the Roman jailer met Christ, I think intellectually we know that they are slaves to sin. They have yet to be freed from sin by Jesus. We know this in our head. But emotionally, I think we give them a pass compared to the slave girl. The slave girl, she’s the one who has the real issue. She’s a slave on the outside AND she’s a slave on the inside. There is no question in anyone’s mind that she is spiritually enslaved.
But on the sliding scale of slavery to sin, we believe in our modern, Westernized minds that the slave girl is in a far worse condition compared to the other two, don’t we? We don’t think of Lydia as being enslaved. She may have some hang-ups or quirks or bad habits, but who doesn’t? The Roman jailer may have some character flaws and a few addictions, but don’t we all? We rationalize sin. We put sin into categories. The slave girl has some serious sin problems. Lydia and the jailer are sinners, too, but their problem is not as serious. Put the slave girl at the front of the line to meet Jesus. She ought to be desperate to meet Jesus. The other two, not so much.
If you think this way, then you are seriously underestimating the deceitfulness of the human heart. Sin manifests itself in so many ways. From God’s perspective, there is no differentiation between the more heinous, egregious, shockingly terrible sins from the more “respectable” sins. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is no one righteous, not even one.
Many think, I’m not that bad. My sin problem is not that serious. I don’t have a demon in me controlling my every thought and speech and action. I’m not as bad as the slave girl or that person who is addicted to drugs, or alcohol, or pornography. My sins of gossip and greed are not as bad as demon possession. My career isn’t an idol. I’m just trying to be a good steward of the talents God has given to me. I have to reach my full potential. Ever heard that one?
Or, money is not my Master. God, He’s the one who blessed me financially. What’s wrong with enjoying a good life? Someone has to reach out to the rich and the elites of society. They won’t be able to identify with me unless I wear the same designer clothes and drive the same luxury cars.
Lydia, before she was saved, was a slave to sin in a spiritual sense just as much as the slave girl was enslaved to the demon. But that sin in Lydia manifested itself very differently than it did in the life of slave girl. For Lydia, sin manifested itself, not through the shrieks of someone possessed by a demon, but through her enslavement to her career, to money, her possessions, her greed.
What about the Roman jailer? What was he enslaved to? He was probably a former soldier in the Roman military. He lived for the glory of Rome. He was a patriot. He lived for honor. That’s why, when God miraculously opened the prison doors and the criminals fled except for Paul and Silas, the Roman jailer pulled out his sword to end his life. He could have fled like everyone else. Most jailers in his situation would have fled. But he was a man bound by honor because Roman law demanded his life if anyone under his watch escaped. So he was ready to carry out the law on himself. Living for the honor of a nation like Rome, or the nation of Israel for the Jews, or the honor of your family name, or even the honor of your culture or the honor of your church, these are powerful masters.
If you think you are not enslaved because you’re not a drug addict or an alcoholic and you have a sane mind, think again. If you think you are not enslaved because you are a respectable member of society, think again. In some ways, the demon-possessed slave girl is far better off than Lydia or the jailer because at least for the slave girl, her bondage on the inside was visible on the outside. Without realizing it, we could be utterly bound on the inside while appearing free on the outside. You and I can still go to church and pay our taxes and tithe and play the part of a Christian for 2 hours on a Sunday while living the rest of the 166 hours of the week enslaved to sin.
All 3–Lydia, the slave girl and the Roman jailer–were enslaved. Their sin was manifested differently, but all 3 were slaves. What’s the solution? Verse 21. Living is Christ. All 3 were equally in need of the gospel of Jesus to set them free.