2) The gospel leads to Fellowship
27 Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind…
Let’s follow Paul’s argument. He begins with “living is Christ”, then he continues by saying “live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Paul unpacks that a little more and explains what this life worthy of the gospel looks like. A life worthy of the gospel is one that is standing firm in one spirit and with one mind. This is an appeal to unity. Why did Paul start with unity? I think Phil 4:1-3. [READ]
Euodia and Syntyche, like Lydia, must have been prominent women in the church at Philippi. And these 2 women were fighting. Guys don’t fight as much as women not because we are more godly. We don’t fight as much simply because guys don’t speak as much as women do. Compared to women, men are mute. Jackie speaks 95 words for my every 5 words and so I play catch-up on Sunday during my preaching.
Plus, if guys get in a fight, the next day they might see each other at church and one guy says, you okay? Yeah, and you? Yeah, I’m okay. And they go out for a burger and it’s as if the fight never happened. But women like to talk and words can be dangerous weapons. Obviously, whatever was said between these two women is not blowing over. Paul is aware of the problem and so even at the very outset of the letter in chapter 1, he begins by addressing the problem of disunity without mentioning any names.
Unity is such a delicate thing. It can take years to build unity at a church around the gospel of Jesus Christ and you can have a bad day and you speak one careless word and the unity can be shattered in an instant. We can speculate as to what happened between Euodia and Syntyche. Perhaps, Euodia said something to Syntyche. At first, Syntyche was shocked and confused. Why did she say that? Later, shock and confusion turns to offense. How dare she say that to me! She is offended and she tells some of her close friends in the church what happened. Euodia, on the other hand, feels justified in saying what she said because she feels she is totally objective and she is confident that Syntyche is completely in the wrong.
Then, at the next house gathering, Euodia notices that Syntyche’s friends are giving her the cold shoulder. Later, Euodia finds out that people are against her because Syntyche is falsely portraying the situation. Now Euodia is really mad. Her anger boils over not only against Syntyche but also the friends that took her side. So in a fit of rage, Euodia starts a campaign. She begins telling all of her friends via Facebook the “real” story in order to garner support, to have people in her corner. And before you know it, the church is divided into two factions.
Considering the makeup of this church, I’m sure unity at this church didn’t come easily. Lydia is a successful Asian business woman. I’ve met a few CEOs and high-level executives in my day and if Lydia is anything like the people I’ve met, then she probably needed to have things done a certain way. Her way. On top of that, she was likely one of the biggest financial contributors to the church. Her financial giving coupled with her CEO background, don’t you think she would’ve had a strong opinion on how the church should be run and how the offering ought to be used? Do you think this kind of personality was easy to deal with for the other church members? I’m guessing that having her in the mix tested the unity of the church.
What about the demon-possessed slave girl? Do you think she might have had a problem with trusting others? After all, her own parents abandoned her and sold her into slavery and her new owners used her as a source of income for fortune telling. Don’t you think she would’ve put up walls to keep everyone at arm’s length? Wouldn’t this kind of guarded, wounded person test the relational strength and unity at Philippi?
What about the Roman jailer? This guy probably fought in the Roman military. He’s probably used to settling disagreements with his fists. You got a problem. Let’s take it outside and settle it. I bet he was a violent man. There are clues in Acts 16 that this Roman jailer didn’t simply keep watch over Paul and Silas in prison. Paul and Silas were not placed in a normal prison cell. They were placed in the “inner prison” and their feet were secured in stocks. Inner prisons were like torture chambers. It is likely that this jailer tortured them. The jailer was likely a violent man who abused his power and who got pleasure from seeing people suffer under his authority. Don’t you think that it’s quite possible that this Roman jailer had some rough edges even after he was converted?
None of us are transformed into the spotless bride of Christ the moment we are saved. All 3–Lydia, the slave girl and this jailer–were works in progress. Lydia. The Tiger Mom fashion executive who had to have it her way. The slave girl with emotional scars from her past and trust issues. The jailer’s rough-edged personality. This is a small sampling of the kind of vastly different people God brought together and said, you are the church at Philippi. Be one, one in spirit, one in mind. This is the power of the gospel to create a new kind of fellowship. This kind of fellowship doesn’t happen in the world. Only Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit can create this kind of fellowship. Where I can call an African American man from the ghetto my brother. And an Asian Tiger Mom from NY my sister. And a Caucasian soccer mom who lives in the suburbs and drives a SUV my fellow sibling in Christ.
How can you and I keep the unity? The answer is v21 – living is Christ. You return to the Person through whom unity was made possible in the first place, Jesus Christ. Paul urged the Philippians to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind. Stand firm because relational conflicts and spiritual battle will knock us down and challenge our unity. Brothers and sisters, unity is hard, but even if you and I are knocked down, get up, stand firm in one spirit and one mind. When we start to falter and loose our footing, go back to v21. The gospel of Jesus Christ. Living is Christ.
The gospel leads to freedom, fellowship, and finally…
3) The gospel leads to Fearlessness
Read Phil 1:27b-30. [READ]
Let’s follow Paul’s argument. v21 – living is Christ. The verses that follow tell us how to live FOR Christ. Live in a manner worthy of the gospel. How can you demonstrate that you are living for Christ? By your fellowship and unity where people of different backgrounds are brought together under the Headship of Christ. That’s one change that Christ and the gospel brings to bear. Freedom first, then fellowship. Lastly, the gospel leads to fearlessness.
We read about that in v28 – not being frightened in any way by your opponents. Then in verses 29-30, Paul talks about suffering. Don’t be afraid because Paul knows that the opponents of the gospel in Paul’s day were not out to win some public debates or to make them suffer by hurting their feelings. The opponents of the gospel were out to throw them into prison and to kill them. This was a literal, physical suffering that was brought on by their faith in Jesus. In the face of this persecution, Paul tells them, don’t be frightened. What’s the worst they can do to you? Take away your life? But even if that happens, you can rejoice because dying is great gain because you are with Christ. Be courageous. Have no fear. Whether you suffer or whether you die, Christ is with you and you are with Him. Nothing else matters.
For us, we have to be humble because our situation here in America is worlds apart from the situation facing the Philippian church. No one is throwing us into prison or causing us bodily harm because of our faith in Jesus. This is why I believe in missions. How can we know if we are fearless when our lives are comfortable and our faith requires little or no suffering? We need to go to places and see for ourselves how our brothers and sisters around the world are suffering. Suffering from a lack of food and material provisions. And suffering because of persecution. Satan is not playing games. He hates every one of God’s children. He knows he is going down and he wants to take as many of us down with him as he can. Don’t be afraid of Satan. Seek out volunteer opportunities in our area. Look for ways to get out of your comfort zone.
In addition to putting ourselves in situations where we will witness or experience suffering first hand, I think for us, we need to go a little deeper and get at the root issue. I believe the root issue ties back to point #1 and freedom. Before we can be fearless, we need to be free. Freedom precedes fearlessness. Someone might not be opposing you for your faith nor causing you to suffer, but does that mean we are not fearful? We have tons of fears. Fears of not be loved. We have fears of being a nobody. We fear what people will think about us. We fear letting people down. We fear disappointing our parents. We have fears of not having enough money for our retirement. We have fears of tragedy hitting our lives directly or our loved ones. We have fears of not achieving our goals of the perfect life with the perfect spouse, the perfect job, the perfect bank account, perfect kids, the perfect American Dream.
Examine your fears and they will point you to your master. If money is your master, you fear what will happen if you don’t have enough of it. There’s your master. If career is your master, then you fear what will happen if you don’t achieve your career goals. There’s your master. If romance is your master, then you will fear a life of loneliness. There’s your master. Any one of these masters will lead to enslavement and a lack of freedom. Instead of freedom, you will be enslaved by your fears.
But if Jesus is your Master, there is freedom. Christ came to set captives free. If you have found your freedom in Christ, then you can be fearless. Even before death, you won’t fear because dying is gain. Paul was so fearless because he found his freedom in Christ and Christ was his Master.
A lack of freedom and fear go hand in hand in the same way that freedom and fearlessness go hand in hand. Are you fearful? Then, go back to v21. Living is Christ. Only if Jesus is your life can you begin to live FOR Christ. Go to Jesus. Surrender your life to Jesus again and again. Let him be your Master so that you can be free. Fellowship and fearlessness are the byproducts. Before we think about having a unified, godly fellowship and before we think about doing things or suffering for Christ fearlessly, may we experience the freedom and joy that can only be found when our life IS Christ. Living is Christ. Seek Jesus, follow Jesus, love Jesus. Then, everything else will fall into place.