Worthy of the Gospel
Transcript of the fifth sermon from the series on the book of Philippians. The sermon is titled “Worthy of the Gospel,” and comes from Philippians 1:27-30.
You can listen here.
27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
In the last five verses, Paul described his competing desires to be with Jesus and to see the Philippians progress in their joy and faith. Paul finally is like, “I’d rather be with Jesus, but for now, I’ve got a purpose being with you – so I’m with you.”
Then we read verse 27: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” Paul’s making sure that if he’s going to be faithful to them, they’re going to be faithful to Christ. And to be faithful in their manner of life. That’s a pretty broad scope. It’s everything. Your manner of life is how you think and act at all times.
I really love how the CSB translates the Greek here: “Just one thing: As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ.” — Philippians 1:27 (CSB)
Whether it’s “manner of life” or “citizens of heaven,” there’s an impression of deeper than surface level decisions. As a citizen of heaven, your life worthy of the Gospel is grounded in your eternal purpose. Recognize that your situation is temporary and hold steady in the Gospel.
When you face emotional pain or physical harm or relational struggles – don’t forget that you’re a citizen of heaven and live worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Live outside of petty games of pride and arrogance and comfort that citizens of sin and death play. Live worthy of the higher, glorious call of the Gospel!
Striving in Christ
Verse 27 continues…“so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,”
Why does Paul command that they live as citizens of heaven? That they live in a manner worthy of the Gospel? Because that manner of life produces fruit that honors God. We learn from verse 27 that a manner of life worthy of the Gospel brings steadfastness (standing firm), unity (in one spirit), work (striving), and partnership (side by side).
Lazy Christians have to be one of the most disappointing things to God. Following Christ takes hard work. Following Christ deserves hard work.
I’m honestly apprehensive in using the word work in a sermon because we live in a context that so quickly and easily moves the goalposts of salvation from Christ alone to Christ and works. So hear me loudly and clearly – this work is not salvific. The work Paul is calling you to is not the work that makes you saved. It’s the work that follows salvation. Now that you’re saved. Now that you rest in the love of the Savior. Because you are loved – obey. And obedience takes action.
So your work doesn’t earn you love. The love freely given to us creates in us a desire to work.
So Paul is telling them, “work and work hard at it.”
Some of you have fallen into a pit of easy Christianity. But God’s got more for you! It feels good to surrender to His call and to strive in His service. To labor for His cause!
God has called you by name for His purpose! What’s holding you back? Not laziness – because you’re willing to stand firm and strive for the faith of the Gospel. Because you’ve heard God’s Word and you’ve experienced the flood of joy from serving in the power of the Holy Spirit! You enjoy the work because you enjoy the Object of your work!
Paul wants to hear that the Philippians are living for Christ with all their might and that they’re doing it together. There’s a close connection between unity and living worthy of the Gospel. How do we stand firm? How do we strive for Christ? In one spirit, with one mind, side by side.
Unity and partnership are essential to a life that honors Christ.
Paul uses some of this same language back in Ephesians 4.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
In summary: walking in a manner worthy of the Gospel means being unified with other believers under the Lordship of Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Courage in Salvation
28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
God cares about how you feel. Ben Shapiro is famous for saying that, “facts don’t care about your feelings,” but here we see a pretty clear example that God does. He is invested in your courage. God wants His followers to not be frightened by anything or by anyone. He wants the Philippians and He wants you to be courageous.
This is always God’s call to His people. I can give you examples from Deuteronomy, Joshua, 1 Chronicles, Psalms, John, 1 Corinthians.
Check this out from Isaiah 43:1:
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
“Nothing will stand in His way…”
This is the tone we get from Paul too. God who creates, God who forms, God who redeems also protects and saves. He has called us by name and the courage He gives us is a clear sign of His providence. Our supernatural courage is a clear sign of his supernatural strength. The enemy of sin and of demons and of our flesh and of those who are being used by those things will know for sure that there is a God who is alive and able and ferocious and unbeatable and is certain of His purpose. Nothing will stand in His way.
We don’t stand against the army of flesh on our own – we stand against the backdrop of a roaring Lion surrounded by His mighty armies. Our enemies live in the dark and their eyes are dimmed from being there so long. Imagine God uses you to stand courageously in front of an approaching enemy and He stands behind you and awakens their eyes with His glorious light.
And all those lost souls searching for what is true and where salvation comes from must see the contrast of the darkness cowering in front of the light.
But all of that is lost when we are the ones lost in fear. When we, standing with God on our side, choose to live in fear, those looking for true life and love will have no reason to see or know God as the redeeming Savior.
“This is your testimony…”
Paul says that your courage from God is a clear sign of your salvation. This is your testimony. Are you living fearlessly as one on mission from God or as one afraid without understanding? Take courage in your salvation! Remember that God gave you life and rescued you from the worst thing that could ever happen to you. At this point, because of your salvation – what can anyone do to you?
Where are you cowering in front of the enemy and need to rely on the strength of God for your courage for the sake of the Gospel and the Glory of our God?
So why all this talk of courage and standing firm and living for Christ? Here comes the hammer of verse 29 and 30.
Granted to Suffer
29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Paul is literally right here calling your suffering a blessing. It’s a gift you’re given. You’re granted suffering for the sake of Christ! Suffering is a gift like belief is a gift. Look at what he’s saying: belief has been granted to you for the sake of Christ. And none of us have a problem with that! We’re like, “yeah! For sure. Belief is absolutely a gift. It’s through belief we have salvation!” He says belief is a gift and then he says, “not only belief but suffering is a gift too!”
Christians are weird with suffering. On one side, we’re very quick to point to suffering as a curse or as a sign of sin or punishment. On the other side we elevate those who suffer for Christ and look at them as heroes with special calls from God to suffer. But neither of those are biblical viewpoints. Paul couldn’t be more clear that this is a part of the normal Christian life. He’s speaking to the church as a whole.
He didn’t address this letter to the Mother Theresa’s of Philippi. Or the weird, world rejecting pastor of the Philippians. He addressed this letter to the pastors, the deacons, and the congregation. This is everybody and he’s saying, “everybody! All you saved by grace! Embrace suffering as a gift from God. Expect it. Enjoy it.”
Paul makes sure they know that their suffering isn’t anything new or isolated. He’s experienced it and he’s continuing to experience it.
“This makes me want to cry…”
It hasn’t been just a short season of testing that God put him through. Suffering was a constant companion for Paul. This makes me want to cry. Like, weepy cry. Because really this means I have to work through the thought that God might (and probably will) call me to live through real and sustained anguish and heartache for the sake of the Gospel. Or the worse thought that my sweet, innocent little boys will someday be suffering deep pain and harm for the cause of Christ.
And I have to change my mind to say, “I want that.” Not that I want pain and hurt. I pray for protection against that. But I want whatever expands God’s kingdom more! God chooses suffering as a key method for making disciples.
For our benefit and our reliance on Him! Because our best thing is not comfort and nice cars and nice houses or to have the nicest phones or working air conditioning or running water or a healthy body or a functional family.
Our best thing is closeness to Christ. Our best thing is to have hands and eyes on THE Treasure. And if God makes suffering a part of that? Then praise God.
Who am I to say His methods aren’t fair?
We can find God’s amazing plan for suffering throughout scripture:
1 Peter 3:14: But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats ; do not be frightened.”
2 Corinthians 4:17: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
Romans 8:18: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Isaiah 53:3: He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Luke 14:27: And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
2 Timothy 3:12: In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
Matthew 5:10-12: 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Revelation 21:4: ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”