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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 10.30am service, 2004-04-25

Text: Philippians 1:27

For the past few Sundays this month we have been studying portions of the book of Philippians under the theme 'Living in the Power of Christ.' While these messages have thus far focussed mainly on the requirements and the benefits of living in the power of Christ, we have yet to look at the goal of living in the power of Christ. What is the goal or objective? Why does God grant us this power of Christ for living? How should this great power be harnessed? The goal is not self-promotion. Neither is it church promotion. The power of Christ is given to us not to empower ourselves to fulfil our own selfish ambitions. The power of Christ is given to God's people for one main purpose - for the advancement of God's kingdom in this world through the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! 

Christ Himself said in His great commission 'All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost' (Matthew 28:18-19). Can you see here how all power is given to Christ, so that we can go forth with the Gospel of Christ? In another form of the great commission, Jesus said, 'But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.' (Acts 1:8) Here we can see the strong connection between receiving power, and being witnesses for Christ.

Dearly beloved, God has granted you the privilege to live in the power of Christ for the sake of living the Gospel of Christ and promoting it. Let us always keep this objective before us. When we lose our focus on it, we cease to be effective followers of Christ, and we will end up spending so much precious time and energy in things that are of no eternal consequence in God's sight. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi, he reminded them in no uncertain terms to fulfil this objective. 

Let us look at our scripture text of Philippians 1:27 'Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel'

There is an interesting feature of this verse: the word 'Gospel' is found twice in it. This is unusual. In the whole Bible there are only five verses that mention the gospel twice. And this is one of them. And by studying the two times that the gospel is mentioned in this verse we will discover two important principles that I believe must always guide us in all that we do both as individuals, and as a church. These two principles can be summarised very simply as: 'Live the gospel and promote the gospel'. Paul told the Philippian Christians to live the gospel when he said 'Only let your conversation [conduct or life] be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.' And he told them to promote the gospel when he said 'stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.'

To do this, we first need to be sure that we understand what the Gospel is. If you look at verse 27 again you will see that it is called 'the Gospel of Christ' The Gospel that you are to live and promote is all about Jesus Christ. It is the good news ('gospel' = 'good news') that God saves sinners like you and me by sending His Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins, in our place, so that we may have eternal life and may live lives that are pleasing and glorifying to Him now.

This is the message that we all are to live and to promote, according to Philippians 1:27. Please note the order in which they are given here, because it is important. You cannot change the order and do it the other way around. You cannot promote the gospel if you are not first living it. It is also good to note that you cannot just live the gospel and stop there without promoting it. There must be efforts made to promote it. Both are essential for the Christian life. You must not only live the gospel, you must also be actively promoting it. With that in mind let us now find out what each of them means. The first thing you must do is to:

I. Live the Gospel

What does it mean for us to 'live the gospel'? A hint about this can be found in the words used by the apostle Paul in phrase, 'Let your conversation [conduct] be' These words literally mean to live as a citizen. 

This term occurs only twice in N.T., here and Acts 23:1. To live as a citizen, is to be duty-bound by your membership in a kingdom or country, to conform fully to all its laws, objectives and ideals. This was an apt term for the Philippians because they were proud of their status as Roman citizens. Philippi was a city in Macedonia but it was a colony of the Roman Empire, and therefore different from all other cities in that region. Those who lived in the other cities did not enjoy the rights and privileges of being Roman citizens that the Philippians enjoyed. 

And now in this verse, Paul challenged them to live as those who had a higher and vastly more significant citizenship, a heavenly citizenship. Dear friends, you and I have the distinct privilege of having this citizenship. If you have turned to Christ for salvation, you are now a full-fledged citizen of heaven, even though you are still dwelling here on earth. You do not belong to this world anymore. And your life should now reflect your changed citizenship status

What kind of life should you then live? Our verse tells us that it should be 'as it becometh the gospel of Christ'. What does this mean? It means that we should not just aim to have a good manner of life. A much higher standard than that is required of us: a manner of life that is not just good, but worthy of the glorious gospel of Christ! Since we now belong to the Lord, our manner of life must be worthy of Him. It must not be anything less than the very best, because God is worthy of nothing less than the very best. Let us live in a manner befitting such a great and high calling. If we don't, we might bring shame and dishonour to our Lord. 

Dearly beloved let us be careful not to dishonour the Lord who called us, by the way we live. If you live your life carelessly in a way that is not worthy of the Gospel of Christ, you may end up providing others with the greatest reason why they should not turn to Christ! They will say, 'Why should I believe in what you are saying to me? It has apparently not done anything good for you!' or in other words, 'What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say!' Let us seek, with God's help, to maintain a good testimony to people around us. Let them see in us, a life that is becoming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Now we turn our attention to the other thing mentioned in v.27 that we are to do concerning the Gospel, and that is to:

II. Promote the Gospel

In order to promote the gospel we need to do two things. The first is to stand fast in one spirit, and the second is to strive together with one mind for the faith of the gospel. Let us examine each of these. First, there is the exhortation to stand fast in one spirit. The word 'spirit' here may refer to the Holy Spirit, or to just 'one united spirit', if seen to be parallel to the next phrase, as 'one soul'. True unity among Christians is produced by the Holy Spirit, but what is being stressed here is the end result. The main idea is that of the firmness, steadfastness that comes from sharing the same stand, the same resolve, the same purpose and goals.

Why did the Philippians need to stand firm? Because of their adversaries ( v.28) 'And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.' They probably had two kinds of adversaries - non-believing Gentiles in Philippi (e.g. the ones who had Paul and Silas thrown in jail - a crooked and perverse nation, Phil 2:15) and the legalistic Jews in their midst who were opposed to Paul's teaching against legalism. The Philippians faced conflict and suffering (see vv.29-30) and thus, they really needed to be united and stand together in their faith.

If each of them were to face these challenges alone, they might be overwhelmed by their fears and terrified by the intimidation of their adversaries. But if they all united and resolved to face their adversaries together with one common spirit and one common mind, they would be able to do much more. There is strength in unity. Let us therefore resolve now to be united in the cause of promoting the Gospel together. This brings us to the second exhortation:

The exhortation in Philippians 1:27 to strive together for the faith of the gospel. It is interesting to note a progression here. Earlier the Philippians were exhorted to stand fast, and this involves passive resistance. But we notice now that this second exhortation has an active character. There is advancing movement. 

The word for 'striving together' is derived from the word for athletics, with a prefix that indicates teamwork, like a relay race. Everyone in a relay has to put in his or her best to work together with the others who are on the same team. In fact in the only other instance where this verb for 'striving together' is used in the New Testament, we see this quite clearly - Philippians 4:3 'And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.'

Let us see how this relates to us. Many of us here are involved in a ministry, fellowship group or NBC in our church. There is also the Sunday School, Children's ministry, Student care and Berean Outreach ministry, organising of the coming Church camp, VBS and Missions like the Kota Tinggi, medical clinic work in Batam, and not to forget the PA crew members, the church choir and musicians. There are also the various language services - the Chinese service, the Filipina fellowship, the Thai service and the Kebaktian Indonesia. All these ministries require coordination and teamwork. It takes much effort to run all these things effectively, and together as a team

And when each of us who are involved is doing our best to fulfil the responsibilities that are given to us, then the work of promoting the gospel gets done well. One challenge that I would like to give to each of you therefore is put in your very best efforts in the work and ministry of Life Church! Please do not let anything discourage your good efforts, but just keep pressing onward and upward. Let all of us strive to work together as a team more than ever before. And if you are not yet involved in any ministry or area of service in Life Church, let me urge you to get involved now. If every Lifer will do his or her part, the gospel of Christ will make tremendous advancements.

And this must be done not only for the present time, but all the time. You must have consistency. Some people resolve to labour together well, and they succeed very well at first. But after some time, as the excitement dies down, they cool off and drop out of the work! 

And so the challenge for us is not only to put in our very best of efforts into the work of promoting the gospel together, but also to sustain that high-quality effort. This idea is brought out in the middle of the verse where Paul says, 'that whether I come and see you, or else be absent,' If the Philippians zeal varied according to Paul's ministry to them, so that they were zealous only when he was present and not when he was absent, then they would not be consistent. 

Now let us consider carefully how this applies to us. I think that many of us have grown spiritually here through the patient ministry and influence of certain Christians, whether they are Christian parents, or our Sunday School teachers or Bible study leaders. And while they are with you, it becomes quite natural for you to live according to all that they have taught you from God's Word. But are you doing all of this because you really have a firm personal desire in your heart to do them? Or does your obedience depend a lot on their presence and influence? What will happen then when you no longer have their presence and influence to support and encourage you? Will you still continue or will you then cease to stand fast and to strive for the Gospel?

Dear friends, the real acid test of your faith comes when you have to stand on your own in the faith. Please be honest to ask yourself now: will you still maintain your efforts to live for Christ when there is no one at all to watch over you? Will you still be standing firm and striving for the faith of the Gospel when you are the only Christian in the company of non-Christian friends or colleagues? 

This is the time when you will face the greatest temptation to say: 'I'm on my own now, far removed from all those who have been a strong influence in my life. They can't possibly check on me or correct me now. At last, I can now relax and live the way that I want.' Then as you relax your vigilance, let your guard down, sooner or later you will begin to compromise. I pray that this will not happen to anyone of us here. So let us commit ourselves not only to work more closely together to promote the gospel, but also to sustain a high level of fervency and efforts to live the Gospel. And let us resolve in our hearts today that we will not allow anything at all to hinder or diminish our efforts to live the gospel and promote the gospel.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25