Preached @ Anchor Church on August 25th, 2013
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”
Yahoo News recently reported, “Religious people are less intelligent than Atheists.” What the criteria for the study, or even how they defined “Religious” was not made known in the article, but it isn’t surprising that those that are most likely less religious would find that they, and those like them are most intelligent. Over the course of history there has always been attacks in one form or another on those that are religious, some warranted, and some not so warranted. However, sometime it feels as though the media has it out for Christians in particular, even though that may not be the case. There are times that the church warrants a strong rebuke and even the comical jabs many media personalities take at it, but there is also a long history of abuse and persecution that still occurs in our world to this day. The fact is, there are times that it appears that the church is being squashed, and the gospel will be eradicated from the world’s mindset. However, many generations think that they have it worse than the previous, but that’s not the case. The early church, as well as many generations of the church were persecuted, and there were times that it seemed that God was absent, that’s how many in the 1st Century must have felt even though Jesus had clearly indicated that “The gates of Hell wouldn’t prevail” against the growth of the Church in the world. In our passage we see how imprisonment and even personal attack doesn’t stop Paul or the gospel from moving forward. Today I want to take a look at the Gospel from 3 different Angles:
From the Head…
Angle #1 The Gospel and Negative Circumstances (Philippians 1:12-14)
For some, it doesn’t take much to throw them off course. We struggle with pain and/or suffering, because ultimately, we believe we are deserving of a better life, and God isn’t good enough or powerful enough to make that happen. In our limited understanding, we see pain and suffering as the worse thing possible, and relief from our existential pain as the best thing. But what if there was something worse than suffering here on earth, and something much better than the relief of our temporal pain in this world? This is the angle by which Paul views his circumstances. In spite of a horrible circumstance in his life, he can rejoice because of two things that are more important to him:
- “The gospel has become known throughout the whole imperial guard” (v. 13)
Paul’s mission (Bringing the “Good News” to Macedonia) became more important than Paul’s circumstances. He saw things differently, and was able to rejoice because the persecution didn’t thwart the gospel, but it helped it to grow. The fact is, God is the only one who is able to take that which is evil and turn into a great circumstance (See Genesis 50:20). This was true of the cross of Christ. They thought they were destroying the plan of God, but they were actually carrying out the purposes of a sovereign God (See Acts 2:27-28; see too Acts 8:1-4)
- “Most of the brothers…are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (v. 14)
Secondly, Paul shows joy because, not only was he able to have great success in prison, but others were gaining a boldness because of it, and they too were sharing Christ boldly with others.
Angle #2 The Gospel and Negative Relationships (Philippians 1:15-17)
The second angle in our text is from the arena of personal relationships, and the pain that is often caused through bad relationships. Paul’s imprisonment is enough to send anyone to question their faith, and the God they believe in, but personal relationships can cause a depth of pain that physical pain doesn’t touch. It’s important to realize that these people weren’t false teachers; they were ministers of the gospel, who had turned their ministries into a self-aggrandizing mission to glorify themselves while hurting Paul in the process. They preached out of “Envy and Rivalry” working for “Selfish Ambition.” Unfortunately many people are in the ministry for all the wrong reasons. Their aim was to hurt Paul with bitterness and slander, but Paul remains ok, because he’s not worried about defending himself as much as he is the gospel going out into the world. While their motives were horrible, their message was pure. This really shows us that we can be preaching orthodoxy (Right Teaching), but living a duplicitous life. St John of the cross explained this ugliness in the church, “As far as envy is concerned, many experience displeasure when they see others in possession of spiritual goods. They feel sensibly hurt because others surpass them on this road, and they resent it when others are praised!” This is the sad, but true reality of many in ministry. When we focus on ourselves, trying to prove something to someone, we end up worrying more about accolades than the glory of Jesus.
Angle #3 The Gospel and Our Hope (Philippians 1:18-20)
Paul rejoices because Christ is proclaimed, and he himself is being sanctified. This is interesting in that he says, “This will turn out for my deliverance” (Salvation). The Greek construct of this statement is exactly the same construct that we see in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament) for Job 13:16. He quotes this in the context of Job saying, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” Our Hope, and Paul’s hope is not in the things that we can get here on earth, our hope is in God’s redemptive plan. He is reminding the Philippians that “This” (His present circumstances) will bring forth his “deliverance” (Salvation, sotarian). He knows that all of our circumstances bring forth God’s redemptive purposes in our life, which brings forth life and joy, rather than death and depression.
This is why we, as believers in Jesus can deal with both the physical and psychological persecution that we face. This is why we can serve this earth, without pretense. We simply don’t need anything that God can’t give us. This is in stark contrast to those who are preaching out of envy and strife, and who are trying to find their reward amongst humanity instead of God.
…to the Heart
3 Quick Observations
- Maintaining Hope and Courage in Adversity Comes From the Object of that Hope
- Being Hopeful in Hopeless Times Does Not Mean You Are Unaware of the Pain
- The Ability to Glorify God In Our Bodies Comes From the Power of the Spirit
Is God your all in all? Or are you looking for something else to comfort you, or to kill the pain?
Do you see yourself in a purposeful mission from God, or in an aimless, rudderless existence?
Is Christ proclaimed your great hope? Or has it become a mundane message you are struggling to believe?
Christ has gone to the cross to field our pain, take on our burden, so that we could be relieved of our existential angst, and the real guilt of our shame, so that we could be made whole, and worship God with overflowing joy in spite of the pain we feel on the inside.
Further Questions to Ponder
- Why is so hard for us to practice this truth?
- Why is the “Progress of the gospel” so important?
- What importance does the gospel have in my own life?
- What kind of pain do you think Paul felt in our verses?
- How was he able to cope with that pain?
For Further Reading
Philippians: The NIV Application Commentary, Frank Theilman
Commentary on Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, John Calvin
Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (New International Commentary on the NT), Gordon Fee
Philippians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT), Moises Silva
Paul For Everyone: The Prison Letters, Tom Wright
The Letter to the Philippians (Pillar NT Commentary), G. Walter Hansen
Life Lessons Study Guide: Philippians, Max Lucado