Striving Together for the Faith of the Gospel
INTRODUCTION: Up to this point in our study of the New Testament Book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul has spoken of the privilege the Christian has in Christ. Now in Philippians 1:27-30; he speaks of their obligation in Christian conduct. Remember this statement, PRIVILEGE IMPLIES RESPONSIBILITY. If you, by faith, name the name of Christ, you must live worthy of the name of Christ.
“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; (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. (29) For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; (30) Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”
There is a story told of a soldier who was in the army of Alexander the Great. This soldier was continually being charged with disorderly conduct. One day to his dismay he found himself standing before the great general. The general said, "Soldier, what is your name?" He replied, "My name is Alexander, Sir." The general said, "Soldier, I asked you, what is your name?" Again the answer came back, "My name is Alexander, Sir." Then Alexander the Great stood up and said, "Soldier either change your ways or change your name!"
I believe at times the dear Lord in heaven looks down on us and would like to say, "Christian, either change your ways and live by the faith, or change your name from being a Christian." I remind you that as believers, we are not only to be preachers "proclaiming the faith," but we are also to be soldiers "defending the faith."
Would you again notice verse 27, "Only, let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." Let me focus your attention upon three things from that phrase.
Number 1: The word "conversation" is the interesting Greek word, "politeou," from which we get our word for citizenship. Here Paul is saying, "Behave the way citizens are supposed to behave."
This was very meaningful to the people in Philippi, because Philippi was a Roman colony. Its citizens were actually Roman citizens with all the rights and privileges protected by Roman law.
Here Paul is suggesting that as Christians we are citizens of heaven. Therefore, while we are on earth, we ought to behave like citizens of heaven.
In Philippians 3:20; we read, "For our conversation (same word citizenship) is in heaven from which also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ."
In Colossians 3:1-3; "If (literally, since) ye, then, be risen with Christ, SEEK those things which are above…SET your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
The church of Jesus Christ, to which we belong as believers in Christ, is a colony of heaven on earth. We ought to behave like the citizens of heaven. As such:
We should always be a credit to the Gospel that we say we believe.
We should always be a credit to God, our Heavenly Father.
We should always be a credit to Christ, our Redeemer and Sustainer.
We should always be a credit to the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us to comfort and guide us.
We should always be a credit to our church.
Why? Because by faith in Christ we ought to behave like the citizens of heaven.
Number 2: The word "becometh" speaks to us of being "appealing." Another word to express the same meaning would be "attractive."
Our conduct of life as a Christian should make the Gospel appealing and attractive to the unsaved around us. It is worth remembering that those around us only knows the Gospel it sees in our own lives.
You are writing a Gospel a chapter each day,
By the deeds that you do and the words that you say.
Men read what you write, Whether faithful or true:
Just what is the Gospel according to you?
Paul tells us in II Corinthians3:2; "Ye are our epistles, written in our hearts, known and read of all men." Someone said, "The best literature in the world is no substitute for your own life. Let them see Christ in your behavior and this will open up opportunities to share Christ's Gospel with them."
Peter tells us in I Peter 3:15; "But sanctify (put Jesus first and live righteously) the Lord God in your heart, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."
The greatest weapon of defense for the gospel is a church that "practices the truth it teaches in word and deed.
Number 3: The phrase "The Gospel of Christ" was serious business to the Apostle Paul. Reading carefully through the first chapter of Philippians, you will discover a number of references to the gospel.
In verse 5 we read of the "fellowship in the Gospel."
In verse 7 we read of the "confirmation of the Gospel."
In verse 12 we have the "furtherance of the Gospel."
In verse 17 we read of the "defense of the gospel."
In verse 27 we read, of the "faith of the Gospel."
Paul is saying, I have been put in this DISTASTEFUL and DISTRESSFUL place that I might, in my witness, further the gospel.
Have you ever stopped to think, that just maybe, God has placed you where you happen to be – maybe in a work place, maybe in a community, maybe even in a family, (even though sometimes it might be DISTASTEFUL and at times DISTRESSFUL) so that you might further the gospel and be a witness, maybe the only witness, of the gospel where you are?
In Romans 1:16 Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the GOSPEL of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth…'
In I Corinthians 9:16 he also said, "For though I preach the GOSPEL, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the GOSPEL."
Paul was in jail because he had been preaching the gospel. Yet even in jail he was still preaching the GOSPEL.
His concern was for spreading the GOSPEL message of the "Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ" to everyone he could.
This man's concern was the great commission given to all of us by Jesus before He went back to glory in Mark 16:15, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the GOSPEL to every creature."
My friends, as believers in the Lord Jesus, our mandate is to preach the GOSPEL. That's why God primarily keeps us on this planet. After we are saved,
We are not here primarily to enjoy one another’s company. We could just as easily do that in heaven.
We are not here to primarily worship God. We could worship God more effectively in heaven.
We are not even here to have fellowship with one another. We could be doing that in heaven.
We are here for one purpose, and that is to carry out this great commission. We are here for the furtherance of the GOSPEL. This was Paul's great passion. He evaluated every circumstance of his life in light of this one issue. He considered how it would affect the spread of the gospel. Every circumstance of our lives also ought to be evaluated in light of this all consuming passion, the passion of spreading the GOSPEL.
When it comes to the GOSPEL message and spreading the GOSPEL, and living lives becoming to the GOSPEL, we all feel the same way. To be entrusted by God with the Gospel message is a very sobering and humbling feeling. We think to ourselves:
What if I handle it lightly?
What if I neglect to pass it on?
What if I behave in a way that is unbecoming to the GOSPEL, and because of that a soul hangs in the balance?
Oh, may I impress upon your hearts to create a soul-winning atmosphere at the Green Street Baptist Chapel.
May I again impress upon you the Lord’s request from Matthew 9:36; "to be moved with compassion as you see people faint because they have lost their way."
May I again impress upon you Psalm 126: 5-6. "They that sow in tears shall reap with joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth bearing precious seeds (that is the GOSPEL) shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him."
Philippians 1:27-30 points out that our Christian conduct before the world should be so appealing, that the gospel of Christ can easily be seen in THREE areas of our lives.
First: There must be CONSISTENCY in our lives.
Second: There must COOPERATION in our ministry.
Third: There must be CONFIDENCE in our outlook.
First: There must be CONSISTENCY in our lives. Notice again verse 27, "…That ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind…" Paul sounded the challenge to stand fast in many of his other letters as well.
II Thessalonians 2:15, "Therefore, brethren, STAND FAST, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or epistle."
I Corinthians 16:13, "Watch, STAND FAST in the faith…be strong."
Galatians 5:1, "STAND FAST, therefore, in the liberty with which Christ hath made us free…"
Sir Winston Churchill once said of the British General, Tudor, who commanded a division facing the great German assault of March 1918, "The impression I had of Tudor was an iron peg, hammered into the frozen ground, immovable." That’s what it means to stand fast.
There is something about STANDING FAST. It takes consistency. One of the greatest illustrations of a consistent lifestyle is the Old Testament character Daniel. As a young man, he was carried away as a captive to the city of Babylon. For seventy years he endured the pressures of that pagan culture. In Daniel 1:21; we are given a simple description of his integrity. "Daniel continued even until the first year of King Cyrus."
Throughout his captivity, during all the troubles of his nation, through intrigue, envy, murder, and persecution, Daniel continued.
The rule of the kingdom passed from Nebuchadnezzar to Belshazzar to Darius and finally to Cyrus, but Daniel continued.
He was in the public eye all of his life. He was in the court from his youth. He spent the majority of his years in a wicked culture, and he continued.
Someone has well said,
"For nineteen centuries, the church has been telling the world to admit its sins, repent, and believe the Gospel. Today, in the twilight of the twentieth century, the world is telling the church to face up to her sins, repent, and start being the true church of that Gospel. We Christians boast that we are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, but perhaps the Gospel of Christ is ashamed of us! For some reason, our ministry doesn't match our message."
If our Christian conduct is going to be so appealing to the unsaved world around us, that they will want to hear the Gospel of Christ, there has to be CONSISTENCY in our Christian living.
Second: There must be COOPERATION in our ministry. Please notice the last phrase of Philippians 1:27, "…striving together for the faith of the gospel." Paul changes the illustration from politics to athletics. The words, translated "striving together," give us our English word, "athletics."
Paul pictures the church as a team, and he reminds us it takes TEAMWORK to win victories. The word "striving" has the idea of effort, struggle. Oh, how we need to have an aggressive effort in our faith.
Keep in mind there was division in the church at Philippi. For example, two women were not getting along with each other, as recorded in Philippians 4:2. Apparently the members of the fellowship were taking sides, as is often the case, and the resulting division was hindering the work of the church.
Listen, folks, the enemy of our souls is always happy to see internal divisions in a local ministry. His watch word is "DIVIDE and CONQUER!" Too often, he has his way. Satan's primary strategy involves destroying UNITY AMONG CHRISTIANS.
Someone made this profound statement, “There has never been a church in any age or in any place free from DISCORD or immune to the DANGER of RIVILRY AND STRIFE."
Someone else said, "Whenever a church is advancing in fulfillment of it's obligations to proclaim Christ, you may be sure Satan will be at work. Satan never disturbs a sleeping Church. The members of such an assembly are no problem to him. But when God's people are wide awake and busy for the Lord, Satan and his emissaries will be there to impede the progress.” How true that is!
The only sure weapon that will defeat Satan in any Bible believing church is the power of COOPERATION: "striving together for the faith of the gospel."
Throughout this letter, Paul uses an interesting device to emphasize the importance of UNITY. In the Greek language, the prefix "sun" means "with, together," and when used with different words, strengthens the idea of unity.
In Philippians 1:27, the Greek word is "SUNATHLEO," meaning "striving together as athletes." The ministry of the church is a TEAM effort. It is not accomplished by a one man "Glory Hound" who has to be in the spotlight and get all the praise. This kind of attitude makes for defeat. There are two important thoughts here.
1. The word "together." We must work together. There must be ONE goal – to honor Christ by doing His will. If we all work together, we can reach the goal, and glorify the Lord. But the minute any one of us starts looking for the glory, the team work disappears and the division and competition take over.
2. We are to be together for the one purpose of "the faith of the gospel." If Satan can rob believers of their Christian faith, the doctrines that are distinctively theirs, then he can cripple and defeat the ministry of the Gospel. It is sad to hear people say, "I don't care what you believe, just so long as you live right."
What we believe determines how we behave, and wrong belief ultimately means a wrong life. Do you realize that every local church is but one generation short of potential extinction? No wonder Satan attacks our young people in particular, seeking to get them away from "the faith."
What the world needs to see is a living demonstration of the FAITH we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, a faith that rests upon the infallible Word of God.
It must be a CONVINCING FAITH. It cannot be a doubting, complaining, defeated faith. It must be a faith that rests upon a living reality. It works because our God is alive. We must believe in the infallible Word of God.
Out of 10,000 Protestant ministers recently polled, 7441 replied to the question, "Do you believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God?"
82% of the Methodists said no.
89% of the Episcopalians said no.
81% of the Presbyterians said no.
57% of the American Lutherans said no.
33% of the Baptists said no.
Am I surprised at those statistics? No! The psalmist said, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" If there is one thing we must do; we must stand for Christ, stand for the Word of God, and stand for our faith in Him.
It must be a CAPTIVATING FAITH. This captivating faith:
Must tell about the realities of God.
Must impress a doubting world.
Must glorify God.
Must show the love of Christ for lost sinners.
O for a faith that will not shrink,
Thou pressed by every foe,
A faith that shines more bright and clear,
When tempests rage without,
That, when in danger, knows no fear,
In darkness feels no doubt.
It must be a CONQUERING FAITH. Oh, how we need a faith that:
Goes from weakness to strength.
Conquers evil habits.
Conquers doubting and proud hearts.
Brings us through the dark hours of sorrow.
Helps when we are alone and friends have departed.
Here is what the Apostle Paul says about the matter: "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." Remember that "the strength of the church is the consistent Christian, living out the faith of the gospel, and the strength of the Christian is the unified church striving together."
As citizens of heaven, we should walk consistently. We are members of the same team, and as such should work cooperatively.
Third: There must be CONFIDENCE in our outlook. Notice again Philippians 1: 28-30,
“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. (29) For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; (30) Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”
Paul gives us encouragement that gives us confidence for the defense of the gospel. We must ever remember, "The Christian life is not a playground, it is a battle ground!" Therefore, there will be "conflicts." However, always remember that the presence of conflict is a privilege, since we suffer "for His sake."
One of the great preachers during the time of the Reformation was John Huss. Two weeks before he was martyred for the faith, he prayed, "O most Holy Christ…give me a fearless heart, a right faith, a firm hope, a perfect love, that for Thy sake I may lay down my life with patience and joy. Amen!"
In I Timothy 6:12, Paul charges Timothy to "Fight the good fight (meaning conflict) of faith." What about your faith?
For those of you who have believed and put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I challenge you to so live, that the gospel will become appealing to others as you live consistently, cooperatively and confidently for the faith of the gospel.
Or perhaps you are here, but you have yet to place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Why not make this the day when you look up to God and say with faith, "I believe, dear God. For Jesus sake, I call upon you to save me and grant unto me eternal life."
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon, “Striving Together For The Faith of the Gospel,” then right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please let me know. Please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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