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What matters

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Philippians 1:27-30

What matters

What matters? When it comes down to it what really matters for you?

At a time where there has been so much uncertainty, what might matter is keeping your job or keeping up with your house payments. Maybe what matters most to you is family. It’s having family and seeing them do well in life and remain safe. Of course, remaining safe and healthy has been concerning a lot of us over the last four or so months.

Did you notice how for a while that the words “staying safe” became the way that a lot of us said goodbye to one another when talking on the phone or in zoom or signing off in an email. Instead of the standard way that we normally would end a conversation or an email with words like “cheers” or “goodbye” we would conclude with the words, ‘stay safe”.  Staying safe has been upmost in lot of our minds during COVID and with good reason. But today I want us to think about what really does matter for us as believers. What is important for us in whatever situation we face? If it came down to just one thing that you had to say really mattered, what would say?

Today we are going to look at what Paul said to the Philippians about what really mattered. So far in this letter we’ve heard what Paul prayed for the Philippians and Paul has described his own situation and what was most important to him. What mattered to Paul was to see Christ preached and the gospel advanced and Christ exalted in his life. For Paul, it didn’t matter whether he lived or died so long as he was exalting Christ. In verses 27 to 30 Paul turns his attention from himself and talks about the one thing that really mattered for the Philippians (and for us today).

One thing matters

Paul wrote to the Philippians about the one thing that matters. In verse 27 he used a single Greek word which could be translated “only” to introduce this new topic. The 2011 edition of the NIV has translated this as “whatever happens” but I think the CSB[1] captures the sense of it slightly better. It begins verse 27 “Just one thing”. Paul in this verse is talking to the Philippians about the one thing that matters.

Philippians 1:27 (NIV)

Whatever happens (CSB=just one thing:), conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Paul believed that one thing mattered for the Philippians and this one thing wasn’t any different to what really mattered for the apostle. Paul exhorted them to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. While there was just one thing that really mattered this exhortation would govern everything about them. It’s totally comprehensive. It would govern all that they would do and say. They were to conduct themselves in manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Paul will spend the rest of this chapter and a good deal of the next (up to v18) spelling out what this would mean for the Philippians, but today we just want to focus on verses 27 to 30 and look at what Paul means by this exhortation and why it matters.

Paul told the believers in Philippi that they were to conduct themselves in manner worthy of the gospel. The Greek word, politeuomia that the NIV has translated “conduct yourselves in a manner” was a word that was derived from the Greek word for “city” (polis) and the word that is used here has the sense  “to live as citizen” [2] or “to live the life of a citizen”.

Paul doesn’t use this word in any of his other letters where he is talking about Christian conduct and the suggestion is, (and I think it correct) that he uses it because the Philippians were very conscious of the Roman citizenship with all it’s duties and privileges. In chapter 3, verse 20 Paul will remind the believers in Philippi that they are “our citizenship is in heaven” and here is telling them how they were to conduct themselves as citizens of heaven. You could translate the start of verse 27 “only worthily of the gospel of Christ live as citizens. In fact, the CSB translates the beginning of verse 27 “Just one thing: As citizen of heaven.” It was as citizens of heaven that they were to do conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.

We are to be people who aren’t shaped by the culture around us but by the truth of the gospel that we believe and that we are called to advance in this world. As I said before, Paul will tease out what this means for us in the remainder of this chapter and in a good portion of the next chapter as well, but here he wanted the Philippians to fully understand the one thing that really mattered. It also what the Spirit of God also wants us to understand. Wherever we live and whatever situation we find ourselves in we are to live as citizen of heaven, and we do so by conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Why it matters

But why does it matter?

I would like to just highlight things that come in the few verses that we are looking at today.

  1. We are part of a spiritual battle
  2. Living this way is a sign
  3. Living this way is a privilege

1. We are part of spiritual battle

Firstly, we are part of a spiritual battle is going on. The gospel is advancing in this world, but there are those who oppose the gospel and the Lord Jesus. In these verses Paul uses several words that you might have found in a description of a battle. He tells the Philippians to stand firm (hold their ground), to contend together as one and not be frightened of the opposition. He wrote that the Philippians were part of the same struggle that he was involved in which was for the sake of the gospel. What mattered was that whatever happened, they, like Paul, kept standing firm.

Philippians 1:27b-28a (NIV 2011)

Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.

  • Stand firm in the one Spirit

Paul explained to them that this meant standing firm in one Spirit. The image is of people in a battle having to stand their ground and doing it by standing together as one in spirit or possibly through the Spirit who unites them together into the one body or unit. The Philippians were not to give ground to the opposition but to hold their ground by maintaining the unity of the Spirit and standing together as one.

None of us are meant to be standing alone. You and I are to be committed to a group of local believers who are strengthening and encouraging one another so that together we all might live lives worthy of the gospel. Sadly, in Philippi at least two women had lost sight of this and later in the letter (in chapter 4) Paul will again call upon the believers to stand firm in the Lord before pleading with these two women (Euodia and Syntyche) to have the same mind in the Lord. This is reference back to chapter 2 where Paul talks about the love of Christ that we are meant to have for one another that sees us not look to our own interest but the interest of others (2:2-4). You and I are meant to be committed to group of people who we are standing together as one in the faith with same attitude of mind as the Lord Jesus. We don’t just attend church or watch church online we are to be committed to a group of people who are standing shoulder to shoulder with one another.

  • Striving together as one for the faith of the gospel

Paul goes to explain that this also would involve striving together as one for the faith of the gospel. We have a common cause our purpose that we are to be working together on. Paul was calling them to stand shoulder to shoulder  in the cause of the gospel (see 4:3 where Paul uses this same verb to describe those who had been working together with him in the cause of the gospel). They were to work together as one to advance the gospel in that Roman colony in Philippi as Paul and others were advancing the gospel in other places. The emphasis here is on the unity that we need to do this. We need to be united in this common cause to advance the gospel. We don’t have all separate ambitions but one goal and that is cause of the gospel of the gospel.

  • Do it without being frightened of the opposition

Paul then adds that they were to do it without being frightened of the opposition.

From the outset of the ministry of the gospel in Philippi there had been strong opposition. Luke tells us in Acts 16 that Paul and Silas had been stripped and beaten and severely flogged and thrown in prison. In this case it wasn’t Jews that had stirred up trouble for Paul and his fellow workers it was some upset businessmen who had lost the opportunity to make money out of slave girl because of Paul. So, they dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates and accused Paul and Silas of causing an uproar in the city by “advocating customs that were unlawful for us Romans to accept or practices” (Acts 16:20).

As a Roman colony loyalty to Rome and to the emperor would have been paramount and expected of all its citizens. All civic ceremonies would have had a pledge of allegiance to Rome and to the emperor who they worshipping as though he were a god. The emperor by this time was proclaiming himself as “Lord” and “Saviour”. Believers who only had one Lord and Saviour wouldn’t have been able to go along with this and it brought them from the start into conflict with the authorities and their proud emperor loving neighbours. This would have meant suffering and persecution for the believers.

Knowing this Paul wrote to the Philippians not to be afraid of their opposition but to stand firm and stand together for the sake of the gospel. He can write this because he believes that what matters most is living a life worthy of the gospel. This is the way that he lived his life. He wrote of his own situation earlier in this chapter that it didn’t matter whether he lived or died so long as Christ was exalted. What was important for him was that Christ was preached for the gospel to be advanced. He wrote that for him to live was Christ and to die would be gain and that would be better by far.

Paul writes to the Philippians encouraging them to not give in to fear of the opposition for what they have in Christ is better by far and it secure. It was better than anything that Rome could give them. It was better than anything that they might lose in this life including life itself. It didn’t matter what happened to him or what the opposition might do he believed that the advancement the gospel was what mattered, and nothing could every compare with the glory that was to come.

What Paul reminds us of is that we are part of struggle or a conflict that is going on in this world, the outcome of which is not in doubt. One day we will be with Christ and that is better by far. But right now, we can expect opposition and hardship, but the way we face it is by standing together as one, standing firm, holding on to the gospel and striving together for the faith of the gospel so that Christ might be exalted in us and so that others might be brought in the kingdom of God.

What cause are we striving for? We need to be careful that we aren’t just working hard to get ahead here and now or to make ourselves comfortable and to have lots of things or distractions or do to do well at work and have a nice life. Whatever we do and wherever we are we are to striving together for the cause of the gospel without being afraid of the opposition that will come our way.

2. Living this way is a sign

Paul goes on to write that if we stand together in this way without fear that it a sign. It’s sign of destruction for the enemies of the gospel but of deliverance for the Philippians.

Philippians 1:28b (NIV2011)

This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.

Such courage and resolve in the face of opposition highlights the fact that believers have an indestructible hope in the gospel and its sign of the salvation which the gospel promises. It is evidence that our faith and hope is in Christ alone and its sign that we will be saved through the grace and power of God.

On the other hand, those who oppose people who want to live lives worthy of the gospel are shown to be enemies of the gospel. Their opposition is a sign that God’s judgment will come upon them. It signs of their ruin and destruction.

The believers in Philippi were being assured that the opposition they face will turn out for their deliverance. God will deliver them. But those who give into their fears and let go of the hope of the gospel have no such assurance, but for those who stand firm continuing to live a life worthy of the gospel by holding on to Christ they can know that God will deliver them.

3. Living this way is a privilege

The last thing Paul says in these verses that to live such a life, suffering for the sake of the gospel is a privilege that God had given the Philippians.

Philippians 1:29-30 (NIV2011)

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

In the case of the Philippians Paul wrote that they were not only granted the privilege of believing through Christ, but they were also given the privilege of suffering for Christ. They had joined with Paul in the same struggle that they had seen him going through in Philippi and were hearing that he was still going through in Rome.

Paul believes it is a privilege to suffer for the one who suffered and gave himself for us. It is privilege to be part of his work that is going on in this world even it means suffering because we are suffering for him. Paul is not saying that we ought to be looking to suffer, but if we do, what we must understand is that suffer for the sake of Jesus is a privilege because we do it for the honour and glory of the Lord Jesus.

What matters?

What matter to you?

For Paul it was living in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. It meant living as citizen of heaven in whatever city you have found yourself living in – be it a colony of Rome or be in city here in Australia. Wherever you live you are there as God’s people. In chapter 2 Paul will go on to explain to the Philippians that they are meant to shine among the people that they live like stars in the sky. We do this as we live worthily of the gospel, standing firm together in the hope of the gospel striving shoulder to shoulder for the faith of the gospel, counting it a privilege even we suffer for the sake of the gospel.

What matters most for you?

Is it living a life worthy of the gospel? Are we putting the gospel at the centre of our lives? Or have our lives been captured by smaller causes that might be good but are not meant to be the one which is to be at the centre of everything that we do? Our happiness is not a cause worth living your life for and those who strive to do so don’t end up any happier than the next person. And while our health is important staying safe and healthy isn’t something that ultimately we can guarantee and as Jesus said in the gospel if we try to save our lives we lose it, it is only those who lose their lives for him and the gospel who will find life (see Mark 8:35). Paul says just one thing matters and that is living a life worthy of the gospel. This is what we are to do when we go to work or work at home or engage with our families or go down to help out at school. We are to be living as citizens of heaven in those places seeking to live in a manner worthy of the gospel, holding out the truth of the gospel to others and honouring Christ by doing so.

And we are to work at it together advancing the gospel together despite the opposition which might come. The Lord is calling you to stand firm, to hold your ground, to stand shoulder to shoulder with you brother and sister is the cause of the gospel.

[1] Christian Standard Bible

[2] P.T. O’Brien, “Commentary on Philippians”; New International Greek Testament Commentary,146.