Sermon Manuscripts

Rock Climbing

Stand Here … Don’t Move (Part 1) — NOTES

Galatians 1:1-5

Dr. Byron Hand

May 2, 2021

Rock Climbing Essentials:

Introduction to Galatians:

“Galatians is a viral statement of essential Christianity.” John Piper

Galatians 1:1–5 (ESV)

1 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

What is the Gospel?  The good news of the Gospel is this: the just and gracious God of the universe looked upon hopelessly sinful people and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear His wrath against sin on the cross and to show His power over sin in the resurrection so that all who turn and trust in Him will be reconciled to God forever.

The Gospel Informs what I _________ – 1:1-2

The Gospel informs my _____________ – 1:3-5

Application:

I need to ________________ the Gospel to _________________ daily!

Some helpful references:

  1. Galatians for You – Tim Keller
  2. The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness – Jerry Bridges
  3. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate – Jerry Bridges
  4. A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to see the Glories of God’s Love – Milton Vincent

WATCH THE VIDEO OF THIS MESSAGE HERE: SERMONS – Forest City Bible Church (fcbchurch.ca)

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April 25, 2021 FCBC – Pastor John Thompson’s Farewell Sermon

Philippians 4:19-23    “GREETINGS IN GOD’S GLORIOUS GRACE!”

I have been known at times to sign my emails: “Have a grace day!” because a grace day is way better than a great day! Paul always began his letters with the greeting of grace and ended his letters commending his readers to God’s grace. As you know grace is the unmerited, undeserved favour of God poured out in the lives of His people.  We experience saving grace at that moment that we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.  Sanctifying grace is that ongoing work of the Spirit of God in our lives to conform us to the image of Christ.  And serving grace is the enabling of God to fulfill His will and His purpose in our lives.  And all of it is made possible through the  grace of the Lord Jesus Christ as Paul expresses in verse 23.  It is in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ that God’s grace has been most fully revealed.  As the Apostle John put it in John 1:14-18 (ESV) “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)  For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”  

In the 13 Epistles that Paul wrote the message of grace is foremost.  

Romans 1:7 (ESV) “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 16:20 (ESV) “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

1 Corinthians 1:3 (ESV) “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 16:23 (ESV) “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.”

2 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV) “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 13:14 (ESV) “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Galatians 1:3 (ESV) “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Galatians 6:18 (ESV) “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”

Ephesians 1:2 (ESV) “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 6:24 (ESV) “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”

Philippians 1:2 (ESV) “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 4:23 (ESV) “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Colossians 1:2 (ESV) “To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”

Colossians 4:18 (ESV) “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

1 Thessalonians 1:1 (ESV) “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.”

1 Thessalonians 5:28 (ESV) “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

2 Thessalonians 1:2 (ESV) “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Thessalonians 3:18 (ESV) “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

1 Timothy 1:2 (ESV) “To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

1 Timothy 6:21 (ESV) “Grace be with you.”

2 Timothy 1:2 (ESV) “To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2 Timothy 4:22 (ESV) “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”

Titus 1:4 (ESV) “To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”

Titus 3:15 (ESV) “All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.”

Philemon 1:3 (ESV) “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Philemon 1:25 (ESV) “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Of the passage before us, John MacArthur says: Paul has now come full circle. He began this letter by wishing the Philippians grace (1:2), and he concludes it the same way.

And as Paul finishes his letter to the Philippian believers I am finishing my time here at Forest City Bible Church as your Pastor.  As I said last week, thank you and remember God is faithful and to God be the glory!  In these last five verses Paul shares three things I want us to focus on this morning. 

  GOD WILL SUPPLY EVERY NEED! Philippians 4:19-20

God will supply all that you need out of Christ’s riches in glory!

2.  GREETINGS TO EVERY SAINT! Philippians 4:21-22

Greetings to and from all the saints, every single one of them!

3.  GRACE TO EVERY SPIRIT FROM OUR SAVIOUR!  Philippians 4:23

Grace from our Saviour to your spirit, each and every one of you!

1.  GOD WILL SUPPLY EVERY NEED! Philippians 4:19-20

God will supply all that you need out of Christ’s riches in glory!

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Verse 18 ends with God and this verse begins with God.  Paul has just commended the Philippians believers for giving a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God and now he assures them that God will supply all that they need.  It is not that God is obligated to pay back their gift, it is the wonderful fact that the Sovereign God will provide.  It has been said you may give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.  We can never out-give God!  God promises to supply all of our needs, not all of our greeds.  (We have our own government to do that.)  There is no need that God is unable to meet. 

1.  God’s supply is based on relationship. Paul speaks of “My God.”  His God was their God!  God Himself is the provider.  There is no need that is greater than our God!  The God whom Paul serves, whom the Philippians served, whom we serve, is the God who will supply. 

2.  God’s supply is stated in the future tense.  The point is not that someday God will supply their needs but rather that God most certainly will continue to do so.  This is not a promise of financial prosperity.  It is not name it and claim it. 

3.  God’s supply is for every need of yours.  Not only is God supplying spiritual blessings in heaven as a result of their giving (verse 17), God will supply for their physical needs in this life. 

The Mentor Commentary adds this clarification:  This is not a promise of health and wealth, nor of an endless supply of material luxuries; sometimes the path that God leads His children down is one of suffering lack (cf. Philippians 4:11-13). Sometimes the saint ‘needs’ humbling, and a reminder to rely upon God, more than he or she ‘needs’ this or that physical boon. Paul’s word is an assurance of God’s love for His people that always works for their good in all circumstances (Romans 8:28).

4.  God’s supply is according to His riches.  Paul frequently uses the term riches to express both what God Himself possesses and what believers have as a result of being in Christ.  God’s supply is in proportion to His vast resources.  Read Ephesians 3:14-21 especially verse 16: “according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” 

5.  God’s supply is in glory.  The word for glory refers to the radiance or the splendour of something.  In this case it is referring to God in His transcendent majesty.  Our God is glorious and the fullest expression of His glory is in the Lord Jesus Christ.  As John said: “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” “His riches in glory is in Christ Jesus.” 

6.  God’s supply is in Christ Jesus. Paul has prayed for the believers in Philippi to be Philippians 1:11 (ESV) “Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”  He has promised that the day will come when Philippians 2:10-11 (ESV) “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”   For believers when Jesus comes the Saviour… Philippians 3:20-21 (ESV) “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”  

7.  God’s supply is not in a product, not in a place, it is in a Person – Jesus Christ our Lord!  2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV) “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

John 1:14 (ESV) “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Hebrews 1:3 (ESV) “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” 

Don’t be blinded to the magnitude of this promise.  The fullest expression of the riches of God’s glory is His Son Jesus Christ and one day every knee shall bow and God will be glorified. 

That’s why Paul bursts out in a doxology as he pens these words.  Let’s say Philippians 4:20 (ESV) together:   “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” To God’s supply there is only one appropriate response.  “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

God is Father to those who have trusted in His Son! 

The God’s Word for You Commentary says: This verse serves as a concluding doxology in response to all that Paul has written in this letter. Throughout the course of this epistle, Paul has taught the extraordinary truths of the saving grace of God. Each chapter has been packed with triumphant teaching that has magnified the greatness of God, including his grace that is persevering (1:6, 10), faith-granting (1:29), sanctifying (2:13), justifying (3:9), empowering (3:10), glorifying (3:21), and comforting (4:5). The God of such abounding grace must be ascribed the glory due to his name.

Specifically, the first person of the Godhead is to be praised: “our God and Father” is in view (4:20). Why should glory be given to the Father? Because he is the Giver of grace (1:2), the Worker of salvation (1:6), the Exalter of Christ (2:9-11), the Conformer of Christ-likeness (2:13), the Father of believers (2:15), the Revealer of truth (3:15), the Giver of peace (4:7, 9), and the Supplier of needs (4:19). Consequently, the Father is worthy of praise “forever and ever” (v 20). Giving glory to God will be our eternal occupation throughout the ages to come. We should likewise make it our primary occupation in this age too. The only proper response to these truths is to join our affirmation to Paul’s Amen.

The fact that God will supply your every need gives me great assurance as Doris and I leave you in His loving hands. 

2.  GREETINGS TO EVERY SAINT! Philippians 4:21-22

Greetings to and from all the saints, every single one of them!

“Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you.  All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”

Instead of using the collective “all” Paul actually uses the individualistic “every” to declare that each saint was worthy of his care and affection.  Greet is the word “aspazomai” which means to engage in hospitable recognition of another.”  How we wish we could do that but at least we can see each other.  Paul repeats the word greet three times, implying a strong bond of fellowship and concern.  As he closes his letter to them, Paul expresses his love for the members of the Philippian congregation and His concern for their spiritual well-being. 

He addressed his letter to “all the saint in Christ Jesus and he now concludes by greeting each and every saint in Christ Jesus.  The saints are those set apart for God’s special possession and sovereign purposes in this world.  They are those in Christ Jesus a phrase occurring eight times in this letter.  It is of interest that he does not identify those who are with him in Rome.  Also he doesn’t name any of the dear saints in Philippi.  Some speculate that he may have been trying to avoid causing tension as he had already mentioned Euodia and Syntyche by name, and earlier had spoken of Epaphroditus and Timothy.  But I think he just didn’t want to forget anyone or make anyone feel left out.  I can identify with that as I say good-bye today.

The fellowship of God’s people is a common bond of love without any distinction. 

None of Paul’s more prominent co-workers wore backward collars, nor did they hold special ecclesiastical titles.  They were uniquely gifted and used by God but that did not in any way make them superior or others inferior.  There are no class distinctions in the family of God.  All are brothers and sisters in Christ.  The division between clergy and laity is wrong.  Jesus taught:  Matthew 23:8-12 (ESV) “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.  And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.  Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.  The greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

The sharing of a common, non-discriminating bond of love and mutual desire for each other’s spiritual well-being is an essential characteristic of saints.  And the greatest joy of saints is to see sinners come to salvation!  To the glory of God, some had even been saved from among Caesar’s household.  The household of the pagan emperor had yielded up many souls to the kingdom of Christ!  Praise God.  Oh, that Justin Trudeau’s household would be touched by the grace of God! Caesar’s household would be the ancient equivalent of a modern civil service, or if you describe the chairs they sit in, the swivel service.  By one estimate those in Caesar’s household may have numbered close to 200,000 and many were slaves.  The point is the Gospel was advancing into the very halls of power by the grace of God, though Paul was a prisoner of Rome or as he said time and time again a prisoner of Jesus Christ.  It is God’s grace to which Paul points as he closes his letter. 

3.  GRACE TO EVERY SPIRIT FROM OUR SAVIOUR!  Philippians 4:23

Grace from our Saviour to your spirit, each and every one of you!

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

What’s interesting as Paul commends them to God’s amazing grace is that your is plural and spirit is singular which means literally it would read: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, with all of you in this respect individually.”  The resource that all believers need most is the grace that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace is the unmerited favour or undeserved, beneficent love of God in Christ that brought about the believers’ redemption. 

Grace had become the very theme of Paul’s life.  Law had come by Moses, but grace came through Jesus Christ.   It was grace that reached Paul en route to Damascus.  It was grace that saved him as he realized all those accomplishments of his past were deeds done in the flesh.  It became obvious to him that grace would be his message as he was used of God to minister to the Gentiles and offer them the hope of sins forgiven and an eternal home in heaven.  And it was grace that assured him of his own eternal destiny.  Any man whose life had been transformed so radically, so completely because of God’s matchless grace would naturally shout it from the housetop the rest of his life.  As John Newton wrote with equal passion centuries later: 

Through many dangers, toils and snares,  I have already come;

‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,  And grace will lead me home.

John MacArthur points out:  Believers are not only saved by grace, we are sustained by grace.  Were governed by grace, guided by grace, kept by grace, strengthened by grace, sanctified by grace, and enabled by grace.  We are constantly dependent on the forgiveness, comfort, peace, joy, boldness and instruction that come through God’s grace. 

And God’s grace comes to believers through the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the theme of this epistle, being mentioned almost forty times in its four chapters.  Paul described himself as a servant of Christ (1:1); he addressed the Philippians as saints in Christ (1:1); his imprisonment was for the cause of Christ (1:13); for him to live was Christ (1:21); and death would usher him into Christ’s presence (1:23); he exhorted the Philippians to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of Christ (1:26); by having the attitude of Christ (2:5); he called for them to glory in Christ (3:3); he counted everything in his past as garbage in view of the riches he found in Christ (3:8); he was saved by faith in Christ (3:9); he eagerly awaited Christ’s return (3:20); and his sufficiency was in Christ (4:19).  The character, worship, fellowship, joy, and resources of saints are all bound up in Jesus Christ.  Paul aptly summed up the Christian life when he wrote: Philippians 1:21 (ESV) “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

The same grace of God is available to each person today.  And like Paul, anyone who places his or her trust in Christ as their personal Saviour from sin receives forgiveness of sin and eternal life.  Salvation involves a transfer of trust–from oneself and what we can do to Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.  Have you trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour?  Is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with you?  God has displayed His glorious grace in Christ.  Through His life of perfect obedience, His sacrificial death for the sins of all people, His resurrection from the dead and His ascension to the right hand of God the Father.  By calling Him Lord Jesus Christ Paul is again echoing the language of Philippians 2:5-11 looking to that day when “every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Paul closes his letter with assurance of God’s supply, with personal greetings and commendation to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul prays that this grace would be with your spirit. By spirit Paul refers to ‘the source and seat of insight, feeling, and will, generally as the representative part of human inner life.’  Paul prays that God’s grace would be manifested to the spirit of each and  every individual believer.  Paul surrounds everything he says in grace! 

Do you know God’s grace today? 

God’s abounding grace is clearly seen in the parable Jesus told of the Prodigal Son.  It might better be called the Loving Father.  Charles Swindoll in his book “Laugh Again” says: 

The returning prodigal was absolutely amazed by his father’s immediate acceptance, reckless forgiveness, and unconditional love.  Having been so distant, so desperate, so utterly alone, he knew  no way to turn but homeward.  Then, at the end of his rope, he found himself suddenly safe in his father’s embrace, smothered with kisses, and surrounded by extravagant grace.  The fatted calf…a soft warm robe, comfortable new sandals, and the costliest ring were all his…no strings attached…no probation required.  Not surprisingly, that home was soon to be filled with “music and dancing.”  As Jesus told the story, He was careful to add, “They began to celebrate.” 

The word translated celebrate means “to be glad, to be merry, to rejoice.”  God has called us to joy.  And that has been the theme of Paul’s letter.  Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice!  In writing of the joy God wants us to know, Swindoll says: I could not have (encouraged you to know such joy) without knowing that Someone, like the prodigal’s father, is diligently searching for you.  Every day He scans the horizon and waits patiently for you to appear.  He has spared no expense.  A blood-smeared cross on which His Son died is now a painful memory, but it was essential to solve the sin problem.   Every day He says to our world, “All is forgiven…come on home.”  His arms are open, and there  is a wide, wide smile on His face.  The band is tuning up.  The banquet is ready to be served.  All that is needed is you!

On this my final Sunday sharing the Word of God with you as your Pastor for almost 22 years. 

I know God will supply your every need.  I wish I could hug each and every one of you but for now we have to settle for greetings in Christ Jesus.  And, I commend each of you to God’s amazing grace.  And as I do that I ask again: Do you know God’s grace today? 

If not, the time to trust in Jesus is now! 

And for those who know Jesus, may we go on in His grace! 

The God’s Word for you Commentary says:  From the new birth to the new heavens and new earth, the Christian life is entirely one of grace. Start to finish, it is all of grace. Rejoice!

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April 18, 2021 FCBC – Sermon 

Philippians 4:14-18           “GRATITUDE BORN OF GRACE!”

As the Apostle Paul draws his letter to the Philippian believers to a close, so too our time together draws to a close.  It has been my privilege to serve as your Pastor here at Forest City Bible Church for almost 22 years.  Two lessons we have learned together is that God is faithful and that to God belongs all the glory!  I know I could go on all morning with story after story of God’s faithful provision for us.  I believe that Paul highlights exactly that in these last verses of Philippians that we will consider this week and next.  He expresses his gratitude for their support and partnership in the sharing of the Gospel and he commends them to God’s glorious grace. 

Though Paul is imprisoned in Rome and held in chains his faith is strong, his hope is glorious and his joy is infectious.  He knows that God is continuing to use him to spread the message of the Gospel.  As we will learn next week, even some in Caesar’s household had become believers. 

Paul has been referring to the Philippians loving support throughout his letter.  As he began to write he said:  Philippians 1:3-5 (ESV) “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,  always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”  The word translated “partnership” is “koinonia” and it means “joint participation in, fellowship in.”  Paul rejoiced in the Philippians partnership with him in the gospel.  This involved their prayers for Paul and their financial support for his missionary endeavours as we learn here in chapter 4.  In the New Testament the term “koinonia” also carried financial implications which we will see in these verses. As well, in the middle of the letter Paul referred to the gift the Philippians had sent with Epaphroditus.  Not only had Epaphroditus supported Paul in his work during his imprisonment, the gift he brought had ministered to Paul’s need.  In Philippians 2:29 as Paul says that Epaphroditus completed what was lacking in their service to him he was not complaining, he was stating the fact that their gift was a great help in a situation where they couldn’t all come to him to help out personally, they sent Epaphroditus and sent their gift.   And now Paul articulates his gratitude to the Philippians and his praise to God. 

1.  THANK YOU FOR SHARING MY TROUBLE: Philippians 4:14-15

2.  THANK YOU FOR MEETING MY NEEDS: Philippians 4:16-17

3.  THANK YOU FOR PLEASING OUR GOD: Philippians 4:18

1.  THANK YOU FOR SHARING MY TROUBLE: Philippians 4:14-15

“Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.  And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.”

The conjunction translated “yet” has the sense of “in any case” and has the effect of “breaking off a discussion and emphasizing what is of most importance.”  Paul used the term in Philippians 1:18  to emphasize that what matters most is the preaching of the Gospel even though some were preaching with less than stellar motives.  There it is translated “only” which is also the translation in Philippians 3:16 where Paul urges them to hold on to the truth.  Here the word marks the transition  to Paul’s expression of his deep gratitude for their partnership in sharing in his ministry. 

He thanks them for their kindness in sharing in his trouble.  “Share” “synkoinonia” means to be a partner together with others.  It is from the word for partnership “koinonia” that Paul used earlier in his letter and next uses in verse 15 with the emphasis on the financial participation of giving and receiving. 

The idea is they are partners together in the common cause sharing the message of the Gospel.  He is literally saying: “Thank you for doing well in sharing in my ministry.”  As one called of God to

suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul thanks them for sharing in his trouble, literally affliction, suffering.  Paul suffered much for the cause of the Gospel and the support and encouragement of the Philippian believers meant so much and continued for a long time.  They took an active and sympathetic interest in the work that Paul was doing. 

I thank you for your support and encouragement of the ministry here at Forest City Bible Church.  You have done well in supporting the work and in encouraging me, my wife and our family as your Pastor.   

The God’s Word for You Commentary adds:  The Philippians had established an ongoing partnership with him beyond that which any other church had known. No church had stood with him for as long as they had. Paul had first preached the gospel in Philippi a decade earlier, and as he then departed for Macedonia, this church remained his ministry partner for a period of ten years. Only the Philippian church had consistently given Paul the financial support he needed to continue his itinerate preaching ministry. As soon as he left Philippi after planting the church there, they immediately began giving financially to meet his needs.

Paul addresses them directly, “you Philippians know” what he is sharing is well known to them.  They had partnered with him financially from the very beginning and they were the only ones to do so.  Paul uses business terms, giving and receiving to describe their partnership, koinonia.  This is more than a mere financial partnership, it is, as was common in the Greco-Roman world, the language of friendship, sharing together in a common cause.  Paul is not speaking with the Philippians in the cold language of a business arrangement but rather in the warm language of friendship and he goes on to be more specific. 

2.  THANK YOU FOR MEETING MY NEEDS: Philippians 4:16-17

“Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.  Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”

Paul calls to mind that even when he was in Thessalonica they sent a gift more than once to help meet his needs.  After Paul left Philippi (Acts 16:40), he had journeyed through Amphipolis and Appollonia until he came to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). There Paul had preached the gospel and created an uproar, much like the one that had occurred in Philippi. The aftermath of that event was that a church was planted. At a demanding time, when Paul needed financial assistance, the Philippians stood with him with repeated gifts of support. In this sense, they were close partners with him in the work of the gospel and it started right away and continued on as they had opportunity.   This speaks to the fact that the Philippian believers were eager to partner with Paul in the advance of the Gospel.  It was clear evidence that they belonged to God and they were using their resources to further His work.

What Paul expresses next is important.  He was not focussed on the gift.  His heart was not set on the gifts they sent, his heart was set on them.  He says: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”  “Seek” means “to be seriously interested in or have a strong desire for.”  He uses the present tense.  He is not in it for the money, he is in it for the furtherance of the Gospel.  Fruit refers to the results of the Gospel going forward, the verb increase can refer to compound interest so Paul is commending them for their financial investment for eternity in the work that God had called him to do.  It is an investment in the hearts and lives of those who have trusted in Jesus through the witness of the Apostle Paul.  It is to their credit, credited to their account as they share with Paul in his trouble and are used of God in meeting his needs, they also share in the results of the work that God called him to do. 

The Mentor Commentary says:  The imagery seems to be of the Philippians seeing their heavenly

accounts overflowing as a result of their sacrificial giving to the advancement of the gospel. Or, as O’Brien summarizes it: ‘The picture painted by the accounting metaphor is of compound interest that accumulates all the time until the last day. The apostle has employed this commercial language to show that he has set his heart on an ongoing, permanent gain for the Philippians in the spiritual realm.’

Jesus drew the same picture when He said:  Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

Paul is encouraging the Philippians that their sacrificial giving will produce a heavenly harvest of fruit, both in this age and the one to come.

John MacArthur points out:  Their gift brought Paul joy not because of its personal material benefit to him, but because of its spiritual benefit to them.

And I rejoice in your support financially of the work here at Forest City Bible Church.  You have given sacrificially, you have given joyfully and only eternity will tell the return on the investment you have made to the glory of God and for the good of others.  And that is the final point Paul makes regarding their giving and receiving, it is pleasing to God. 

3.  THANK YOU FOR PLEASING OUR GOD: Philippians 4:18

“I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”

As Paul concludes his thanks for their gift he spells it out for them.  They had given a gift that not only met Paul’s immediate needs, it provided abundantly for him.  His account is overflowing.  

The phrase “and more” means “to abound, to have abundance”.  The word “received” is another financial term meaning “a receipt for a sum paid in full.”  Paul certifies that the gifts were delivered and he accepted them. 

The gifts brought to him in Rome by the faithful servant Epaphroditus on behalf of the Philippian believers has caused Paul to overflow in thankfulness and praise to God.  Their gift has been a wonderful act of worship.  He says: “I am well supplied.” 

The gift has more than met the needs that Paul has but more importantly it is “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”  

A Fragrant Offering:  The first expression, a fragrant offering, literally, “an odor or aroma of fragrance,” depicts a sacrifice pleasing to God. When Noah offered burnt offerings on the altar after the flood, “the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma” (Genesis 8:21). The Torah instructs Aaron and his sons to burn the whole ram on the altar; “it is a burnt offering to the Lord; it is a pleasing aroma” (Exodus 29:18). The ultimate value of the temple sacrifices is their “pleasing aroma to the Lord” (Levitcus 1:9, 13, 17). In the New Testament, the sacrificial death of Christ is a fragrant offering to God (Ephesians 5:2 (ESV) “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” By describing the gifts from the church in Philippi as a fragrant offering, Paul elevates their value to the highest level as sacrifices that are pleasing to God.

An Acceptable Sacrifice:  The word sacrifice served as the common term in the Old Testament for offerings of grain or animals to God. The psalmist recognizes that “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit” (Psalm 51:17). Paul describes the expressions of the Philippians’ faith as the sacrifice and service coming from your faith (2:17). By describing their gifts as an acceptable sacrifice, he puts their gifts in the category of the sacred offerings accepted by God.

Pleasing to God:  Paul challenges the Roman Christians to offer their “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1). The writer to the Hebrews urges followers of Jesus, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16). 

In Philippians 4:18, Paul sees the gifts of the Philippians as a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. Their gifts can receive no higher value than this.  These gifts can no longer be measured simply in terms of financial value or social value. God’s pleasure in the gifts reframes them with spiritual, divine significance. The Philippians have not only provided more than enough for Paul, but they have also presented sacrifices pleasing to God. The meaning of the gifts is derived not so much from the way they benefit Paul, the one who received these gifts, but from the way that the Philippians, those who gave these gifts, fulfilled the will of God and pleased God by their gifts. Their financial giving to his work serves a much higher purpose than simply meeting his needs. Their stewardship is an act of worship that is being offered up to God.

And that reminds us that it is God’s work, God’s church, not Paul’s, not Pastor John’s.  It is my prayer that you will support and encourage your new pastor and his wife and family as you have mine.  And I know you will. 

Gordon Fee observes: Paul concludes the letter on the same note with which it began (1:3–7)—their mutual partnership . . . in the gospel—thus placing this matter in the emphatic, climactic position at the end. When read aloud in the gathered community, these will be the final words that are left ringing in their ears: that their gift to him has been a sweet-smelling sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Something I read about the sweet smelling sacrifice really got me thinking.  How many enjoy the delicious aroma of beef sizzling on the barbecue grill?   That’s the sensory analogy here depicting the Lord’s delight in the sincere worship of the people whom He has redeemed for Himself.  What truly delights the God of the universe, of course, is not charbroiled beef but the devotion of dedicated hearts and lives.  Psalm 51:16-17 (ESV) “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  

The Mentor Commentary makes this observation: 

Paul models for us how to understand generous giving for the advancement of the gospel.

Several principles emerge:

(1) Gratitude expresses itself not merely in the gift itself or the givers themselves but ultimately in thanksgiving to the one who enabled the gift;

(2) Gratitude acknowledges the human channel(s) through whom God’s generosity flows;

(3) Generous giving recognizes that every gift is ultimately given to God Himself even though the

immediate recipient is another person;

(4) God delights in the generous giving of his people because it is a reflection of His generosity shown in the ultimate gift of His Son. 

2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV) “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

Romans 8:32 (ESV) “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Romans 11:33-36 (ESV) 

33  Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34  “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

35  “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”

36  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Thank you for sharing my trouble, thank your for meeting my needs, thank you for pleasing our God.

As I prepared this message I was reminded of a song by Andrae Crouch

MY TRIBUTE TO GOD BE THE GLORY  (Andrae Crouch)

How can I say thanks for the things  You have done for me?

Things so undeserved yet You gave To prove Your love for me

The voices of a million angels Could not express my gratitude

All that I am, and ever hope to be I owe it all to Thee

To God be the glory                To God be the glory

To God be the glory                For the things He has done

With His blood He has saved me With His power He has raised me

To God be the glory                For the things He has done

Just let me live my life and     Let it be pleasing Lord to Thee

And if I gain any praise          Let it go to Calvary

With His blood He has saved me, With His power He has raised me

To God be the glory                For the things He has done

For the things He has done     For the things He has done  

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April 11, 2021 FCBC Sermon

Philippians 4:10-13    “HOW TO PRACTICE GODLY CONTENTMENT”

The key to contentment is Christ-sufficiency not self-sufficiency. 

As I was preparing the message I was remembering playing Go Fish with our children when they were younger.  The goal as you may know is to get all four of the same cards and gain a book.  The one with the most books at the end of the game wins.  So based on the cards that you have in your hand, you ask the other players if they have what you need.  For instance, if you are trying to collect the Flounders book (that was one of my favourites), you ask the next person, “Do you have a flounder?”  If they do not have it in their hand they tell you to “Go fish.”  At that point you take a card from the top of the deck and if you get what you need you continue on.  What I remembered the most was the exclamation when the card you picked up matched what you were asking for and you got to say: “I got what I wanted!”  It was one of the most exciting moments of the game. 

In the Go Fish game you got to say: “I got what I wanted!” quite a few times.  In life we find that we don’t get to say it too often at all.  It is true that you can’t always get what you want. 

And because of that many people find themselves discontent, unsatisfied, anxious, worried, about what life and even the next day may bring.  Financially tough times, economic recession, shutdowns and lockdowns, job losses and economic upheaval, put people under intense pressures.  As the props on which people lean and the things in which people trust begin to fail the realization comes that the sources from which people seek satisfaction and security are in fact a house of cards, they might just as well, “Go Fish.” 

Many are faced by anxiety and discontentment.  Anxiety begs the question “Will I have enough to survive?  Can I meet my family’s basic needs?”  And Anxiety answers “Probably not.”  Anxiety then  retreats into depression.  Discontentment keeps asking “Will I ever have enough to be happy?  “What about my desires?”  And Discontentment answers, “It will never be enough.  You’re never going to make it.”   And discontentment retreats into the trap of comparison, envy and even greater anxiety.  In his book Simple Faith, Charles Swindoll cites a poem that expresses the discontentment so prevalent in our society.

It was spring  But it was summer I wanted, The warm days,    And the great outdoors.

It was summer, But it was fall I wanted, The colorful leaves,   And the cool, dry air.

It was fall, But it was winter I wanted, The beautiful snow,   And the joy of the holiday season.

It was winter, But it was spring I wanted, The warmth,   And the blossoming of nature.

I was a child, But it was adulthood I wanted. The freedom,   And the respect.

I was 20, But it was 30 I wanted, To be mature,   And sophisticated.

I was middle-aged, But it was 20 I wanted, The youth,   And the free spirit.

I was retired, But it was middle age I wanted, The presence of mind,   Without limitations.

My life was over.    But I never got what I wanted.

Many spend their lives searching for contentment but never find it.  Paul emphasized the importance of contentment to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (ESV) “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

Paul had learned how to practice Godly contentment and he reveals the key to contentment in the passage before us.  The key to contentment is Christ-sufficiency not self-sufficiency. 

Paul shares what we have to learn to be content.  Charles Kelley defines contentment this way: “Christian contentment is the God-given ability to be satisfied with the loving provision of God in any and every situation.”

1.  LEARN TO REJOICE IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD: Philippians 4:10-11

2.  LEARN TO BE CONTENT IN WHATEVER GOD ALLOWS: Philippians 4:12

3.  LEARN TO BE STRONG IN THE POWER OF CHRIST: Philippians 4:13

1.  LEARN TO REJOICE IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD: Philippians 4:10-11

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.  Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

When Paul writes “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly” you almost forget his present circumstances as a prisoner of Rome, chained to a Roman soldier 24/7.  Paul does not complain, he rejoices and he has encouraged the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice.  Genuine joy is found in the unchangeable Lord.  The Lord is the source of his joy as he trusts in God’s omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent providence in his life.  He knows that God is working all things together for good, even this imprisonment (Romans 8:28).  Life’s situations and circumstances may change but God is always constant.  His eternal purposes never change, God is working out His plan.  Therefore we have every reason to rejoice.

Paul knows his joy comes from God, but he expresses his thanks to the Philippians that they were used of God to supply his needs but his supply of joy comes from God and he rejoices greatly.  The greatness of our God should bring us immeasurable joy despite whatever circumstances may come our way.  Paul has been through arrests, trials, shipwrecks, beatings and imprisonment but he greatly rejoices. 

And the Philippians had revived their concern for Paul at exactly the right time in the providence of God.  The verb translated “Revived” “anthallo” is rare in Greek and it means to grow or to bloom again and was used in agricultural contexts to refer to the growth of plants.  You might say their concern for Paul blossomed through the gift that they sent and Paul is thankful. 

The word concern is again “phroneo” to think, referring to the shared mind that Paul has been teaching about throughout the epistle.  Be of the same mind, of one mind, Philippians 2:5 (ESV)

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  They have been thinking of Paul and have taken the opportunity to send along support.  He never doubted their love and concern but they had lacked opportunity to help out.  However, Paul did not let their lack of opportunity get him down, he continued to rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice. 

The God’s Word for You Commentary adds:  All our joy comes from God. Our joy abounds in fellowship with his people. May we look to him, for there is not one drop of true joy to be found in this world.

John MacArthur says:  Though his situation was extremely difficult, Paul was not discontent. It did not matter that he was a prisoner, living in a small apartment, chained to a Roman soldier, subsisting on a sparse diet. None of that affected his contentment.

That is why he says: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

Paul learned in the school discipleship with Christ to be content whatever his circumstances.  Learned means literally to learn through experience.  Paul is not speaking of what he lacks, the literal translation would be “Not that I am speaking according to lack.”   This word “husteresis” also translated want is used only in one other place in the New Testament in Mark 12.  The widow gave all that she had.  Mark 12:41-44 (ESV) “And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums.  And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.  And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

The lesson to the disciples was that she gave out of her poverty, the word husteresis, her lack, her need, her want, and yet she gave all she had.  

John Phillips in his commentary on Philippians adds this to the story:  She had nothing left in the world and expected to go to bed supperless that night, but I like to think that the Lord, who is no man’s debtor, had a surprise waiting for her when she arrived home.

I quoted Charles Kelley earlier.  He defines contentment this way: “Christian contentment is the God-given ability to be satisfied with the loving provision of God in any and every situation.”

To be discontent would mean Paul wants to be somewhere else other than where the Providential, Sovereign hand of God has placed him.  To be content is to have a peaceful acceptance of where God has providentially placed you and the present circumstances you are facing. 

The Mentor Commentary says:  In much of Western culture, where materialism is rampant and advertisers bombard us with messages of what we need to be happy, Paul’s call to contentment is desperately needed. But the need is not limited to Western cultures; indeed, the lust for material things that undermine contentment is a universal human temptation. At its heart the issue is one of trust in God’s sovereignty and goodness. Additionally, we should also remember that the contentment Paul speaks of is pre-eminently displayed in Christ Himself, who did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped but instead emptied Himself (2:6-7). It is that same Christ who lives in us to enable us to be content regardless of our external circumstances.

“Content” means “satisfied, adequate, competent, sufficient.”  It is a rare word meaning to be happy with what you have.  It is the word used in 2 Corinthians 12:9 when God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  Paul’s sufficiency is found in Jesus. 

The key to contentment is Christ-sufficiency not self-sufficiency. 

2.  LEARN TO BE CONTENT IN WHATEVER GOD ALLOWS: Philippians 4:12

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

In verse 12, Paul fleshes out his definition of contentment, finding full sufficiency in Christ. 

Paul explains what he has learned by experience.  “I know, I know, I have learned the secret.” 

He knows how to be brought low.  Here he uses the same word as in Philippians 2:8 describing

Christ humbling Himself (brought low) and becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  That’s why in humility we are to count others better than ourselves. 

He knows how to abound.  Paul used the same verb “perisseuo” in Philippians 1:9 where he prayed their love would abound and in 1:26 where he trust they will have ample cause to glory in Christ, abound in glorifying Christ when he is able to visit them in the providence of God.  Paul’s joy and contentment was not dependent on having abundance.  In prosperity or in prison he would rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice. 

He now shares what how he can live this way.  “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” 

What Paul has learned.  In every situation Paul has lived triumphantly in Christ.  He says again, I have learned.  This is not mere head knowledge but a heart experience born out of real life situations.  His heart and his mind are guarded by the peace of God in Christ Jesus and his life is guided by the God of peace who is with him. 

Why does Paul call this a secret?  Hendriksen explains, the only “initiation” necessary to learn this secret is to fear and trust in God: To those who fear him God reveals this mystery (Psalm 25:14). Those who reject Christ cannot understand how it is possible for a Christian to remain calm in adversity, humble in prosperity.

Paul defines the spectrum of life by looking at two extremes.  He sets out the extremes to express

the entirety of human experience.  His expressions encompass the extremes and everything else in between. 

He has learned what it is to be full and what it is to be hungry.  He has learned what it is to abound and what it is to lack.  Paul’s joy was not dependent on these varying circumstances. 

3.  LEARN TO BE STRONG IN THE POWER OF CHRIST: Philippians 4:13

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Paul now reveals what he has learned through all of these varying circumstances.  He can face all things that God in His providence brings into his life according to His plan and purpose through the strength provided through Christ. 

This doesn’t mean we can do everything but in everything we do we seek His strength.  Everything we do is done in the strength of Christ. 

Hansen points out in his commentary, the Letter to the Philippians:  The contextual meaning of ‘all’ refers to the previous claim to be content whatever the circumstances (4:11). In all the situations of his life—in poverty and in prosperity, when well fed and when hungry, Paul can be content. He has the power to endure all these extreme situations, all these ups and downs, without anxiety, with the peace of God guarding his heart and mind in Christ Jesus (4:6-7).

The word strength is “dunamis” from which we get our English words, dynamite, or dynamic.  It is power, the power of Christ, the power of the Gospel at work in His own.  The point is that Christ is the One who strengthens Paul to experience contentment no matter his circumstances.

When we find ourselves lacking the contentment that Paul enjoyed and exemplified, it is not because we do not have what we need to enjoy it; it is because our eyes are on the wrong place. They are upon our circumstances instead of upon our Saviour.

Paul was not talking about an outward set of circumstances but an inward source of strength. This is not contentment in a place, but in a Person.

James S. Stewart explains what this verse means:   Christ is the redeemed man’s new environment. The human body, by the acts of eating and drinking and breathing, is continually drawing for its strength upon the resources of its physical environment. So the Christian spirit, by prayer and worship and surrender, makes contact and keeps contact with its spiritual environment, which is Christ: thus the soul draws for its strength upon the supplies of power which in Christ are quite inexhaustible.

This quiet strength enables us to live and thrive in the place where God has placed us and to be content.  The key to contentment is Christ-sufficiency not self-sufficiency. 

God provides the strength that we need!  Isaiah 40:29-31 (ESV) “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

This describes the course of our lives.  Youth – eagles.  Middle age – running and not weary (until you have kids).  Older, walk and not faint. 

Have you learned to rejoice in the Providence of God? 

To be content in whatever God allows? 

To be strong in the power of Christ? 

Paul was satisfied in any and all circumstances because his satisfaction didn’t depend on things around him – he found his satisfaction in the power Christ provided.  His ability to face all things is based on his union with Christ. 

It all begins with being “in the Lord” Philippians 4:4 (ESV) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”  

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April 4, 2021 FCBC – Sermon – Easter Sunday Service

Philippians 2:5-11     “JESUS HUMBLED HIMSELF – GOD HIGHLY EXALTED HIM!”

In each of the four Gospels the story of the cross of Christ is told and the message of the cross is the overriding theme of the Scriptures as God unfolds His plan of redemption from Genesis to Revelation.  And today as we celebrate this Easter Sunday of 2021 we know that Christ completed the work of providing salvation on the cross and the guarantee of God’s acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice is the resurrection.  Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed! 

In Philippians 2:5-11 the message of the cross is seen uniquely through the eyes of the Crucified, Risen and Returning Lord.  Paul challenges us to try to comprehend the mind of Christ as He came into our world to seek and to save those that were lost.  This is holy ground.  These truths are shared not as an attempt to satisfy our curiosity but for the purpose of impacting and reforming our lives, to challenge us to be like Jesus. 

When someone does something that we don’t understand we will ask: “What did you have in mind?”  “What were you thinking.”  In asking we are trying to comprehend their motivation and what their actions mean.  That is Paul’s challenge to us in Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  Paul is explaining the fact that the life of humility thinking of others before ourselves that he has described in verse 1-4 came in the flesh and was demonstrated through the life and actions of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

When Paul says “have this mind” the word in the original is “phroneo” “to think, to have a mindset or attitude.”  He has told them to be “of the same mind”, and to be “of one mind” in Philippians 2:2 and now he tells them that “mind” that attitude should be like Jesus.  He continues the theme of being like Jesus in our thinking, attitudes and actions throughout the epistle and as we saw last week that is the reason he tells us what we should be thinking about.  Whatever is  true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, things excellent and worthy of praise.  

And the supreme example in how we should think is Jesus.  As I said last week: The Lord Jesus Christ Himself was the perfect embodiment of each one of these qualities.  He is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is anything excellent, if there is anything worthy of praise it is found in Jesus! 

What a joy to declare: Christ is Risen.  He is Risen Indeed! 

Also I shared last week:  The Mentor Commentary adds:  As the risen Lamb of God, Jesus Christ is worthy of our praise today even as the heavenly host right now praises Him as the one who has purchased a people for Himself ‘from every tribe and language and people and nation’ and who has made them ‘a kingdom and priests to our God’ so that they will ‘reign on the earth’ (Revelation 5:9-10). If our minds remain fixed on Jesus Christ as the source and the very embodiment of these lovely realities, we cannot go wrong. 

This morning we are going to try to understand the mindset, the attitude of Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour.  The cross as seen through the eyes of Jesus! 

1.  CHRIST’S SELF EMPTYING HUMILITY: Philippians 2:5-8a

2.  CHRIST’S SACRIFICIAL DEATH ON THE CROSS: Philippians 2:8b

3.  GOD’S SUPREME EXALTATION OF HIS SON!  Philippians 2:9-11

1.  CHRIST’S SELF EMPTYING HUMILITY: Philippians 2:5-8a

Jesus the Son of God assumed all of the limitations of finite humanity, being born in the likeness of men.  Marvel here for a moment, Christ was fully human, yet without sin!  Remaining fully and truly God, He became fully and truly man.  He knew what it was to be tired and weary, to hunger and thirst, to feel all the pain a body can feel.  He was subject to temptation, suffering, pressure and stress.  Our God, our Lord, Our Saviour is One who walked this earth as a man.  Verse 8 specifies what Christ did as one who was both fully God and fully man.  He appeared to others a just another man but He was the Son of God in human form and He humbled Himself in a supreme act of self emptying.  The humility that Paul calls us to display is that seen in the Person and Work of Christ.  And next Paul describes what the humble, selfless, Son of God did for you and me.  

Jesus the Son of God assumed all of the limitations of finite humanity, being born in the likeness of men.  Marvel here for a moment, Christ was fully human, yet without sin!  Remaining fully and truly God, He became fully and truly man.  He knew what it was to be tired and weary, to hunger and thirst, to feel all the pain a body can feel.  He was subject to temptation, suffering, pressure and stress.  Our God, our Lord, Our Saviour is One who walked this earth as a man. 

Verse 8 specifies what Christ did as one who was both fully God and fully man.  He appeared to others a just another man but He was the Son of God in human form and He humbled Himself in a supreme act of self emptying.  The humility that Paul calls us to display is that seen in the Person and Work of Christ.  And next Paul describes what the humble, selfless, Son of God did for you and me.  

2.  CHRIST’S SACRIFICIAL DEATH ON THE CROSS: Philippians 2:8b

“By becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Jesus came into this world knowing that His life would end in a cursed and cruel death on the cross.  I was thinking as Christ entered this world as a baby He was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in the manger.  Now we consider that He was obedient to death, even death on a cross and they took His lifeless body and wrapped it in burial cloths and laid it in a borrowed tomb.  What love! 

Paul highlights the complete obedience of Christ from His birth to His death, from the cradle to the grave.  He suffered the worst of all deaths, torturous death by crucifixion, the most gruesome kind of death known to the ancient world, reserved for only the worst of criminals.  According to Roman law, a Roman citizen could not be crucified.  Yet the fully Divine, fully human Son of God, Jesus was put to death by being nailed to a Roman cross.

And as He was obedient to the point of death even death on a cross, Jesus submitted to having all the sins of all mankind laid upon Him.  He who knew no sin, became sin for you and me, He bore our sins in His body on the cross.  He suffered the full curse of the law, which is death.  He shed His blood to take away your sins and mine.  No one ever humbled himself or herself more than Jesus!  Bow in wonder before the cross! 

The Mentor Commentary adds: While it is valuable to recognize the excruciating physical pain of crucifixion, we must never forget that it was the pain of bearing the sin of His people that made the crucifixion the greatest act of suffering in human history. The divine penalty that God’s justice requires for each and every sin committed by His people was measured out against the sinless Jesus Christ… The perfect obedience of Christ was essential for our redemption. Adam, the first head of the human race, disobeyed and plunged humanity into sin, death and the curse. In order to redeem us Christ had to not only pay the penalty for our sins, but also obey in our place. It is his obedience that God reckons to believers and in so doing declares them to be righteous because of the work of Christ. That’s the beauty of the gospel. 

And the guarantee that the Gospel is complete is in verses 9-11. 

Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed! 

3.  GOD’S SUPREME EXALTATION OF HIS SON!  Philippians 2:9-11

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Christ is highly exalted, God has given Him an honoured name above every name, and one day soon He will be hailed as Lord, to the glory of God the Father! 

Highly Exalted: “Therefore God has highly exalted Him!”  Following the humiliation of Christ came the exaltation of Christ.  Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  The Greek verb used here “hyperypsoo” means “to raise someone to the loftiest height.”  It calls to mind Isaiah 52:13 (ESV) “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.”  God did not merely exalt Him, He highly exalted Him.  On the third day God raised His Son from the grave, Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!  And God exalted Him above the earth in His ascension, He exalted Him above the angels in His coronation, He exalted Him to His rightful place at His right hand to rule and to reign in glory until the day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. 

Honoured Name: “And bestowed on Him the name that is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” 

Christ will be declared and acknowledged by every knee and every tongue that He is Lord!  Lord, Yahweh, the unique name of God establishing the supremacy of Christ.  “Lord” means “master, ruler, sovereign, supreme one, ruler of all!”  Jesus is His earthly name, Christ is His messianic title, Lord is the name that is above every name before which all shall bow and confess. 

The God’s Word for You Commentary says:  It includes “those who are in heaven.” It includes every elect angel and glorified saint in heaven throughout all the ages. It encompasses those “on earth”—all those in this life, both rescued and rebels, and Satan, who prowls about the earth as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). And it includes all those “under the earth.” This is a reference to damned souls already imprisoned and demon spirits already consigned to the pit of hell. As Christ is exalted by God, so too will his name be exalted as well.

Hailed as Lord: “And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Here every tongue parallels every knee in the previous verse.  What every tongue will confess is the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  All will face the sobering realization of the supremacy of The Lord Jesus Christ.  Christ is Risen.  He is Risen Indeed!  And all will confess, acknowledge make an open declaration that Jesus Christ is Lord. 

These verses are based on Isaiah 45 especially verse 23 Isaiah 45:23 (ESV) “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’”

The Mentor Commentary says:  This short confession “Jesus Christ is Lord” summarizes several

fundamental convictions: (1) Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah (i.e. Christ) who delivers His people from their sins; (2) Jesus of Nazareth was Yahweh (i.e., the Creator and covenant Lord

of Israel revealed in the OT) in the flesh; (3) the exalted Jesus Christ alone is the true Lord of this universe; (4) as the true Lord of the universe, Jesus Christ deserves total allegiance.

When a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and trusts Him alone for salvation they confess the Lordship of Christ.  Jesus Christ is My Lord!  Can you say that today?  Is He your Lord? 

If not, confess Him now and trust in Jesus to save you.  You can bow willingly today, or one day you will bow, every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. 

All of this, Christ humiliation and Christ’s exaltation, His coming as a man, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross and God highly exalting the Lord Jesus Christ before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess was and is to the glory of God. 

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says in Question 1. What is the chief end of man?

Answer 1. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him for ever. [b]

The fullest expression of the glory of God is seen in the Person and Work of Jesus. 

Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  

What a delight to declare this Easter Sunday and each day that God gives us breath: Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed! 

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March 28, 2021 Sermon

Philippians 4:8-9 “HOW TO GUARD OUR HEARTS AND MINDS!”

A quick glance or a brief listen to any source of news these days will tell you that people are struggling with their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic.  A simple Google search will present over 1 million results.  Depression, anxiety and stress are taking a heavy toll on the well-being of many.  A recent survey by the Canadian Mental Health Association in Ontario published on Monday, March 15 indicated that “more than one third of Ontarians reported high stress or anxiety due to COVID-19 in a new poll.”  Other findings showed that the poll suggested only 35 per cent of Ontarians consider their mental health to be “very good” or “excellent,” compared to 52 per cent in the first round of polling in May, 2020.   It also showed that nearly 80 per cent of respondents believe there will be a “serious mental health crisis” post-pandemic, compared to 66 per cent in August, 2020 and 69 per cent in May, 2020.  The pandemic’s toll on mental health has yet to be clearly seen.  And Christians are not exempt from the struggle with depression, anxiety, stress and the mounting pressures of isolation and loneliness. 

First let me say that it is not wrong to struggle with these things.  And second let me tell you it is right to seek help, to reach out to someone to encourage you. 

Even though he was a prisoner at the time and awaiting a life or death verdict, the Apostle Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to stand firm in the Lord, to agree in the Lord, and to help each other for Jesus’s sake.  As we saw last week he commanded them in our memory verse from last week to:  Philippians 4:4 (ESV)  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”  Further he commanded them to be reasonable and ready for Jesus’s return while being anxious for nothing, prayerful and thankful for everything.  In that way they would know Philippians 4:7 (ESV) “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, which would guard their  hearts and their minds in Christ Jesus.”  Today I want us to pick up where Paul left off.  We need to know how to guard our hearts and minds when the stresses of life press in upon us.

Paul introduces in verse 7 a play on words that is completed in verse 9.  As you know the peace of God (verse 7), “The God of peace will be with you.” (verse9)  The peace of God will guard you and the God of peace will guide you.   These promises are linked to the command to rejoice in the Lord.

Paul explains how to guard your heart and mind to know the peace of God and to sense the presence of the God of peace.  Peace of mind and heart come through what you think about and what you do.  And if we are going to have the mind of Christ we need to learn these lessons well. 

Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” 

These last two prescriptions for our worrywart hearts and minds are bound to each other.  Their structure forms a parallel.  Paul gives two lists and two commands which result in the God of peace being with us.  The commands define what we should think about and what we should put into practice.  That forms our outline. 

1.  WHAT WE SHOULD THINK ABOUT: Philippians 4:8

2.  WHAT WE SHOULD PUT INTO PRACTICE: Philippians 4:9a

3.  KNOWING THAT GOD IS THE SOLE/SOUL SOURCE OF PEACE!  Philippians 4:9b

1.  WHAT WE SHOULD THINK ABOUT: Philippians 4:8

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

When Paul says this finally, he finally means, finally, he is drawing his letter to a close. And he addresses the Philippians again as brothers a term we have seen five times already with one more to come in verse 21.  Paul is reminding them that they are part of the same family of God directing his thoughts to all believers in every place, all who are born into God’s family by faith. 

Paul knows that which occupies our minds and captures our imaginations shapes our character and finds expression in how we live.  If we are spending all day in the media our minds will be a mess.  We don’t need Facebook we need the Faith Book, the Word of God.  Our minds need to dwell on the qualities that reflect God’s perfect character, the mind or attitude of Christ. 

John MacArthur points out:  “Spiritual stability is a result of how a person thinks … The Bible leaves no doubt that people’s lives are the product of their thoughts.”

Paul gives us a list of six guidelines followed by two summary phrases found nowhere else in the New Testament in quite this form. 

Guideline one:  whatever is true.  The inability to cope with truth is a form of mental illness.  When people dwell on what is not true they begin to easily embrace falsehood.  “True” (alethes) means that which is reliable and faithful, not false or a lie.  Our minds need to be focussed on whatever is real, genuine, authentic.  Truth is defined by God and found in the Word of God.  God Himself is truth, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  He is the embodiment of grace and truth. John 1:14 (ESV) “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   John 1:17 (ESV) “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Because God is true, His Words are true and trustworthy.  If we are to think about what is true we must set our minds on Scripture.  It is the Word of God that will give us the discernment to determine what is true in a world full of lies.  Think of the lies we are bombarded with daily.  Lies about marriage.  Lies about life, abortion, euthanasia.  Lies about worth and values.  We need to think about whatever is true! 

Guideline two: whatever is honorable.  “Honourable” (semnos) means that which is noble, dignified, lofty, elevated, venerable, majestic and grand.  A focus on a high and lofty morality, thinking about things that lift us up, not bring us down.  Think about what is principled, decent and upright.  Get our minds out of the gutter and lifted up to glory where we think about as 1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV) says:  “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”  Get our attention off frivolous things and focus on what is honourable through the working of the Spirit of God within us.  1 Corinthians 2:10 (ESV) “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”  

Guideline three: whatever is just.  “Just” is the word “dikaios” meaning that which is right, that which is holy, conforming to the law of God. The related word is righteousness.  Right living in a world gone wrong.  Our minds and thoughts need to be centered on God and His Word.  Our thinking conformed to true justice. 

The Mentor Commentary says:  Dedication to God’s standards of justice will set a Christian apart from the world, whose faux ‘justice’ often boils down to rejection of God’s laws, and the embrace of statist totalitarianism. While the Christian respects all duly constituted authorities (Rom. 13:1ff.), his concepts of justice are defined by God and His Word, not by polls and elections. He dwells on eternal and unchanging values rooted in the very character of God.

Guideline four: whatever is pure.  “Pure” (hagnos) in the original comes from the root word for holy, holiness, and sanctification.  This means to to ethically clean, above reproach, filling our minds with that which is morally pure.  We need to be our own censors focussed on purity and avoiding the pollution of the world’s entertainment and activities.

Guideline five: whatever is lovely.  “Lovely” appears nowhere else in the New Testament and the word “prosphiles” speaks of what which is pleasing, attractive and beautiful, reflecting an ethical beauty.  This refers to the beauty of holiness, as opposed to the horror of sin.  We are to dwell on that which is beautiful Psalm 27:4 (ESV) “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”  

Guideline six: whatever is commendable.  “Commendable” like the word lovely, this word appears nowhere else in the New Testament.  “Euphemus” means reputable, highly regarded, well spoken of pointing to that which is respectable in the eyes of Almighty God anything that is worthy of commendation or of praise.  Setting our minds on that which displays the glory and the grace of God.

Paul follows the six guidelines with two motivating phrases calling us to exercise discernment; 

If there is any excellence.  This is Paul’s bottom line summary thinking about excellence means that which reflects the character of God should dominate our thinking.  Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  Whatever reflects the holiness of God should fill our minds and occupy our thoughts.  Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”   Paul reinforces that with the next injunction. 

If there is anything worthy of praise.  Anything that can be praised by God or that brings us to praise and worship God should be foremost in our thoughts.  The pursuit of all that praises God releases us from the trap of seeking the praise of people around us.  This is not in any way the power of positive thinking it is the pattern for what we as believers allow to fill our minds and our hearts. 

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself was the perfect embodiment of each one of these qualities. 

He is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is anything excellent, if there is anything worthy of praise it is found in Jesus! 

The Mentor Commentary adds:  As the risen Lamb of God, Jesus Christ is worthy of our praise today even as the heavenly host right now praises Him as the one who has purchased a people for Himself ‘from every tribe and language and people and nation’ and who has made them ‘a kingdom and priests to our God’ so that they will ‘reign on the earth’ (Revelation 5:9-10). If our minds remain fixed on Jesus Christ as the source and the very embodiment of these lovely realities, we cannot go wrong.

No wonder Paul says: Think about these things.   Literally Paul says “dwell on” ponder carefully these things from the word “logizomai” from which we get our English words logarithms or logic.  This is a mathematical term and carries the idea of making a careful, concentrated calculation.  It envisions taking all things into account.  To dwell on is in the present tense meaning it is to be ongoing.  Keep dwelling on these things.  This is a command in the active voice, if we focus in thinking about what is right we will live rightly.  The inseparable connection between what we think and how we live.  Paul has told us what we should think about.

2.  WHAT WE SHOULD PUT INTO PRACTICE: Philippians 4:9a

“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things…”

Paul again underlines the importance of setting and following good examples.  He gives four ways they should put into practice what he has described. 

Imitate what you have learned.  What Paul has taught them and preached to them are the principles of the Word of God and these are the truths they need to put into practice. 

Emulate what you have received.  This refers to what Paul has written to them, underlining the importance of the Scriptures.  We need to be constantly receiving the Word of God, we need to set aside a time to read our bibles and pray every day! 

Make use of what you have heard.   What you are hearing, listening to, shapes your way of living.  In Paul’s life and example they saw and heard the message of God’s grace and everything they heard about him pointed to the glory of Jesus Christ. 

Practice what you have seen in me.  Paul is asking them to follow his example.  They were to

remember how he walked by faith, how he handled himself, how he acted and reacted.  He was inviting them to observe his life and see how it pointed toward Jesus.  1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV)

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 

In Paul’s words and actions the pattern is set to move on from pondering, dwelling on Christ’s perfections to putting them into practice in daily living.  The word practice (passo) means to do, to execute, to perform.  This is a present, active imperative, a command to be followed.  Paul is a living example to them and to us of how to overcome anxiety and live joyfully. 

And the result of learning and living that way is..

3.  KNOWING THAT GOD IS THE SOLE/SOUL SOURCE OF PEACE!  Philippians 4:9b

“…and the God of peace will be with you.”

Isaiah 26:3 (ESV) “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”  The effort made to guide what we should think about and to guard what we put into practice results in knowing that the God of peace is with us.  Back in verse 7 Paul assured the Philippians that through prayer the peace of God would guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Here in verse 9 Paul turns the phrase around to speak of the God of peace.  In other words, God is the One, who produces the peace that surpasses all understanding that guards our hearts and minds.

The things you think about and the examples you follow invite peace or bring anxiety.  The world around us offers empty remedies for the problem of worry.  You can ask your physician or read through the self-help section of the bookstore but the only real cure is offered by the God who made us.  I read this week: “The Divine Physician of our souls makes house calls!”  He knows and understands how our hearts become troubled by the uncontrollable factors in our lives.  To find the peace you are longing for and to silence the worry that keep you awake at night turn to God who alone provides peace. Jesus said John 14:27 (ESV) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”   God has provided His peace through Jesus Colossians 1:19-20 (ESV) “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” 

You can know peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.  Then the peace of God will guard you and the God of peace will guide you.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we know the peace of God through prayer, through thinking about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, things excellent and worthy of praise and through practicing following good examples all of which enables us to know that the God of peace is with us.  

John 16:33 (ESV) “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Norman Harrison wrote about this verse in his book: His Peace:  Note the contrasting experience: “In Me … peace. In the world … tribulation.” Jesus gives us peace. The world gives us worry. Which is to prevail? And what is to decide the issue? How fully Jesus understood, and how faithfully He characterized the world in which we move. It is a world of worry and vexation of spirit.… The hope of escape is in Jesus’ reassuring words: “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” The victory is already won for those of us who are “in Him.” The secret lies in our power so to appropriate that victory as to make it, potentially and practically, our very own

The NIV Worship Bible shares this prayer:  “Lord, thank You for providing prayer as an antidote to fretfulness.  When my heart is full of anxiety I can see only my limitations: I cannot find Your peace.  But when my heart is full of thanksgiving I can see Your every provision; Your peace is unavoidable.  So in response to Your generous invitation, I bring my thoughts, one by one, into captivity to the obedience of Your Son.  I focus my heart and my mind on the virtue of Jesus Christ.  I cast all my cares upon You; I receive in return Your incomparable gift of peace.”   

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March 21, 2021 – FCBC Sermon

Philippians 4:4-7   “TURN YOUR WORRIES INTO PRAYERS!”

In verse 4 Paul gives the first of several commands to the Philippians and to us: Our memory verse for the day: Philippians 4:4 (ESV)  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

I read this week that our decision to rejoice is not linked to the quality of our circumstances. 

Yet, we have to admit that many times we let circumstances or people or things or just our own thoughts get us down.   

David Jeremiah in his book “Count it All Joy” shares this prescription for unhappiness. He says: 

If you are looking for a new way to be unhappy, perhaps one or two of these ideas will motivate you to greater depths of despair:

1.  Make little things bother you; don’t just let them, make them.

2.  Lose your perspective of things, and keep it lost. Don’t put first things first.

3.  Get yourself a good worry—one about which you cannot do anything but worry.

4.  Be a perfectionist: Condemn yourself and others for not achieving perfection.

5.  Be right, always right, perfectly right all the time. Be the only one who is right and be rigid about your rightness.

6.  Don’t trust or believe people, or accept them at anything but their worst and weakest. Be suspicious. Impute ulterior motives to them.

7.  Always compare yourself unfavourably to others, which is the guarantee of instant misery.

8.  Take personally, with a chip on your shoulder, everything that happens to you that you don’t like.

9.  Don’t give yourself wholeheartedly or enthusiastically to anyone or to anything.

10.  Make unhappiness the aim of your life, instead of bracing for life’s barbs through a “bitter with the sweet” philosophy.

That sounds like a sure fire way to make yourself unhappy.  But as believers we are called to rejoice.

The joy that characterizes the Christian life is not joy that willfully ignores the struggles we have in this world.  It is joy that is experienced in the midst of struggles as we know the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our joy is rooted in the Biblical reality expressed in Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV) “The joy of the LORD is your strength.”

The word joy appears in this epistle 5 times and the word rejoice 9 times.  Remember Paul wrote this epistle of joy when he was not sure if he would live or die, while he was confined as a prisoner of Rome for the sake of the Gospel chained to a Roman soldier day after day. 

Kent Hughes says:  Remember that Paul wasn’t writing while he lounged in a Roman bath or sipped espresso in Café Roma.

Karl Barth, in a brief survey of the commands to rejoice in the book of Philippians, noted that we meet the command first in Philippians 2:18, where Paul tells the Philippians that they “should be glad and rejoice” with him, and then again in Philippians 3:1: “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord,” and, lastly, here in Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

From the force of these three commands, Barth concludes that “‘joy’ in Philippians is a defiant ‘Nevertheless!’” —nevertheless “Rejoice.” Paul’s unqualified “Rejoice” certainly does defy the thankless, complaining nature of humanity. 

Kent Hughes in his Preaching the Word commentary on Philippians says: 

Rejoicing in the Lord is not a luxury—it is a necessity!  Until the Lord comes back, all of us are going to experience excruciating stresses, interpersonal woes, humiliating sicknesses, our own deaths, and if we live long enough, the wrenching deaths of loved ones and friends. But in every and all circumstances, we are to: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

In our studies of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Philippi we have been learning much about his gifted way of both confronting and encouraging them to stand firm in the message of the Gospel against forces from without seeking the church’s destruction and against forces from within

seeking the church’s division.  Last week dealing with a divisive situation he challenged them to stand firm in the Lord, to agree in the Lord and to help each other for Jesus’ sake.  He now shares

the commands necessary to put that into action in their church and in their lives.  And the command that overrides them all is rejoice!  Don Carson in his book “Basics for Believers” says:

Because of what Christ has done, we may rejoice, we will rejoice, we must rejoice, for we rejoice in the Lord … always.

1.  ALWAYS BE REJOICING: Philippians 4:4

2.  ALWAYS BE REASONABLE AND READY FOR JESUS’ RETURN: Philippians 4:5

3.  ALWAYS BE PRAYERFUL, THANKFUL AND AT PEACE: Philippians 4:6-7

1.  ALWAYS BE REJOICING: Philippians 4:4

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

Let’s begin with a quick overview of the journey of joy in Philippians. 

Philippians 1:4 (ESV) “Always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.”

Philippians 1:25 (ESV) “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.” 

Philippians 2:2 (ESV) “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

Philippians 2:29 (ESV) “So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men.” 

Philippians 1:18 (ESV) “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.” 

Philippians 2:17 (ESV) “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”

Philippians 2:18 (ESV) “Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Philippians 2:28 (ESV) “I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.”

Philippians 3:1 (ESV) “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.”

Philippians 4:4 (ESV) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

Philippians 4:10 (ESV) “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.”

Paul’s joy and the believer’s joy, our joy, is centred in God, a concept that finds its roots in the Old Testament. Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV)  “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” 

Psalm 5:11 (ESV) “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.”

Here in Philippians 4:4 the word “rejoice” (used twice in this verse) is in the form of a present active imperative verb meaning it is a command that requires continual, habitual rejoicing.  Rejoicing in the Lord gives us perspective on the difficulties that we face and in this context on the division that threatens the church family. 

One commentary I was reading said that: A high view of God produces overflowing joy.” 

John MacArthur says:  The only sure, reliable, unwavering, unchanging source of joy is God. That is why Paul commands believers to rejoice in the Lord. The phrase in the Lord introduces an important principle: Spiritual stability is directly related to how a person thinks about God.

No one has stated that truth more clearly than A. W. Tozer. In his classic book on the attributes of God, The Knowledge of the Holy, Tozer wrote,  What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

Knowing God is the key to rejoicing.  What Paul is describing is rejoicing in relationship.  Philippians 4:4 (ESV) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

We are to rejoice in the Lord always.  His point could not be more clear, joy should be one of the defining marks of a believer regardless of circumstances. 

Stephen Fowl in his commentary on Philippians aptly notes: 

Joy is not so much a spontaneous emotion as a response formed in those who can read the economy of God’s activity in particular ways and are able to act in conformity with that unfolding story. Joy is the appropriate response when one rightly perceives the unfolding of God’s drama of salvation even in the midst of suffering and opposition. 

2.  ALWAYS BE REASONABLE AND READY: Philippians 4:5

“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;”

To a church that was struggling with problems, persecution from without from those set on destroying the church, dissension and division from within, Paul commands: be reasonable.  Times of friction can bring out the worst in people.   The word reasonableness is “epeeikace” and it means to be mild in reacting to one another, to be gentle.  Proverbs 15:1 (ESV) “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”   The sense of the word is that we are to have a disposition that seeks to defuse conflict and bring restoration.  And this reasonableness, gentleness, should be evident to everyone.  A reminder of the meekness, gentleness of Christ as Paul expressed to the Corinthians in  2 Corinthians 10:1 (ESV) “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—”  Meekness is not weakness.  I like the old saying:  “If you think being meek is weak, try being meek for a week.”  The fact is everybody should find you agreeable.  Not that you agree with everyone in everything, but you learn to disagree, agreeably, without being disagreeable. 

Paul reminds them why they are to do all this: “The Lord is at hand.”  The fact is Jesus is coming soon.  The expression “eggus” refers to a nearness of time or of space.  This could refer to the immanency of Christ’s return but it could also mean that the Lord is nearby. As Jesus said in  Matthew 28:20 (ESV) “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

They were to be always rejoicing, always reasonable and always ready for the Lord’s return.  The realization that the Lord is nearby and is coming back would help them to face situations of stress and strife. 

The God’s Word for You Commentary says: 

As we find ourselves in situations of strife between believers, let us respond with a gentle spirit. A harsh word only provokes anger. Instead, let us be peacemakers who take confidence in the closeness of God to reconcile disputing people and parties. Conflicts will come, for the church is a collection of sinners—saved sinners, but selfish sinners nonetheless. But conflicts must be taken seriously, and confronted by those involved and those around. When conflict occurs between believers, by definition what they have in common in the Lord is always greater than anything that is driving them apart; and those who will spend an eternity in joyful unity and peace ought to start living in it now. May the Lord draw near and maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

It is because we are rejoicing in the Lord, being reasonable knowing that the Lord is near to us, that He is returning soon and we must be ready that we are able to face anxiety and not worry!  Paul now commands the Philippians and us to turn our worries into prayers as we put Philippians 4:4 into practice: Philippians 4:4 (ESV) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

3.  ALWAYS BE PRAYERFUL, THANKFUL AND AT PEACE: Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

If we are always prayerful and always thankful the result is that we will always be at peace.  How?  Rather than worry about anything, we pray about everything!  That brings us joy! 

Paul had good reason to worry, but he didn’t!  Philippians 4 explains why Paul was not worried. 

What is worry?  The Greek word translated anxious or worry in verse 6, (careful in the KJV) means to be pulled in different directions.  Hopes going one way, fears another – pulled apart. 

The root form of our english word “worry” comes from the old english word “wyrgan” which means “to strangle.”  Worry strangles a person.  Worry can have definite physical consequences – headaches, neck pains, ulcers, back pains, etc.  Worry can affect thinking, digestion even co-ordination. 

One wise man said: “Blessed is the man who is too busy to worry in the daytime and too sleepy to worry at night.” 

Someone said: “Worry is the advance interest you pay on troubles that seldom come.”

From the spiritual point of view, worry is wrong.  It involves wrong thinking and wrong feeling. 

Anxiety, worry is the greatest thief of joy.  So “Quit worrying!”  But we all know just saying it, isn’t enough.  You need to have the biblical antidote to the consuming disease of “worrywartosis.” 

The secure mind and heart – Philippians 4:7.  The peace of God to guard you and as we’ll see next week the God of peace to guide you. 

As Paul begins chapter 4 of Philippians he sets forth the conditions that God has laid down for us to conquer worry. 

First and foremost we must belong to the Lord.  “Brothers,” “Stand firm in the Lord,” “agree with each other in the Lord,” “whose names are in the book of life,” Philippians 4:4 (ESV) “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, rejoice.”  “The Lord is near.”   Watchword of the early church – maranatha – the Lord is near, at hand, meaning, He is coming soon.  All of this is “in the Lord!” 

As George Mueller said: “The beginning of faith is the end of worry.”

Now Paul goes on and lays out God’s guidelines for dealing with potentially worrisome situations.  The little song says it well…

“Why worry when you can pray? Trust Jesus, He’ll be your stay,

So don’t be a doubting Thomas, trust fully in His promise,

Why worry, worry, worry, worry, when you can pray!”

Paul uses four words to describe how we should pray when we are confronted by worry. 

“Prayer, Supplication, Thanksgiving, Requests.” 

“Prayer” means literally making requests known to God.  It involves adoration, devotion and worship, coming to God and to God alone.  So often, we worry about a situation and run around everywhere else except to the place of prayer.  That which should be our first resource is our last resort.  Get alone with God and acknowledge who He is…the One who alone can meet this need in our lives.

Next Paul mentions “supplication” which means to earnestly share our needs or problems.  Reflecting spiritual intensity and fervency.  The original word comes from a root word expressing “to lack,” “to be deprived of” or “to be without something.”  The areas of our lives where we sense we’re missing out will create stress and worry.  We are to bring our concerns to the Lord in prayer.  We should trust that God will answer the prayer according to His perfect will. 

Next comes “thanksgiving” – Praising God for what He has done and what He is doing right now.  Thank God for His concern, His control and His compassion.  D. L. Moody used to say, “Be careful

for nothing, Be prayerful for everything, Be thankful for anything.”  All true prayer will be marked by gratitude acknowledging what God has provided for us.  This also deals with what we may think we lack, because focussing on God’s provision changes our perspective.  There is no shortcut to peace but prayer is the path to it. 

The fourth word “requests,” instructs us to make known to God the specific needs we have. We should bring our particular requests to Him, whatever is troubling us. Note that thanksgiving comes before requests. 

The God’s Word for You commentary asks:  What are the specific needs in your life? What has been weighing you down? What is burdening you? What has become a millstone around your neck? What is dragging you down? Here is the ground where anxiety will flourish, if unchecked and unchallenged. But this also is the ground where dependence, trust and joy may grow, if you pursue dependent prayer. Will you bring your requests to the Lord in prayer?

As requests are brought to God with thanksgiving through prayer and supplication we then experience peace within which brings immeasurable joy even though it surpasses human understanding.   

Philippians 4:7 (ESV) “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your

hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The peace of God guards us from our minds and our hearts.  Our minds can become subject to wrong thinking…our hearts can be filled with wrong feelings.  God guards us from worry.  Being anxious for nothing, prayerful and thankful for everything brings peace.  Peace comes through praying.  Prayer affirms our faith that God will surely deal with the situation we have handed over to Him.  When I was growing up my mother had a plaque that said:  “Prayer changes things.” The greater truth is: “Prayer changes me.”  God provides His peace through prayer.  When we pray God may not change our circumstances, but He does change our heart.

This peace, Paul explains, will “guard” the heart and mind (verse 7). “Guard” (phroureo) is a military term describing a soldier who watches over a prisoner. The peace of God “will stand sentry watch” over your hearts and minds.

Paul was being guarded by praetorian guards, the most elite soldiers in the Roman empire. However, he was also being guarded in a far more secure way—God was protecting his heart and mind so that anxiety and fear would not enter it. Fear was being denied entrance into his heart. Anxiety about his circumstances was banished and he knew joy which is why he was able to say: 

Philippians 4:4 (ESV) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

The God’s Word Commentary says:  When preceded by prayer, the peace of God is always standing watch over our hearts and minds (verse 7). The entire inner person is being fortified against the attacks of worry, and anxiety cannot crack the Divine defense. The Christian who prays dependently is guarded against the enemy of worry.  Paul specifies that this peace is found “in Christ Jesus.” This supernatural peace of Christ is all-sufficient, even in the most turbulent storms of life. Jesus had promised, John 14:27 (ESV) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  This peace comes not from this world or anything in it. Instead, it comes down from above, like a surging river into troubled hearts, and such peace is found exclusively in Christ Jesus. There is not a drop of genuine peace outside of Him, nor a moment of relief apart from resting in Him. All peace and all comfort are found in Christ, and in Him alone.

Are you experiencing this peace, His peace? It is found exclusively in trusting Jesus Christ and it is obtained through prayer. He invites us to come before His throne of grace and pray. He tells us to cast our cares upon Him, to commit our problems and our trials to the Lord. He supplies a perfect peace that is unexplainable and incomprehensible. As we turn our worries into prayers we know joy!  If you are outside of Christ, you should be worried, The Lord is at hand.  Either through your own death or when Jesus returns you will face Him. If you will come to Him, He will receive you and forgive you, and you will become the recipient of His abiding peace and abounding joy, which is experienced only in life with Him, and cannot be found anywhere else nor in anything else.

Paul is telling us, because the Day of Christ is near and because the peace of God stands guard, you and I can: Philippians 4:4 (ESV) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

“Dr. A.C. Dixon of Spurgeon’s Tabernacle once said….‘When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do, when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do….But…when we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.'”

The Mentor Commentary poignantly points this out:  For many believers and churches, prayer is not a first priority but rather a last resort. As long as things happen according to our desires and

plans, we often see little reason to pray. ‘Biblical faith, however, sees prayer as a counsel not of despair but of confidence; not as a last resort but as the open-handed, yet passionate and persistent

integration of human hopes and fears into the redemptive purposes of God in Christ.’ God seems to use our anxieties to drive us to prayer when our comfort will not. The accumulation of various terms for prayer is Paul’s way of emphasizing the essential role that prayer is to play in the life of the believer and the church. In most cases the revival of God’s people and the awakening of sinners from their spiritual deadness are connected with God first moving His people to pray in anticipation of His action. A prayerless life is a sign of a self-sufficient person; a prayerful life is a sign of a God-dependent person.

Daniel Henderson in his book “Transforming prayer: how everything changes when you seek God’s face states:” I say often that prayerlessness is our declaration of independence from God. I get that. It is very easy for me to forge ahead on Christian autopilot, relying on the reserves of previous learning and last week’s worship, and not abiding in Christ in a constant, moment-by-moment reliance. Beyond this, it is easy to ignore the opportunities for community prayer, thinking I do not need it, or viewing it as a gathering of folks who have nothing else more productive to do with their time.

What are you doing tonight at 6:30?  Let’s put the message today in the form of a conditional equation.  If, you are going to Philippians 4:4 (ESV) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”  Then, you need to be anxious for nothing and pray about everything and you will know the peace of God. 

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March 14, 2021 – FCBC Sermon

Philippians 4:1-3  “PLEASE STAND TOGETHER UNITED IN TRUTH!”

I want you to picture an imaginary scene that may not be too far from the reality experienced by the believers in the Philippian church to whom Paul wrote this letter.  You have welcomed home the dear friend of Paul, Epaphroditus, the one who bore your gift to him and the one whom you had heard had become deathly ill while in Rome.  He has just recently arrived and you have been anticipating this day of worship when you would hear the latest news coming from the beloved Apostle Paul.   They are going to read his letter to your church. You settle into the congregation and as this message of joy unfolds you are lifted up into the presence of God as your whole being is filled with praise and you think long and hard about what it means for you to have the mindset of Christ.  You can almost feel the arms of the Apostle around you as you hear his expressions of love and concern and he encourages you to stand firm for the truth.  Then as you listen and understand that he longs to see you just as you long to see him you hear these words in Paul’s letter read out to the entire congregation.  Just so we can understand the impact.  Let’s pick two names at random – I want you to know I did ask their permission before the service.  I beg ________ and I beg _______ to agree in the Lord! 

I beg YOU fill in your name to agree in the Lord with fill in the name of someone you’re not getting along with.  Paul does exactly that as he calls out Euodia and Syntche for not getting along! 

Speculation runs rampant about what the dispute may have been about.  Maybe they’d had words.  Harsh and harmful words can be so easily spoken and once they are they can be so difficult to take back.  We have all said words that we regret, sometimes we understand the damage done the minute the words leave our lips.  Other times we underestimate the effect our hurtful words have had.  And at times the true damage only comes to light as the impact of our actions and reactions set in.  Words can stab to the heart and leave scars that last for years.  Harsh words spoken can divide friends, lovers, families, churches.  The choice of the words that we speak and the tone in which we speak them both need to be chosen with special care.  And it can be so hard to let go of words that have been spoken against us, those hurtful words that we play over and over in our minds.  As I prepared this message my mind kept replaying harsh words that I have heard spoken or said myself over the years.   

We all need to accept a word of warning. 

Proverbs 15:1 (ESV) “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Ephesians 4:29-32 (ESV) “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

James 1:19-20 (ESV) “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

Proverbs 25:11 (ESV) “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

Colossians 4:6 (ESV) “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

Ephesians 4:15 (ESV) “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

As Jesus said:  Matthew 12:36 (ESV) “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” 

In the passage before us, Paul chooses his words carefully to evidence that he cares, to expose division in the church and to encourage them all to help each other and to work together for the Gospel. 

1.  I LOVE YOU – STAND FIRM IN THE LORD: Philippians 4:1

2.  I BEG YOU – AGREE IN THE LORD: Philippians 4:2

3.  HELP EACH OTHER FOR JESUS’ SAKE: Philippians 4:3

1.  I LOVE YOU – STAND FIRM IN THE LORD: Philippians 4:1

“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.”

Warren Wiersbe used to say when there’s a therefore in the Word of God you need to find out what it’s there for.  As Paul begins to close out his letter in chapter four he is pointing back to the great gospel truths he has been setting before them in the first three chapters.  The commands he shares  in this chapter spell out clearly what it means to live with the mindset of Christ and to follow the example of Paul and his companions as citizens of heaven looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ and the glorious transformation that will occur.  He offers counsel that will help them to focus on joy, prayer, peace, purity, praise, thankfulness and  God’s provision while commending them to God’s grace. 

He addresses them as my brothers, which of course, includes brothers and sisters and he expresses his love and concern for them.  This is now the fifth time in the letter he has called them brothers.  Keep that in mind because the truth of our relationship as members of God’s family is essential to the working out of any difficulties.  Paul is speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). 

The personal pronoun “my” makes this an intimate appeal. “My beloved” modifies and amplifies

his “my brothers.”  He then adds one affectionate term after another as he addresses them.  I love you, I long for you, You are my joy, You are my crown.  Love and beloved are the same word in the original, “agapetos” expressing affection and commitment.  A strong desire marked by intense affection comes through in “whom I long for” (epipothetos).” This is a rare word used only here in the New Testament.  These people have a special place in his heart, as do you in mine. 

Writing the epistle of joy, he calls them “my joy.”  His greatest joy is found in God working in their lives to His glory an expression of his joy in Christ. 

As the Apostle John said in 3 John 1:4 (ESV) “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  This was Paul’s joy as well. 

Paul pictures the end of all things as he calls them “my crown.”  In each usage of this word “stephanos” Paul is pointing toward the last day. 

1 Thessalonians 2:19 (ESV) “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?”  

1 Corinthians 9:25 (ESV) “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath (stephanos, crown), but we an imperishable (crown).”

2 Timothy 4:8 (ESV) “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

Here in Philippians Paul is completing the picture of running the race well and receiving the prize, the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  He is giving thanks for the joy they have brought to his life of service. 

The God’s Word for You Commentary asks:  Who is the crown upon your head? To whom have you passed on the word of God? A son or daughter? A person to whom you have witnessed for Christ? The members of your small-group Bible study? A colleague at work? Since they have received the gospel from you, do you see them as your crown? Can you give thanks for the joy which their faith has brought to your life?

Paul has stood firm in his commitment to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God and he now commands them to do the same.  “Stand firm thus in the Lord!”  He began his letter encouraging them to stand firm and now he closes with a final call to stand firm.  Look back at Philippians 1:27 (ESV) “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.” 

To stand firm in the Lord is to stand firm in the truth.  Stand firm is a military term meaning to hold your position.  They must stand firm in what they have been taught.  I urge you to do the same. 

To stand in the truths of the Word of God, to never compromise the Gospel message, to stand firm in your witness to the power of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ through the indwelling Spirit of God.   Remember we stand firm in the Lord!

The Mentor Commentary says:  Paul here models for us a love for fellow believers that confronts the Western cultural tendency towards individualism and isolation. And his call to stand firm in the Lord challenges our natural inclination to drift away from the Lord to other things unless we make the intentional effort otherwise.

2.  I BEG YOU – AGREE IN THE LORD: Philippians 4:2

“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.”

Having laid the foundation of his love and concern for them and for the truth Paul now has the right to confront with the truth in love.  He literally speaks the truth in love.  I like the fact that Paul is an equal opportunity confronter, he addresses both women in exactly the same way. 

I entreat, exhort, plead with, beg, Euodia.  I entreat, exhort, plead with, beg, Syntyche.  The word “entreat” is “parakaleo”, from which we get the Paraclete, one called alongside to help. 

Paul has consistently been saying that the key to victory is unity:  “in one spirit, with one mind … being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 1:27; Philippians 2:2). He went on to describe the mind-set that fosters such unity: “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.… Look not only to [your] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4). 

There was no doubt an underlying tension in the church at Philippi as for whatever reason Euodia whose name means “sweet fragrance” and Syntyche whose name means “affable” have been raising a stink and being difficult.  David Jeremiah says:  So disruptive was the controversy between these two that someone has suggested that if the Philippians were Paul’s crown, Euodia and Syntyche had become two thorns in that crown!

Paul commands them to “agree in the Lord.”  The word agree is “phroneo” meaning to be of one mind, to think, have a mindset.  It is the same word Paul used in Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  How that must have convicted them both.  Paul urges them to action.  You are sisters in Christ, agree in the Lord.  They were to direct their minds together to solve the problem.  You might call it a meeting of the minds fulfilling Philippians 2:2 (ESV) “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”  Philippians 3:15 (ESV) “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”

Their relationship in the Lord is the common ground of agreement.  In Him there is true unity. 

Paul has challenged the church to stand firm in the Lord, and he tells the women to agree in the Lord.  He will go on to encourage them to rejoice in the Lord. 

The church of the Lord Jesus Christ should never be marked by division and those who cause it should be named just as Paul named these two women. 

The God’s Word for you Commentary says: Conflicts are not spiritually neutral—they undermine the church, and they display a lack of submission to the Lord, by at least one and usually two parties. And in resolving conflicts, we are never to be passive, waiting for the other to apologize or change. Through Paul, the Lord urges all who call upon his name to seek reconciliation with each other. This is rarely easy, but it is always right. It is the Christian way.

Sadly rather than seek reconciliation, in too many cases people just leave the church and go to another these days.  Paul recognizes that this dispute among two women is a whole church problem and requires a whole church solution. 

3.  HELP EACH OTHER FOR JESUS’ SAKE: Philippians 4:3

“Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

Paul knows it will be difficult for these two ladies to work this problem out on their own so he enlists the help of the leadership of the church.  “True companion” is the word “syzygos” and it is possible that this is a man’s name.  Paul is asking a trusted brother, probably an overseer or elder of the church to help the women in resolving the conflict.  Paul drives home the point that as those united in Christ we are all in this together. 

He does so by using four words that begin with the prefix “with” the word “syn” in the original in verse 3.  I believe it was by design.  The true companion is true yokefellow. “Synzygos” meaning (in yoke with, pulling alongside like oxen in tandem).  The help that is to be given to these women is the word “syllambano” meaning to hold with.  They have “laboured side by side” “synathleo” laboured with, contended with Paul.  And they are part of a larger circle of  “fellow workers” including Clement who is named, though we know nothing else about him.  The word for fellow workers is “synergoi” meaning to “work with” from which we get our work synergy. 

The true companion would be known to the members of the church at Philippi and he is to lead the peacemaking process but the entire church is to be involved through prayer and not through gossip.  The emphasis is on togetherness.  They were the body of Christ that worshipped at Philippi and they had a responsibility to help these members to resolve their differences.  The action they would take would directly reflect on their testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The reason we are all in this together is because our names are written in the book of life!  (This phrase occurs two other places in the New Testament, both in Revelation. In Revelation 3:5 God promises never to blot out “of the book of life” the names of those who conquer. Later, in Revelation 20:15 at the Great Judgment scene, only those whose names are found in the “book of life” avoid being thrown into the lake of fire. The idea is that God keeps a careful record of those who are His and will vindicate them on the final day).  

For these ladies their names are in the book of life and they have laboured side by side in the Gospel, nothing must be allowed to hinder their testimony for Jesus.  Division in a church destroys the testimony for Christ. But problems among Christian brothers and sisters doesn’t mean they aren’t Christians.  What it does mean is that they need the broader perspective to solve their difficulties because they are part of God’s family.  Their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life and what matters is the church’s testimony to the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that makes us one in Him. 

The true safeguard against division is what Paul says next:  Philippians 4:4 (ESV) “Rejoice in the

Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”  If you’re rejoicing in the Lord, your relationships will reflect His glory.   If you’re resentful, you’re not rejoicing.  If you’re bitter, you’re not being a blessing. 

Unfortunately in considering the church, someone wrote this: 

To live above with the saints we love,  Oh, that will be glory.

But to live below with the saints we know,  Well, that’s another story.

We need to always be alert to any hint of disunity in the church.  We need to remember the goal is to labour side by side in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ until He comes.  I am so thankful for the unity among the body of believers here at Forest City Bible Church. 

Philippians 4:1 (ESV) “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” 

Let me urge you to stand firm in the Lord, to agree in the Lord and to help each other for Jesus’ sake.  These words in the Reformed Expository Commentary spoke to my heart this week: 

The Divine grace that wrote our names on the electing heart of God before the creation of the universe infinitely overshadows any and every interpersonal friction that threatens to divide us. Because we are one “in the Lord” and his mercy, we can and we must stand together!

Having said that the basis of our standing together is in the Lord, which means in the truth of God’s Word and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  If the church you are attending ever departs from the truth of the Gospel you have every right and every responsibility to leave that church and find one that stands firm in the Lord!  I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.   

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March 7, 2021 FCBC Sermon

Philippians 3:17–21  “GLORIOUS LORD, GOOD EXAMPLES, GREAT EXALTATION”

A pastor observed a little girl standing outside the preschool Sunday school classroom between Sunday school and worship, waiting for her parents to come and pick her up for “big church.” The pastor noticed that she clutched a big storybook under her arm with the title “Jonah and the Great Fish.”

Feeling mischievous, he knelt beside the girl and asked, “What’s that you have in your hand?”

“This is my storybook about Jonah and great big fish that swallowed him,” she answered.

“Tell me something,” he continued, “do you believe that story about Jonah?”

The girl said, “Why, of course I believe it!”

The pastor inquired further, “Do you really believe a man could be swallowed up by a big fish, stay inside it all that time, and come out okay?”

She declared, “Yes! This story is in the Bible, and we talked about it in Sunday school today.”

Then the pastor asked, “Can you prove to me this story is true?”

She thought for a moment and then said, “Well, when I get to heaven, I’ll ask Jonah.”

Finally the pastor asked, “What if Jonah’s not in heaven?”

The girl put her hands on her hips and sternly declared, “Then YOU can ask him!”

D. L. Moody used to scold Christians for being “so heavenly minded they were no earthly good.”  As I’ve said before, I believe the greater danger is Christians who are so earthly minded they are no heavenly good.  We need balance.  As Christians we have a unique role to play.  We are intended to be “earth people” which we are by birth, but we are also intended to be “heaven people” which we are by new birth.  We have a dual citizenship – on earth and in heaven.  Our citizenship in heaven ought to make us better people here on earth.  This means that we are people of two realms living in one of those realms.  Our role is to tell the realm where we live what the other realm is like. 

As citizens of heaven we should bring a touch of heaven wherever we go on this earth.  This sounds like a great idea, but it is not without its problems.  The main difficulty is that the earth operates in a totally different manner than heaven.  If believers are not careful, we can become so involved with the philosophies of the world where we live that instead of bringing heaven to earth, we let earth rob us of our enjoyment of heaven.  Paul is very much aware of this and he warns the Philippian believers of the dangers that confront them. We face those same dangers in our day. 

It is for this reason that Paul encourages us to follow good examples who point the way to Jesus and to be aware of godless enemies who would draw us away from the glorious expectation that believers will realize at the return of Christ and the resurrection of believers to eternal glory in heaven! 

1.  LOOK FOR GODLY EXAMPLES: Philippians 3:17

2.  LOOK OUT FOR GODLESS ENEMIES: Philippians 3:18-19

3.  LOOK FORWARD TO GLORIOUS EXPECTATIONS: Philippians 3:20-21

1.  LOOK FOR GODLY EXAMPLES: Philippians 3:17

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”

Paul was living out what he has been saying all along Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”   He was not speaking proudly when he said follow my example, as we learned last week he has just confessed that he belongs to Jesus but he has not yet arrived at perfection.  For that reason he forgets what is behind and does one thing pressing on the upward way.  And as he follows up what it means to hold true to what we have in Christ he tells the Philippians to follow Godly examples. 

He addresses them as brothers to help them to listen well.  Paul then gives them two commands.  In the first Paul uses the word “symmimetes” which means “co-imitator, follower together, one who joins others as an imitator.”  Paul calls the Philippians to join together in imitating his own example of a life shaped by the mindset of Christ.  The second imperative is a corollary to the first.  To keep their eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  The verb “skopeo” has the sense of “exerting effort in continually acquiring information regarding some matter, with the implication of concern as to how to respond appropriately.”  It is the same word he uses in Philippians 2:4 where he told us to look (skopeo) not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others and it is from the same root as the word “goal” toward which Paul is urging us to press on in Philippians 3:14.

The word walk (peripateo) is a metaphor for how one lives and the example is what Paul has just described, a life shaped by the mindset of Christ and exemplified by Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus and all those who are mature.  The supreme example of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as described in Philippians 2:5-11.  That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV) “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”  Can we humbly say to others, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  What kind of follower would a fellow believer become if he or she imitated you?  Do you have anyone in your life for whom you are a mentor.

2.  LOOK OUT FOR GODLESS ENEMIES: Philippians 3:18-19

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”

It seems ironic that in an epistle of joy, Paul is found weeping, but his burden is so great for people to follow Jesus that he literally mourns over the enemies of the cross of Christ.  He knows they are headed for hell and it breaks his heart.  What breaks your heart today? 

We don’t really know what group Paul was exposing here and there has been endless speculation by commentators but his description tells us exactly what they are like and I think that is the important thing. 

They walk (the same verb as the previous verse – peripateo) as enemies of the cross of Christ.  The verb is in the present tense meaning it is ongoing, persistent, continuous.  David Jeremiah wisely points out: They pose as friends but practice as foes.  Paul has warned them often and he does it with tears as he describes their wicked ways and influence even on the church.  Let’s see the four headings under which Paul describes them and contras that with true believers.  End, God, Glory, Focus! 

End – Their end is destruction – our end is heaven! 

God – Their god is their belly – our God is the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Glory – They glory in their shame – we glory in our transformation to be like Christ’s glorious body!

Focus – Their minds are set on earthly things – we subject all things to the mindset of Christ! 

End – Their end is destruction.  Following them leads to eternal destruction.  Paul uses the same word “apoleia” as he did in Philippians 1:28 (ESV) speaking of those who oppose believers.  “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.”  Just as in 1:28, destruction refers to the eternal conscious torment of those who do not believe in Christ. This is no idle threat, no mere hyperbole; Paul knows that rejecting the cross of Christ denies the only solution to humanity’s status as enemies of God.

God – Their god is their belly.  This refers not to physical hunger but to sensual lusts.  They worship what feels right or what feels good, they preach a prosperity gospel which is not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Their own desires are elevated to the level of divine authority in their lives.  They have an unrestrained and insatiable appetite for whatever pleases them. 

Glory – They glory in their shame.  They glory in behaviour that will end in destruction.  What a description of our times.  Just like Romans 1:32 (ESV) “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”  Their moral values are so topsy-turvy and confused, they actually go around boasting of things they ought to be ashamed of! 

The Opening Up Commentary says:  One of the surest signs of an individual or a society being utterly decadent is that of not being able to feel shame. When people take it a step further and begin to boast of shameful things, they are perilously close to being completely beyond hope.

What does this tell us about our own society? Boasting about prowess in drinking and in making sexual conquests! Proclaiming sexual perversion as a normal and even desirable way of life! Slaughtering the unborn in the name of freedom and choice! All of these are shameful beyond description, but our society is not ashamed! Instead it tries to make those who condemn such things feel ashamed. It calls perversion normal and common morality abnormal, and all the while God’s judgement rumbles in the background. Let someone mention that judgement and he is roundly condemned as something of a religious fanatic and as a very cruel and unfeeling person. What a strange society! It shames those who talk of judgement and refuses to be ashamed of the sin that brings the judgement.

The ancient prophet Isaiah described them to a tee Isaiah 5:20 (ESV) “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

They glory in their shame…we glory in His NAME!  

Focus – Their minds are set on earthly things.  Colossians 3:2 (ESV) “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”   Lehman Strauss said:  “It is because we are dropping the truths of eternity and immortality and Heaven out of our thinking that we are fast becoming a generation of earthbound pagans.”  The danger is becoming earthbound and not thinking about heaven at all.  So earthly minded they are no heavenly good.  That is why Paul describes them as enemies of the cross of Christ. 

The God’s Word for You Commentary says:  This describes their self-boasting in which they glory in themselves. They elevate themselves in their own eyes before others. This self-glory is disgraceful, and the polar opposite of true servant leaders. Their self-absorbed attitude is the antithesis of genuine humility, which Paul has gone to great lengths to describe.

Our generation is not so very different. Many leaders in ministry today act in the same self-promoting fashion, drawing attention to themselves as they indulge their own fleshly appetites.

Those who preach a prosperity gospel of the “name it, claim it” mentality offer a “get-rich-quick scheme” under the supposed guise of Christianity. Such false teachers are egomaniacs, parading like peacocks, strutting their way to divine judgment. Unfortunately, there are gullible people everywhere who lack the discernment to avoid such teachers. These teachers set their minds on their own personal advancement, while luring others onto the road to destruction. It should be enough to make us weep, just as it was for Paul.

3.  LOOK FORWARD TO GLORIOUS EXPECTATIONS: Philippians 3:20-21

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will

transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

End – Their end is destruction – our end is heaven!  We are citizens of heaven!  Our names are permanently recorded where the King of kings, Jesus Christ, is enthroned at the right hand of God. Paul uses the same word for citizenship that he used in Philippians 1:27 describing our manner of life “politeuma” from which we get the word politic or political.  The word has the sense of living as a citizen of a particular realm.  We belong to heaven the realm where God dwells and rules. 

The Mentor Commentary says:  With the coming of Jesus the realm of heaven has now come to earth in the person of Jesus. Because of the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, we as God’s people experience in part the blessings of this kingdom, but its fullness awaits the consummation.

God – Their god is their belly – our God is the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ!  It is from heaven that we await the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ!  The word wait “apekdechomai” has the sense of “awaiting eagerly.”  The focus is on the word Saviour. Jesus is the only Saviour.  He is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.  (John 14:6)  Paul uses four names here to describe his Master, each with great significance. “Saviour” means “the one who delivers from great dangers”; “Jesus” means “God saves”; “Christ” means “the Anointed one, the King”; “Lord” means “Ruler, Sovereign.” By using these four names, Paul gives a more comprehensive and weighty sense of the One who is coming for us as described in the next verse. 

Glory – They glory in their shame – we glory in our transformation to be like Christ’s glorious body!  We glory in His Name, because we know  Philippians 2:9-11 (ESV) “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” When Jesus returns, our bodies will be made like his own resurrected, glorified body. We will have a heavenly body perfectly suited for our new environment. We will be enabled to worship and serve Christ throughout all eternity and never grow weary in our new eternal occupation in the country we call home. In that final state, our worship will be made perfect.  We know God will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body.

Focus – Their minds are set on earthly things – we subject all things to the mindset of Christ! 

Our radical makeover will occur by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.   The word for power is “dunamis” dynamite, the supreme power of the Lord Jesus Christ.  God will overrule the natural laws of sin and death that have inflicted destruction upon the human body. The King of kings and Lord of lords will come, the One who is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) and He will deliver us, our souls will be set free, our bodies will be delivered from death, decay and destruction transformed into their final state of glorification.

This is the eager anticipation that all of us can have and should have. Every Christian must be looking for and longing for the return of Jesus Christ.

The Mentor Commentary says:  When we as believers find little or no longing for our heavenly home, it is likely because we have become toocomfortable in this world. After all, how much better could the new Jerusalem be than our large house in our privileged neighborhood with all of the comforts one could imagine? Such attitudes (whether explicit or implicit) are evidence that instead of living as citizens of God’s kingdom, we have set our minds on earthly things. We as God’s people are exiles and sojourners on our way to our true home. It is this reality that must shape how we live in this world. It defines who we are, what we think, how we live, and what we value. In a world enslaved to the futile ways of rebellion against God we have been set free in Christ.

James Montgomery Boice said:  In our day, belief in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ has faded into a remote and sometimes irrelevant doctrine into any large segments of the Christian church; and it is entirely possible that our present lack of courage and lack of joy flow from this attitude.

Over 300 years ago, John Owen wrote these words about the religious condition of England: ‘In many places it is useless to seek for Christianity among Christians.’ That is a very sad indictment of Britain at the time that Owen was writing, but if that was true all those years ago, then it is certainly true today.  If we are discerning Christians and we look around us and see the way that our country is moving and has moved, then tears should spring to our eyes and our hearts should be filled with a deep sadness.

The people whom we should observe closely, and want to copy, should be those who truly love God. We can tell if they love God by looking to see whether they live in ways which please Him. Paul was one who gave the whole of his life over to glorifying the Lord. He allowed nothing to interfere with his aim of wanting to know Christ better (3:10). He wrote to the Philippians, urging them to follow his example.

David Jeremiah in his Book Count it All Joy shares a wonderful summary of the truths of this passage.  As we look back over this section of Paul’s letter, we see an obvious contrast between the enemies of the cross and the champions of the cross. Putting these contrasting statements side by side can be very encouraging to those of us who are following the Lord:

The enemies of the cross are heading for destruction. (v. 19)

The champions of the cross are waiting for a Savior from heaven. (v. 20)

The enemies of the cross worship their earthly bodies and its appetites. (v. 19)

The champions of the cross look for the transformation of their earthly body (body of humiliation) into a glorious body. (v. 21)

The enemies of the cross have perverted values and glory in their shame. (v. 19)

The champions of the cross have true values and look forward to the glory of the future. (v. 21)

The enemies of the cross are earthbound. (v. 19)

The champions of the cross are heavenbound. (v. 20)

We all live forever, the question is where?  Our focus is on Jesus:  Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  

The God’s Word for You Commentary reminds us:  We must never forget that each of us who name Jesus as King is a citizen of a higher kingdom. This world is not our home. But as we live out our days here on earth, we must maintain our greater allegiance to our Sovereign Lord, who is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. We must never cave in to the surrounding pressures to squeeze us into the mold of this rebellious world. Instead, we must set our minds on things above, not upon things below. We are heading for the finish line. We are headed for home. That is where we belong, and we must run hard until our King returns, or until he calls us home.

I think Philippians 2:6–11 was Paul’s own poetic creation, and as such, so was Philippians 3:20–21, which is presented here (translated literally) in poetic form:

Our citizenship exists in the heavens from where also we eagerly expect

the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ Who will transfigure our humiliating bodies

that it may be like His glorious body by the power that enables Him

to subject all things to Himself.

We need to remind ourselves everyday…

We are citizens of heaven, Where with Christ we soon shall be! 

Where is your citizenship?  If it is in heaven – live like it!  If you are not a citizen of heaven become one by faith – turn from sin and trust in Christ. 

For those who are not citizens of Heaven…Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things. 

In contrast the true Christian whose citizenship is in heaven has a bright and glorious future. 

Our destiny is heaven, our God is our Saviour and we glory in His Name. 

Glory is guaranteed because of Jesus!   

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February 28, 2021 Sermon

Philippians 3:12-16                “LORD, LIFT ME UP!” 

This prayer adapted from a prayer of St. Augustine speaks to the immeasurable value of knowing Jesus Christ.  O Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the minds that know you, the Joy of the hearts that love you, the Strength of the wills that serve you; help us so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may truly serve you; for your name’s sake, Amen.

In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul has just described why he is rejoicing in the Lord despite his circumstances that find him a prisoner of Rome chained to a soldier every hour of every day.  As we learned last week he is rejoicing in the Lord in true worship in relationship to Jesus by faith in Christ’s righteousness rejoicing in the power of His resurrection. 

He has just finished describing the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ his Lord and his personal prayer is Philippians 3:10-11 (ESV) is “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Picking up where we left off, in these verses Paul combines living out on a daily basis the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He was no longer counting on his own righteousness to save him, he had learned on the Damascus Road when he met Jesus face to face that all of that counted for nothing at all, it was all garbage, and he desired to know Christ.  The word know means to know by experience.  It is what Jesus desires for us as He prayed in John 17:3 (ESV) “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  

This was Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus:  Ephesians 1:16-20 (ESV) “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,  having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.”

Knowing Jesus in a personal relationship by faith is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion in the world.  We know a Person who has changed our lives and we walk in fellowship with Him!  Here in Philippians Paul expressed the desire that should be the first priority for every believer to know Jesus better.  Let’s look at the verbs:  Paul wanted to Know, to Share, to Become Like and to Attain. 

To Know the Power of His resurrection.  The word Paul uses here is the common word for resurrection “anastasis.”  This is not referring to the future resurrection of all believers but living out the resurrection life of Jesus on a daily basis.  The daily goal that Paul set for himself was a fuller experience of Christ’s resurrection life, bringing vitality and power to the present.

To Share in the Sufferings of Jesus.  This is not expressed clearly enough in our day.  We hear the invitation to come to Jesus and serve Him, but how often do we hear: Come to Jesus and suffer for Him.  Paul counted the cost of following Jesus and found that it was worth everything.  He was called to suffer for Jesus.  This is the suffering that is experienced by the believer that is totally committed to Jesus Christ.  The word Paul uses is “koinonia” also translated fellowship or partnership.  Sharing in Christ’s sufferings means we will one day share in His glory. 

To Become Like Him in His death.  What did Paul mean by that?  Knowing Christ requires becoming like Him. Behind the translation becoming like him is the rare Greek verb “symmorphizo”, which means ‘to cause to be similar in form or style to something else.’ The present tense of the verb suggests an ongoing process, while the passive voice indicates that God rather than Paul is the one performing the action. It didn’t mean Paul had a death wish, it means he wanted to die to self each day and to live for Jesus. 

To Attain the Resurrection from the dead.   In this verse you can sense the tension between the Sovereignty of God and the Responsibility of  man as Paul expresses “that by any means possible I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  This is the only place in the New Testament where this form of the Greek word for “resurrection” “exanastasis” is used. Literally it means “out-resurrection,” the resurrection “out from the dead ones.” Paul was speaking of that moment when he would stand before the Lord to give an account. Our attaining resurrection is based on all that precedes, Knowing Christ, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, dying to self and looking forward to the final resurrection. This is not an expression of doubt but of humility.  Paul models for us the humility that recognizes no matter how much spiritual progress has been made, much ground remains to be gained. Such humility should not lead to despair but rather a renewed sense of dependence upon the work of the Spirit to enable our perseverance to the end. The combination of this reminder here in 3:11 with the confident assertion of 1:6 provides a well-rounded picture of our hope that is fully in Christ alone.  Philippians 1:6 (ESV) “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

As I say at every funeral committal service:  According to the promises of God, we look forward to the day of resurrection, the final judgement through Jesus Christ our Lord, at who’s Second Coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the earth and the sea shall give up their dead.  The dead shall be raised, both the just and the unjust, the one to eternal glory, changed and made like unto Christ’s own glorious body, the other to eternal loss. 

Paul did not want his readers to think that he had arrived at that level of maturity, there was still much progress to be made.  That progress in becoming like Jesus is the process of a lifetime and Paul describes how we all need to go on using his own life as an example.  We won’t get that far today, but if you look at verse 17 that’s what Paul says:  Philippians 3:17 (ESV) “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”

It is in this passage that we learn that Paul was quite a sports fan.  In Philippians 3:14, the Apostle Paul encourages us to press on toward the goal.  The picture he draws is from the world of athletics, describing the one who is straining, stretching, using every ounce of energy to reach the goal, the finish line.  Different athletic events theses days use various words to describe the expenditure of effort that is necessary to reach the goal.  In Hockey, the expression would be driving for the net, I heard an American announcer on a hockey game one time describe a player dribbling down the ice. I guess he had called more basketball games than hockey games.  In Football, it’s driving into the end zone once you get into the red zone.  In Basketball, bearing down on the basket.  In Baseball, the image comes through in the expression charging for home, or for some of us it was always more of puffing, chugging, limping for home.  Almost every sport has some sort of expression to describe the full expenditure of energy in the all out effort to win.  Here, Paul compares the Christian life to a race and encourages believers to strive towards the finish line.  How to win the race.  Paul is speaking to those that are saved.  To those already involved in the race.  Believers have the responsibility of running the race and achieving the goals set out because we are involved in the race due to the fact that our faith is in Jesus Christ.  Each believer is involved in the race, each is on the track, each has a special lane in which to run, a goal to achieve.  To reach the goal is to receive the reward, the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Paul is saying that he hasn’t yet arrived to receive the prize but he is pressing on toward the victory already secured by Jesus Christ.  Paul sprints toward the goal and the prize to which God has called him. 

1.  I BELONG TO JESUS BUT I HAVEN’T YET ARRIVED AT PERFECTION:

Philippians 3:12

2.  ONE THING I DO FORGETTING WHAT IS BEHIND I KEEP GOING AHEAD:

Philippians 3:13-14

3.  ALONG WITH YOU LET’S ALL HOLD TRUE TO WHAT WE HAVE IN CHRIST:

Philippians 3:15-16

1.  I BELONG TO JESUS BUT I HAVEN’T YET ARRIVED AT PERFECTION:

Philippians 3:12 “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

In this verse Paul employs a word puzzle in Greek that is hard to reflect in English though the ESV translation comes close.  Paul says he had not already obtained the whole treasure of knowing Christ and the resurrection perfection that will one day be his.  So he tell us that he is striving to make it his own just as Christ has made him His own.  This is the puzzle, an intensified verb based on the same root word in the original.  “Obtained” is “lambano”, “make it my own” is “katalambano” as is “made me his own.” 

Paul is striving to take complete and permanent possession of the Olympic medal—in his day, the olive wreath—at the finish line, and his confidence of victory is grounded in the fact that Christ Jesus has already taken complete and permanent possession of Paul. Paul’s point is that he is striving to seize the prize at the finish line because Christ already seized him at the start of his race.  The verb translated perfect (teleioo) has the sense here of something that is brought to completion or fulfills its ultimate goal. The perfect tense of the verb stresses the state or condition of perfection/completion that the bodily resurrection will bring, while the passive voice indicates that it is not Paul who perfects himself, but rather that he is perfected by someone else (God).

2.  ONE THING I DO FORGETTING WHAT IS BEHIND I KEEP GOING AHEAD:

Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul repeats himself, making the same point twice in almost identical terms. First, in verse 12, he denies that he has “obtained” his desired goal and expresses his resolve to “press on” to grasp it fully. Then, in verses 13 and 14, he covers the same ground again, in more detail and with more emphasis: “I do not consider that I have made it my own” (again the word “katalambano”); therefore, “I press on toward the goal.” 

The verb translated press on (dioko) is the same one Paul used in 3:6 to recall that he persecuted the church in his pre-conversion days; the result is a subtle wordplay that is impossible to bring into English. In effect Paul says that he devotes the same sort of intense energy and effort that was once directed towards persecuting the church to pursuing progress in being made into the image of Christ.  The ultimate goal being the resurrection. 

Paul captures the attention of the Philippians by calling them brothers. He is looking them and us in the eyes and saying “I’m not perfect yet.”  So here’s the one thing I do.  In verses 13 and 14 Paul paints a vivid picture of his single-minded and strenuous pursuit in the present. Here is a marathoner who refuses to be distracted by ground already covered or the field of competitors around him. His eye is on the tape across the finish line, and he refuses to waste thought or attention on anything else.

Believers are to be future oriented – forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. 

Forgetting what is behind doesn’t mean to fail to remember, nor does it mean to erase bad memories, it means to no longer be influenced or affected by the past.  Hebrews 10:17 – “Their sins and lawless acts, I will remember no more.”  Not suggesting, that God has a bad memory.  God is choosing to no longer hold our sins against us.  Sin can no longer affect our standing with God or His action toward us.  Removed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The past then can be an inspiration to the future.  Too many Christians are shackled by the regrets of the past and try to run the race looking backward, inevitably they stumble and fall.  Some get distracted by successes of the past which can be just as bad.  Things behind must be left behind.  Things before must take their place. 

Paul had reason to forget what was behind, he had held the coats of those who had stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  We have all done things for which we are ashamed, and we live in the tension of what we have been and what we want to be.  As Vic said in our Growth Group Bible Study the other evening: “We live in the tension of Romans 7.” 

Because our hope is in Christ, however, we can let go of past guilt and look forward to what God will help us become.  Don’t dwell on your past.  Instead, grow in the knowledge of God by concentrating on your relationship with Him now.  Realize that you are forgiven and move on to a life of faith and obedience.  A word used only here in the New Testament “Straining forward” captures perfectly the picture that Paul’s Greek portrays: the runner with every muscle engaged, drawing on every energy reserve, in the final all-out sprint to the finish line. 

Verses 12 and 14 say “I press on.”  Idea of intense endeavour.  A person does not become a winning athlete by listening to lectures, watching films, reading books or by being a cheerleader at the games.  Have to get into the game and be determined to win.  Zeal.  Wouldn’t it be great if Christians put as much determination and effort into their spiritual lives as they put into their work or leisure activities. 

What is the finish line toward which Paul runs with such single-minded determination? “The prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  God promises the very best to those who trust in Jesus.

In “The Weight of Glory,” C. S. Lewis wrote:  Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our

Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Lewis goes on to survey the astonishing destiny of joy that utterly overshadows the physical pleasures and passions that often distract us:  The promises of Scripture may very roughly be reduced to five heads. It is promised, firstly, that we shall be with Christ; secondly, that we shall be like Him; thirdly, with an enormous wealth of imagery, that we shall have “glory”; fourthly, that we shall, in some sense, be fed or feasted or entertained; and, finally, that we shall have some sort of official position in the universe.…

God’s glorious goal for us, the prize of being with Christ and all that will flow from it dwarfs anything and everything else in this world.  1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV) “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

3.  ALONG WITH YOU LET’S ALL HOLD TRUE TO WHAT WE HAVE IN CHRIST:

Philippians 3:15-16 “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

In the Christian race you are not left on your own.  The race of faith is a team sport which is why God ordained the church, the body of Christ.  Paul invites the “teleioi,” the “mature,” to join his admission that he has not arrived. But Paul wants his choice of language to jar us a bit. His point is that the only ones who are “perfect” are those who see themselves as Paul does: imperfect. Sinners saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. 

PBPGINFWMY  Acronym for: Please be patient; God is not finished with me yet.

Paul is not picking out a special class of Christian believers—the “perfect ones” or even the “mature ones,” in contrast to spiritual babies. No, he is saying to all Christians: “The closest to perfection that any of us will get in this life is to see that you have not reached the finish line but must keep running toward the goal.”

The Reformed Expository Commentary says:  Mature Christians must think as Paul does, painfully aware of our pockets of immaturity but eagerly anticipating the moment when we cross the finish line and receive the prize: seeing Jesus clearly and being changed by that sight.

Taking all of this seriously sets us on the right path.  If you think differently, Paul gently says “you’re wrong.”  This is God’s truth.  We need to hold true to what we have attained!  All of us are in process of becoming like Jesus. Some may be a little further along than others but we are all in this together!  As I mentioned earlier:  That progress in becoming like Jesus is the process of a lifetime and Paul describes how we all need to go on using his own life as an example.

Paul’s Greek paints an even more vivid, more athletic image: the ESV’s “hold true” reflects Paul’s original “keep pace” or “run in line.”  It is not enough just to run hard and be the first across the finish line. You must also obey the rules.  In the Greek games with which Paul was familiar, the judges were very strict, any infringement on the rules meant immediate disqualification. 

Someday every Christian will stand before the judgement seat of Christ.  We will not be judged for our sins, but we will be judged for our service.  Whether we have lived up to what we have already attained.  Verse 16.  With knowledge comes responsibility.  And with responsibility comes accountability.  The author Mark Twain who was not a believer said this of the Bible:  It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.

As a believer…you know you should witness…you know you should love others…you know God’s command to be baptized…you know you should be involved in serving…you know you should give to the Lord’s work…you know you should attend the worship of the church…you know you should pray…you know you should lead your family spiritually…etc.  You need to live up to what you have already attained.  Christian maturity involves acting on the guidance that you have already received.  We can always make excuses that we still have so much to learn.  The instruction for us is to live up to what we already know and live out what we have already learned. 

I belong to Jesus, I do one thing, let us hold true! 

At the Greek games the winner of a race was summoned from the stadium floor to the seat of the judge and a wreath of leaves was placed upon his head. In Athens, the winner was also awarded five hundred coins, free meals, and a front row seat at the theater. These were coveted goals and prizes, but they were temporary. Our prize is described as “imperishable”.  1 Corinthians 9:25 (ESV) “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a  perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”    I belong to Jesus, I do one thing, let us hold true! 

The God’s Word for You Commentary says:  This applies to every Christian today. We can be vulnerable to being lured by the latest trend in Christian thinking. Many times it is false teachers who are selling their baptized humanism. They threaten to pull us away onto other paths. Many lying voices compete for our attention. We must detect them and reject them. We must remain committed to the same standard of Scripture with which we began. Scripture has never failed, and has never failed us. There is no need for us to look for any other way to live.

I belong to Jesus, I do one thing, let us hold true!  God intends for us to grow together in spiritual maturity as we encourage one another to pursue the mind or attitude of Christ.  Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” 

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February 21, 2021 Sermon

Philippians 3:1-11                “WHAT MATTERS MOST?”

A long list of credentials or knowing Jesus Christ.  Being aware of the dangers…

One of my favourite TV series when I was growing up was “Lost in Space.”  In a re-imagining of the 1812 novel Swiss Family Robinson the series focussed on the Robinson family, two passengers, and a friendly robot as they moved through the galaxy facing new threats each week. When the robot sensed some dark, mysterious force approaching, he would shout out, “Danger! Danger! Danger!”  I was surprised to learn that the popular version of the warning phrase “Danger Will Robinson” actually was only said once on the show during episode 11 of season 3 “The Deadliest of Species”.

The original series ran from 1965-1968 and Netflix revived the series in 2018, 50 years later.  The new series was a re-imagining of the original and will finish this year with the third season. 

It takes no re-imagining to realize that in the last 50 plus years, threats far more sinister than those dreamed up by TV scriptwriters have come against Christianity and the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The dangers are very real.  In Philippians chapter 3 Paul sounds an urgent alarm. As we move on in time (rather than in space), we too need to be alerted to spiritual dangers and to be prepared to face them.  

The Apostle Paul now expands on his personal decision to live a life that embodies the mindset of Christ.  Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is challenging the Philippian believers and us to live for Christ in a fallen and hostile world.  He graphically warns of the dangers that confront us living in the midst of a world system that is opposed to God and stands against Godly living.

Canada as a nation is headed away from God.  We have absolute corruption and wickedness in high places.  As a nation we deserve the judgement of God.  The nation that defies God will be destroyed.  God created life.  Abortion is murder of the unborn.  God is the one who determines our days, assisted suicide is absolutely abhorrent.  God ordained marriage. In the beginning He created us male and female.  In the sanctity of the marriage relationship two become one flesh.  That is impossible for two of the same sex!  And for a person to change one’s sex is to defy the God who made them.  In Paul’s day, challenges to the faith were constantly being raised.  Some wanted to blend the practices and philosophies of paganism or the traditions and ritualism of Judaism with the Way of Christ.  Others were intent on controlling the church and still others were determined to see it destroyed.  Clearly the church needed a better understanding of its uniqueness.  Today there are those who operate only by the principle of tolerance and in doing so they water down the truth.  Literally by not declaring the truth anymore they are promoting lies.  Bowing to the fear of causing offense nothing is said about how wicked our society has become.  You can’t call people sinners anymore, that may offend them.  They’re suffering from sickness not sin.  The balance that we need is that we have all sinned and constantly come short of the glory of God but God offers forgiveness of sin to all who will repent and turn from their sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.  There is no one sin that is worse than others, all are sinners.  The message of the Gospel is Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day.  There is no understanding or accepting the Gospel without clearly knowing that our sin separates us from God and we deserve the wages of our sin, death.  That’s why Paul emphasizes the power of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ! 

Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed! 

1.  KEEP ON REJOICING DESPITE  THE FALSE TEACHERS

AND HOLD ON TO TRUE WORSHIP!  Philippians 3:1-3

2.  KEEP ON REJOICING IN RELATIONSHIP TO JESUS

NOT YOUR OWN ACCOMPLISHMENTS!  Philippians 3:4-7

3.  KEEP ON REJOICING BY FAITH IN CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS

AND THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION!  Philippians 3:8

1.  KEEP ON REJOICING DESPITE THE FALSE

AND HOLD ON TO TRUE WORSHIP!  Philippians 3:1-3

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.  Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.  For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—”

Paul challenges believers to rejoice in the Lord, to keep their focus on Him.  In this life it is so easy to get wrapped up in the things of this world.  Things we can see – like possessions.  Things we can’t see – like reputation, fame, achievement.  In Philippians 3:7 Paul mentions whatever was to his profit from the world’s point of view in terms of achievements, he now considered loss for the sake of Christ.  In verse 13 he talks about forgetting what is behind.  It is these things that can cause us to lose our joy.  Focussing on profits or possessions or past accomplishments or personal failures.  We need to make an honest evaluation of where we are and set our focus on Christ.  Believers need to rejoice in the Lord. 

As Paul begins saying “Finally, my brothers” he appeals on the basis of relationship and you might think that he is nearing the end of his letter but as Robert Mounce says in the Wycliffe Bible Commentary:  “Paul is the father of all preachers who use ‘finally, my brethren,’ as an indication that they have found their second wind!”  That means they’ll go for at least another half-hour. 

Paul tells them to rejoice in the Lord with emphasis that our joy is in the Lord! Amen?  This kind of rejoicing is for those who are in the Lord, in relationship to Jesus Christ by faith.  Real joy comes from knowing the Lord.  As opposed to happiness which is based on circumstances and is fleeting, temporary and fragile, real joy is found only in Jesus!  The verb rejoice is in the present tense and  the active voice and the imperative mood in the original Greek meaning we are to always be rejoicing in the Lord and to do that we have to take action, to direct our minds and hearts to rejoice in the Lord and Paul puts this as a command to be obeyed.  It’s as if he says: I command you to always make every effort to rejoice in the Lord! 

James Montgomery Boice says:  Joy is founded to a very great degree on sound doctrine … Joy is a supernatural delight in God and God’s goodness; and it is a very different things from happiness … supernatural joy is to steep ourselves in the teachings of the Bible.

Paul delights to share this command rejoice in the Lord.  He does it again in Philippians 4:4 (ESV) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”   In the Scriptures joy is associated with knowing and studying God’s Word.  Psalm 19:8 (ESV) “The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;”

Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV) “The joy of the LORD is your strength.”

There will always be those who will try to destroy your joy.  I remember one Pastor’s Conference a number of years ago where Howard Hendricks shared a message called: “How to Keep the Elephants Off Your Air Hose.”  His challenge was that, your air hose is your relationship to the Lord. 

You need to be strong in your relationship to the Lord and in what He wants you to do because there will always be elephants who will come along to try and stomp on your air hose, to discourage you from keeping on going.  In Paul’s day it was a group called the Judaizers who tried to bring the Christians back under the requirements of the Old Testament laws especially the law requiring circumcision.  Paul called them, dogs, men who do evil, mutilators of the flesh.  They were not true Christians.  Paul draws a portrait of the one who truly knows Christ and rejoices in Him in verse 3.

Philippians 3:3 (ESV) “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—”

The best way to oppose those that are false is to hold on to the truth.  To focus on the truth: 

1.  True Worshippers Worship by the Spirit of God.  Those who know Christ worship Him by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  John 4:23-24 (ESV) “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The Spirit of God draws attention to the Person of Christ.  John 16:13 (ESV) “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

Worship is not in ceremony and tradition, the keeping of ritual.  True worship is in the reality of personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  True worship is not external it is internal. 

“Latreuo” (worship) might best be translated “to render respectful spiritual service.”  True worship goes beyond praising God, singing hymns or worship choruses.  The essence of worship is living a life of obedient service to God.  True worship involves every aspect of life. 

True worshippers are devoted to God; He has no rival for their affection.  True Christians don’t just attend church or perform religious duties.  True worshippers have worshipping hearts and worshipping lifestyles. 

2.  True Worshippers Glory in Christ Jesus.  “Kauchaomai” describes boasting with exultant joy about what a person is most proud of.  It’s what parents do for their children. Grand-parents for their grand-children.  But here it is even greater, it is boasting in Christ.  Glorying in who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us.  Colossians 2:8-10 (ESV) “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.  For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,  and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”

We are complete in Christ, our confidence is in Him.  Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

3.  True Worshippers  Put no confidence in the flesh.  Romans 8:1-2 (ESV) “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Set free in Christ.  Our salvation is not by works of righteousness that we have done it is secured solely by faith in the finished atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Only one good work takes sinners to heaven.  That is the finished work of Christ on the cross.  Jesus, the sinless One met fully God’s demands for a righteous sacrifice for our sins.

2.  KEEP ON REJOICING IN RELATIONSHIP TO JESUS

NOT YOUR OWN ACCOMPLISHMENTS!  Philippians 3:4-7

“Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”

Paul knew the futility of trying to get to heaven by good works.  His is saying that if mere religious efforts could gain anyone acceptance with God, he would be at the top of that list.  If self-righteousness could save, he would have it made. 

He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews (a prime example of a true Hebrew – His background was impeccable)  – a Pharisee (part of the ruling class) – Kept the law perfectly (faultless in keeping the law) – blameless – persecuted the church which he saw as an enemy of the Jewish faith. 

Outwardly he was a success, inwardly he was sinful.  When he looked at himself or compared himself to others, Saul of Tarsus considered himself to be righteous.  But one day he saw himself compared to Jesus Christ.  All of his evaluations and his values were shot to pieces.  He saw himself as he really was, a lost and dying sinner.  He saw his separation from God because of his sin and he abandoned his own works of righteousness and accepted the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  He repented, turning from his sin and turning to God.

In verse 7 he says: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”

James Mongomery Boice says:  “‘But’ marks Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus when Paul first saw Jesus and learned what God’s righteousness was. He thought before this that he had attained righteousness by keeping the law. But when he saw Christ he knew that all his righteousness was as filthy rags.”

3.  KEEP ON REJOICING BY FAITH IN CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS

AND THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION!  Philippians 3:8-11

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Paul’s losses from the world’s point of view – power, prestige, reputation were nothing to be compared to knowing Jesus Christ.  In fact he describes them graphically as, well the nice word for it is dung. The word either refers to human waste or unwanted food (garbage).

The Amplified Bible describes Paul’s intense desire in life from verse 10 in this way: “That I may know Him–that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person, more strongly and clearly.” (Philippians 3:10 – The Amplified Bible)

Paul was looking at moral transformation now.  Holiness is not rooted in the do’s and don’ts approach of the law, but in a dynamic goodness in a living relationship to Jesus Christ that only God can bring by faith.  Paul had futilely spent his adult life trying to obtain a righteousness of his own derived from keeping the law.  That had become an unbearable burden.  But now, Paul was in Christ.  His union with Christ was made possible because God imputed Christ righteousness to him so that it was counted by God as his own.  How, by faith!  Faith is the confident, continuous confession of total dependence upon and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. 

The God’s Word for You Commentary says:  Faith is turning to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ. It is acknowledging my own sinfulness, and it is acknowledging that my own righteousness will not commend me to God in heaven. It is coming to the place where I know I must have Christ. It is seeing that Jesus is the only Savior. The sole object of faith, of trust and reliance, is Christ alone.

Here Paul expressed his deep desire to experience God’s resurrection power.  He was not referring to the future resurrection promised to believers, he speaks of that later in verses 20&21.  The daily goal that Paul set for himself was a fuller experience of Christ’s resurrection life, bringing vitality and power to the present.  Even in the midst of suffering, Paul knew Christ’s power.  Suffering drives believers to depend on God alone.  Paul looked forward to the resurrection from the dead.  His hope was in Christ.  Living the transformed life. Not counting on keeping the law to save him but trusting in Jesus Christ and knowing His righteousness that comes through faith.  

The basic bottom line is, Paul gained far more than he lost.  He knew in his life the touch of a God who is always present.  A deepening personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.  A growing and dynamic righteousness.  An experience of power that transformed him and changed his life. 

He knew joy – because his life did not depend on the passing and changing values of the world but on the permanent and eternal values found in Christ.  If you live for things you’ll never be happy – always have to worry about whether or when they’ll lose their value.  But a believer’s treasures can never be stolen, can never lose their value. 

Take inventory today – evaluate.  What matters most to you?  What is your intense desire in life? Knowing Christ??? Having Righteousness??? Experiencing Resurrection Power???

How?  The same way Paul did.  Repent and believe.  Receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour.  It’s as simple as ABC.  Acknowledge you are a sinner… Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…Confess Him as your Saviour!

Believer – it’s time to take inventory – to set your focus on Christ!  The Christian life is a resurrection life.  But before you can rise again, you must die to self.  The first step of obedience after you become a believer is baptism. It symbolizes death to sin and life to Christ.  It forms a picture of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.  Have you been baptized? 

As believers in Jesus Christ:  We rejoice in true worship, in relationship to Jesus by faith in Christ (His righteousness is ours as we rejoice in the power of His resurrection).

For Paul his new life in Christ began on the Damascus road.  He was thoroughly and radically converted, like the man who wrote these words. 

I had walked life’s path with an easy tread, Had followed where comfort and pleasure led;

And then by chance in a quiet place– I met my Master face to face. 

With station and rank and wealth for goal, Much thought for body but none for soul,

I had entered to win this life’s mad race– When I met my Master face to face. 

I had built my castles, reared them high, Till their towers had pierced the blue of the sky;

I had sworn to rule with an iron mace– When I met my Master face to face. 

I met Him and knew Him, and was shamed to see      That His eyes full of sorrow were fixed on me;

And I faltered, and fell at His feet that day While my castles vanished and melted away. 

Melted and vanished; and in their place I saw nothing else but my Master’s face;

And I cried aloud: “Oh, help me see And follow the marks of Your wounded feet.”

My thought is now for the souls of men; I have lost my life to find it again

Ever since alone in that holy place  My Master and I stood face to face.

—————————————————————————

February 14, 2021 FCBC  – Sermon

Philippians 2:17-30  “LIVING EXAMPLES OF SHINING LIGHTS!”

Living out the light, following the example of Jesus! 

The Apostle Paul has challenged the Philippian believers and us to live lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ by pursuing unity through harmony, humility and helpfulness.  He has encouraged us to think and to care not only for ourselves but also for the needs of others.  In order to do that we need to have the mind of Christ and to follow His example of caring, humble obedience to the will and purpose of God.  Because Jesus willingly humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, God has highly exalted Him, giving Him the name that is above every name and we who confess that “Jesus is my Lord,”  look forward to the day when every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.  Paul has gone on to tell us that as we work out our own salvation it is God who works in us to will and to work for His good pleasure and the challenge is to do all things without grumbling and complaining.  As we hold fast to the Word of life we shine as lights in the world.  And that’s where I want us to start today.  How do we shine as lights or stars in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation that is full of darkness? 

Shine as lights in some translations is shine as stars and it reminds us of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:14–16 about His followers being the “light of the world.” The term for “lights” or “stars” is “phoster” and it has two meanings: first, the outshining of light, radiance (Revelation 21:11); and second, a light-bearing body (Genesis 1:14, 16); classically, a ‘lantern’. Both meanings can be held together here in Philippians. The Christian is a ‘radiance’, an outshining of light; but also a ‘lantern’, holding and gleaming with a light imparted from elsewhere.

Paul now gives us three examples including himself of those who let their light shine.  Let’s take a closer look at Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Last week I began by quoting J. A. Motyer in The Message of Philippians who said:  ‘Light’ is a beautiful illustration of something that does what it has to do by being what it ought to be.

How can we shine the light, shine as stars?  Paul’s three examples show us: 

1.  THE LIGHT OF SACRIFICIAL JOY: Philippians 2:17-18 Paul

2.  THE LIGHT OF SELFLESS SERVICE: Philippians 2:19-24 Timothy

3.  THE LIGHT OF SERVING THROUGH SUFFERING: Philippians 2:25-30 Epaphroditus

1.  THE LIGHT OF SACRIFICIAL JOY: Philippians 2:17-18

“Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Paul has encouraged the Philippian believers and us  to shine as lights in the darkness of the day and now he sheds light on how he is doing.  The light of sacrificial joy is shining from his life. 

“Even if” translates a first class conditional clause in the Greek which means it refers to something that is known to be true.  A better translation would be “Because I am being poured out as a drink offering.”  Paul was willing to pour out his life in sacrifice to Jesus Christ.  He saw his life as a continual sacrifice to the Lord.  The picture is drawn from the Jewish sacrificial system where wine was poured on the altar as a sacrifice to God.  The only other New Testament occurrence of the verb is in 2 Timothy 4:6 (ESV) where Paul says:  “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” There Paul uses the phrase to refer to his impending death.  Here in Philippians Paul was being poured out to encourage their faith.  A reminder of the living sacrifice of Romans 12:1.  Their faith and his produce lives that are lived as a sacrificial offering to God.  Paul offers himself to be poured out for God to encourage their faith in the light of sacrificial joy.

Those who live in the light of sacrificial joy pour out their lives into the lives of others and Paul wants the Philippians and us to do the same.  We call that mentoring today.  The intentional investment of your life of faith in the life of faith of others.  Paul’s life was a model of sacrificial service and the joy that service produced.  Even if he was to die Paul rejoiced knowing that he had helped the Philippians live joyfully for Jesus Christ.  When you are totally committed to serving Christ, sacrificing to build the faith of others brings joyous reward.  Paul’s joy is rooted in the Gospel. 

The Mentor Commentary says: Paul rejoices in the prospect of his life being poured out for the advancement of the gospel, all the while knowing that the Philippians are experiencing joy in the sacrificial offering of their lives to Christ. Calvin summed it up well: ‘This is to teach the gospel from the heart—when we are prepared to confirm with our own blood what we teach.’

Learning from Paul’s example we need to ask ourselves:  Is my life a sacrificial offering to God that grows out of a deepening faith and trust in the person of Jesus Christ that shows the light of sacrificial joy?  As Paul lived in the light of sacrificial joy his life was poured out into the lives of others and now he gives two specific examples, Timothy and Epaphroditus.

2.  THE LIGHT OF SELFLESS SERVICE: Philippians 2:19-24

“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.  For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.  For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.  But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.  I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me,  and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.”

In all that he shares Paul is challenging us to have the mind of Christ.  Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” To live out the mind of Christ we need to understand what is means to live in the light of sacrificial joy and what is means to live in the light  of selfless service.  Paul is showing them the truth of what he has been sharing in the lives of two men they would know quite well.  These men are practical examples of how to live out the light. 

Timothy, though Paul was in prison in Rome was right there with him and Paul hoped to send Timothy to visit them soon and also to come himself.  The phrase “For I have no one like him” literally means “equal souled” or “one souled.”  The word is “isopsuchos,” a compound adjective composed of “isos” equal and “psuche” soul.  In a word used only here in the New Testament, Paul describes Timothy as what we might call a kindred spirit.  If you’ve read Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables or seen any of the movies you would know that kindred spirits were very important to Anne. Paul and Timothy are knit together into one soul—are one-minded and one-hearted; they are like-minded.  With whom are you like-minded?

It is when we learn to live in the light of selfless service that God brings those like minded to serve along with us.  Timothy reflected the heart of God in that he was genuinely concerned for others.  Although Paul will use this same verb translated here “concerned”, later in Philippians 4:6 to warn against sinful anxiety and worrying, here the verb “merimnao” has the positive sense of caring about someone or something.  Timothy’s feeling of concern is genuine “gnesios”, in contrast to those who preach Christ ‘not sincerely’ as Paul described in Philippians 1:17. Some preached Christ out of selfish ambition, but Timothy lived in the light of selfless service. 

This adverb genuinely was also used to refer to someone who was a valid member of a family, a sense that is possible here in light of the father-son imagery of verse 22. Timothy shows himself to be a true spiritual son of Paul by his genuine concern for the Philippians.

Just like Jesus and Paul, Timothy  lived in the light of selfless service.  He served faithfully sharing the message of the gospel alongside the apostle Paul.  What about you and me? Do we have a genuine concern for the spiritual well-being of others? Or are we so consumed with our own spiritual life that there is little or no concern for growth in others? By His Spirit the same Christ who made Himself nothing lives in us to reproduce the same sort of self-sacrificial love for others that shows itself in genuine concern for them as we live in the light of selfless service. 

Having finished his description of Timothy, Paul now returns to his plans, with verse 23 focussing on Timothy and verse 24 focussing on himself.  Once things are settled with him, he will send Timothy and he hopes to be able to come himself once his case is settled. 

Paul was in prison (either awaiting his trial or its verdict) for preaching about Christ.  He was telling the Philippians that when he learned of the court’s decision, he would send Timothy to them with the news and that he was ready to accept whatever that decision was.  Paul knew that his plans were subject to God’s sovereignty.  He hoped to visit them soon but his plans were in God’s hands. 

3.  THE LIGHT OF SERVING THROUGH SUFFERING: Philippians 2:25-30

“I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.  Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.  I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.  So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men,  for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.”

Epaphroditus was a Philippian Christian sent by the church in Philippi to take a gift to Paul and to assist Paul in his ministry.  He is described with a series of complimentary terms: a brother, a fellow worker, a fellow soldier, a messenger and a minister to Paul, sent to care for his needs. 

Epaphroditus is mentioned in the Bible only in this letter.  He was Paul’s spiritual brother, a fellow child of God.  He and Paul shared a deep faith, and had developed an abiding friendship.  As his fellow worker, Paul considered Epaphroditus to be an equal in the work of the gospel.  “Fellow worker” translates “sunergos” which is a distinctly Pauline term.  Of the thirteen times it is used in the New Testament all but one are by Paul.  In each instance it carries the idea of an affectionate partnership and not merely an impersonal, official relationship. 

Paul also calls Epaphroditus a fellow soldier, suggesting their joint struggle against common spiritual enemies.  Paul gives high praise to Epaphroditus for his faithful service to Jesus Christ.  Fellow soldier is the compound Greek noun “sustratiotes” from “sus” meaning “with” and “stratiotes” meaning soldier.  From the root of that word we get our English word strategy.  Epaphroditus served strategically as a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. 

Paul further describes Epaphroditus as “your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.”  When Epaphroditus first arrived, he brought a gift of money from the Philippians to Paul.  This tells us the people back home trusted him completely.  When he gave the gift to Paul he brought enormous encouragement to the apostle.  But shortly thereafter, Epaphroditus fell ill.  Ultimately he  recovered, but not before a long struggle where he lingered at death’s door.  New of his illness might have travelled back to Philippi, and he was concerned that his friends would be worried about him.  Epaphroditus shone the light of serving through suffering. 

Paul now thought it necessary to send him back home and he expands on his reasons in verses 26-30.  It was not that Epaphroditus was tired of serving Paul.  He was not merely homesick or restless, needing a change of work or a change of scenery.  Nor was he afraid of staying longer, openly identifying with a prisoner of Rome which did carry its risks.  He was a faithful worker who would never leave a job unfinished.  He was a loyal soldier who would never leave his post in the face of danger.  In his simple way he shone the light of serving through suffering. 

Epaphroditus was longing for his fellow believers in Philippi and was distressed because they had heard that he was sick.  He not only was sick, he would have died had God not had mercy on him.  So how does all of this tie in with our lives today?  I am reminded of the people God uses to influence our lives and how we are to respond to them. 

Those who shine the light of sacrificial joy like Paul.  He goes on to share with us in Philippians 3:7-8 (ESV) “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” 

Those who shine the light of selfless service like Timothy.  One who is a kindred spirit, one souled.  Sharing the same faith and the same goals, putting Christ first. 

Those who shine the light of serving through suffering like Epaphroditus.  A diligent behind the scenes worker, but of great value in the work of God willing to suffer for the work of Christ. 

Epaphroditus had literally risked his life for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ and when he became ill God had spared his life.  Paul wanted to share that joy with those in Philippi. 

Philippians 2:29 (ESV) “So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men.”  

I was thinking about the people whom God has allowed me to know who have lived out that shining light. And I’d like to honour my sister this morning.  

This week my thoughts were drawn to my eldest sister Pat who celebrated on January 23rd her 16th birthday in heaven.  She would have been 74 and I thought of her age this week because my younger sister Betty turned 70 on Tuesday. 

As I think back on my sister’s life well lived, she shone the light of sacrificial joy (She served the Lord faithfully to the very end.  On May 29th 2005, Doris and I were in Lively for what turned out to be our final visit and she played the piano that Sunday morning in the service at the Lively Baptist Church.  We went out to lunch with her and her husband Eric (at Eric’s place, otherwise known as Perkins in Sudbury (remember those days when you could go to restaurants).  She went into hospital for the final time that very evening passing into the Lord’s presence on June 15th

Not only did she shine the light of sacrificial joy, her life shone the light of selfless service.  Her goal in life was that God should be glorified and she was always thinking of others.  Back in 1994, when we were moving to Calgary and she was fighting her second battle with cancer we went to visit her in Lachute, Quebec where she and Eric were pastoring the Lachute Baptist Church and she was very low and she said: “You’ll just be getting moved in to Calgary, don’t feel you have to come back for my funeral.”  After we shared dinner together, she said: “You know when I first met Doris, I said: ‘She’s the one for John.'” 

And her life shone the light of serving through suffering.  God used her life and her battle with cancer to demonstrate His mercy.  The doctor told Eric that the life expectancy in a patient with  breast cancer that metastasises is 24 to 28 months.  “So twenty years is pretty good?” he said.   Eric told us that all along they had prayed, not for healing, but for God’s will to be done and for God to give the doctor’s wisdom.  And through every treatment, every apparent set-back they shared God’s grace and the message of the Gospel witnessing to Doctors, nurses and care givers. 

And there is One more whose example we are to emulate.  We let our light shine so others can see Jesus.  Jesus sacrificed joyfully.  He lived out selfless service, He came to give His life as a ransom for many.  And He served through suffering, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, fulfilling the plan of God.   This morning with nail scarred hands He reaches out to you and waits for you to reach back in faith.  More than a good example, you need a Saviour and there is only One, Jesus Christ.  It’s because of her personal relationship with Him, that my sister was able to set such a good example.  And only through Him can you and I do the same.   

The Mentor Commentary shares this insight:  Left to ourselves we remain self-centered, but the Spirit of God is at work in us to transform us into the image of Christ the Suffering Servant. As a result we serve not merely when it is convenient or costs us little but even when it costs us dearly. Perhaps we may not be called to risk our physical safety to serve others in the name of Christ, but Jesus says to all His followers: ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it’ (Mark 8:34-35). After all, ‘even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). Why should we as His followers adopt any other mindset than that of Christ?

Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” 

It is His light that we shine through sacrificing joyfully, in selfless service and serving through suffering. 

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February 7, 2021 FCBC   Sermon

Philippians 2:12-18  “YOU ARE A SHINING LIGHT, WORD OF LIFE, PRODUCTION!”

J. A. Motyer in The Message of Philippians says:  ‘Light’ is a beautiful illustration of something that does what it has to do by being what it ought to be. It is therefore very appropriate in Paul’s argument in these verses. Responsibility for the world around, outreach, making an impact, telling others about Jesus—these thoughts are entertained only after he has laid a foundation of Christian personal holiness. Like the light we must ‘be’ if we are to ‘do’

When Paul told the Philippian believers and us to live a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ he explained that the two challenges confronting the church were external persecution and internal disunity.  At the end of chapter 1, he pictured how we should live as citizens of heaven.  We are to stand firm in one spirit with one mind as we strive for the faith of the Gospel.  Not frightened by those who oppose us, willing to face suffering for the sake of Christ.  All of this is part of being engaged in the conflict in which Paul himself was actively particpating.  This forms part of what we see as God is at work in us weaving the tapestry of our lives to His glory. 

Last week we learned that we are called to exhibit the unity that we have in Christ through harmony, humility and helpfulness and our example in having the right mind-set or attitude is Christ Jesus. Christ’s humiliation from divine splendour and the worship of the angels to become a man and as fully God and fully man to become obedient to death, even death on a cross led to His exaltation by God the Father and as Paul reveals the day is coming when every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

So how do we live lives that are worthy of the Gospel of Christ and reflect His humility in what we often find to be a hostile world.  We realize that we do not face outright persecution for our faith but we do face ongoing opposition. 

We are constantly being marginalized by our society and by the cultural mainstream in which forces such as secularism, relativism, individualism and neopaganism are increasing.  The world around us has little or no respect for those of us who believe that Christ is the only way to God or that God’s revealed moral absolutes are binding on all people at all times.  We face relentless pressure to embrace diversity and tolerance as supreme virtues.  Personal choice is valued above all except if your choice is to believe in the one true God and trust in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ alone to save you.  There are of course, many believers in other lands that are facing far worse but all believers need to hear Paul’s words of encouragement to the Philippian followers of Jesus challenging them to stand out in the darkness that surrounded them on every side.  We too need to shine as lights in the darkness of our day holding fast to the Word of life! 

Christ’s obedience now sets the stage for Paul to challenge our obedience to see God at work in us to His glory.  This ongoing work of God in us is called Sanctification.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains sanctification as “the work of God’s free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” That’s what Paul writes about in the passage before us.  He begins with a general appeal to obey and then moves on to specifics like not grumbling, but rejoicing.

Philippians a 12 week study says:  This is a lifelong process, not something immediate or fully achieved in the short term. Sanctification is comprehensive in that it involves the will, actions, and affections. It is not merely moral improvement, not merely “biting the tongue” to hold back grumbling. It is spiritual, even personal. We resist grumbling as “children of God” (v. 15). Sanctification is also gospel-rooted, and yet being worked out (v. 12). Thus, there is no real spiritual fight against grumbling or arguing without continually “holding fast to the word of life” (v. 16). It is only this kind of true spiritual transformation that can bring “joy” even in the prospect of a dear friend’s impending death (vv. 17–18). 

Paul now brings us back down to earth from contemplating the exaltation of Christ and the day when every knee shall bow to how to live day by day.  He is showing us in practical terms what it really means to Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

1.  YOU (all) WORKING OUT!  Philippians 2:12

2.  GOD WORKING IN YOU (all)!  Philippians 2:13

3.  CHILDREN OF GOD, SHINING AS LIGHTS, THROUGH THE WORD OF LIFE! 

Philippians 2:14-18

1.  YOU (all) WORKING OUT!  Philippians 2:12

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

The humble obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ led to His exaltation and we His followers are called to follow His example.  Paul ties Christ’s obedience to our obedience.  But what are we to obey?  The command is clear.  “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  The verb rendered “obey” (hypakouo) is closely related to the verb translated “hear” (akouo); this means that within the idea of obedience is an aspect of “applied hearing” that receives instruction and puts it into action.

Paul appeals to them on the basis of love and relationship challenging them to obey as if he was right there with them to encourage them even though he can’t be which he hopes will challenge them even more.  But what about the challenge?  “Work out your own salvation.” 

It is here that some get confused thinking that we have to work for our own salvation in terms of earning it.  Remember Paul is writing to believers.  And believers know that as Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) says:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 

John MacArthur says: Work out translates a present middle imperative of katergazomai and indicates a command that has a continuing emphasis. The idea is, “Keep on working out to completion, to ultimate fulfillment.” Heauton, here rendered your, actually has the more emphatic meaning of “your own.” The command is for believers to make a continuing, sustained effort to work out to ultimate completion their salvation, which has been graciously granted to them by God through their faith in Jesus Christ.

The clear teaching of Scripture is that man because of his sinfulness, cannot merit salvation; but he may receive it as a gift from the loving heart of God made possible through the work of Christ on the cross. Therefore we do not work for our salvation. We work it out. Paul was calling the Philippian believers and us to work out what God has worked within us by grace, through faith, in Christ.  While we don’t believe in a salvation by works we certainly believe in a salvation that works.  After all as James expresses, “Faith without works is dead.”  (James 2:20)  Though we don’t work for we do work out, with fear and trembling.  We make a continuous, sustained, strenuous effort. 

The God’s Word for You Commentary says:  God put his Spirit within you, wrote his law upon your heart, and caused you to walk in obedience to his word.  A firm, uncompromising commitment to obeying the word, accompanied by true, serious repentance when you fail, are two marks of a true believer who has been born again (1 John 2:3-6). Do you see this in your life?

To work out your salvation with fear and trembling is to do so in reverential awe of God.  “Fear” (phobos) means terror, dread, alarm, reverence. This is not abject fear but a wholesome, healthy reverential awe for God and a sober realization of the need to take Him and His Word seriously.

This fear is to bring us to the point of trembling which indicates quaking with fear.  This recognizes who God is.  He is holy, holy, holy, worthy of our praise and adoration and our faithful service. 

The Mentor Commentary adds:  In Greek, the pronoun your is plural, reflecting the corporate element. Final salvation is worked out in the context of life in the body of Christ (2:1-4). Yet it is still your own salvation that must be worked out. Believers must take personal responsibility for growing in Christlikeness. It can be quite tempting to hear a sermon or read a helpful book and think, ‘Boy, did so-and-so need to hear that!’ without stopping to consider how the Lord wants to change us through the very same message.  So we don’t get the wrong idea about working out Paul goes on…

2.  GOD WORKING IN YOU (all)!  Philippians 2:13

“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

God is at work within you what matters most is His will, His Work and His good pleasure.  As the Westminster Confession of Faith says:  “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.” 

There is no real problem with “work out your own salvation” when we set it in its context. 

If God is at work in a person, what has already happened?  Salvation!  Therefore, the verse does not speak of initial salvation in terms of forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to God, but of the ongoing experience of salvation that is the product of a right relationship to God.  Salvation actually has three aspects because it is complete.  Past – we have been saved from the penalty of sin.  Present – we are being saved from the power of sin.  Future – we will be saved from the presence of sin.  The Philippian believers then, were told to work out, to put into practice in their daily living what God had worked in them by His Spirit.  They were not told to work for their salvation but to work out the salvation that God had already given them.  The word that Paul uses for work out has the idea of bringing to completion.  It is as if Paul says: “Don’t stop halfway; go on until the work of salvation is fully accomplished in you.”

When Paul speaks of God’s work within us the word he uses for God’s work and our work is the  same, the Greek verb “energein” from which we get our English word “energy.”  This word is always used of the action of God and always of effective action.  God is the energizer, what we need to do is keep going and going and going.  God’s action cannot be frustrated, nor can it remain half-finished; it must be fully effective.  The evidence of salvation!  Philippians 1:6 (ESV) “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

If God does all that, then what is our responsibility?  It is the responsibility of being what we are called to be and doing what we are told to do.  To keep on going.  In all of this a perfect balance is kept – God provides the energy; we provide the human responsibility.  We are not to be totally passive, for after God works in us, we are to work it out in our lives.  We work out what God works in.  God works in what we work out.  In our own strength we can’t do it.  We can’t live up to Christ’s example.  It takes more than example on the outside, it takes energy, power on the inside.  It is not by imitation that we become conformed to the image of Christ, it is by incarnation – Christ living in us.  The Life Application Bible notes state: “To be like Christ we must train ourselves to think like Christ.  To change our desires to be more like Christ’s, we need the power of the indwelling Spirit, the influence of faithful Christians, obedience to God’s Word (not just exposure to it), and sacrificial service.”  

God is at work in the sanctification of believers “for His good pleasure” (v 13). He is actively engaged because He is absolutely holy, and in His people He loves holiness and hates sin. God does this sanctifying work because He want us to grow in purity of mind, heart, and character to live our lives to the praise of His glorious grace.  God produces the willing and the working as we work out what He has worked in.  Through God’s enabling, willing becomes doing. 

The Mentor Commentary says: The nature of what God produces (the willing and the working), along with the call in the previous verse for the believer to work out his or her own salvation with fear and trembling, clearly points to the sense of ‘in you.’ It is at the heart level that God is working to produce the intention/desire and the result. At the same time, we should also recognize the corporate element. God produces the willing and the working in the context of the individual believer’s participation in the corporate life of the body of Christ.

So just how do we work it out? 

3.  CHILDREN OF GOD, SHINING AS LIGHTS, THROUGH THE WORD OF LIFE!  Philippians 2:14-18

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing,  that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Paul’s command is clear.  “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”  Yes, you heard it right…everything!  Most Christians are able to do some things without complaint.  It is when we are exhorted to do all things with a joyful spirit that the difficulty comes.  Yet that is what we are called to do.  The word used for complaining is used to describe the rebellious murmurings of the children of Israel in their desert wanderings.  It is an onomatopoetic word meaning it sounds like what it is.  Gongusomos.  (Gongusomos, Gongusomos, Gongusomos, can’t you just hear it.)  Our English word  forms a word picture as well.  Murmur, murmur, murmur.

Charles Swindoll in his book “Laugh Again” says: “Watch your attitude!  A bad attitude reveals itself from two sides: something we do alone–”grumbling”–and something we do when we are with others–”disputing.”  Both of these joy stealers need to be exposed. 

What exactly is grumbling?  It is not loud, boisterous grousing but rather low-toned, discontented muttering.  It is negative, muted comments, complaining and whining.  Disputing, however, is vocal, ill-natured argumentation…verbal expressions of disagreement that stir up suspicion and distrust, doubt and other disturbing feelings in others.”

Believers are to be blameless and innocent, children of God. “That you” translates the Greek conjunction “hina,” which, when used with a subjunctive verb as it is here, indicates a purpose clause.  So what does that mean?  Believers are to stop complaining and arguing so that they may become the kind of children God wants them to be.  Not acting childishly, living childlikely in dependance and trust in God.  He wants His children to be blameless and innocent.  To forsake complaining and arguing is an essential part of advancing in the process of becoming more like

Christ.  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” 

Blameless is to be without moral or spiritual blemish.  Innocent means absolutely pure, unmixed with sin and evil.  God’s children are to be without fault.  Why?  Because we are called to be pure and uncontaminated light givers in the world.  Already, we are children of God in position.  This is evidenced in our lives to be children of God without blemish, without fault.  Having our lives free from anything that would bring blame.  Our nature as God’s children should be clearly in evidence.  The grumbling has to go if shining the light is going to start.  Argumentative people who specialize in friction and division are no credit to the message of Christ and His salvation. 

We too live in a crooked and twisted generation.  But the darker the scene the less difficult it should be to shine as lights in the darkness to the glory of God. 

Lights (verse 15): “phoster” has two meanings: a. the outshining of light, radiance (Revelation 21:11); b. a light-bearing body (Genesis 1:14, 16); classically, a ‘lantern’. Both meanings can be held together here in Philippians. The Christian is a ‘radiance’, an outshining of light; but also a ‘lantern’, holding and gleaming with a light imparted from elsewhere.

“You shine” states the fact, we already shine, the challenge is to let our light shine unhindered.  Dangers of living in a warped world.  Some work out their own purposes not their salvation.  Some murmur and dispute, even questioning God and God’s will.  Instead of shining as lights they are being absorbed by the darkness. 

There is another action that is going on at the same time “holding fast to the word of life.” Verse 16.  The word of life is God’s message of good news that Jesus Christ has died and risen so that a dying world might live.  To a world that is lost and dying we hold out the word of life.  Eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ and a right relationship with God.  We are to be credible witnesses for Jesus Christ.  John MacArthur in his commentary on Philippians says: “The quality of a believer’s life, whether faithful and obedient or unfaithful and disobedient, is the platform of his testimony.  A grumbling, complaining Christian will not have a positive effect on others.  For obvious reasons, unbelievers are not attracted to that kind of life.” 

Verses 16-18 indicate that faithful living by the Philippians would increase Paul’s prospect of joy as he looked forward to standing before Jesus Christ on the Day of Christ.  He knew his present situation might result in his death, his being poured out like a drink offering, but he rejoiced in sacrificial service for the cause of Christ.  Paul wanted his readers to know that same joy of selfless service for the Saviour. 

How can I do it?  You can’t!  It is God that works in you… To will and to work for His good pleasure… His purpose for you – Work out your own salvation by being obedient, humble, joyful and pure – shine as lights in a dark world – hold forth the Word of life!!!  Paul was saying the same thing that Jesus did in Matthew 5:16 (ESV) “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

A preacher used to say: “Oh, salvation’s in him.  It just hasn’t worked its way out yet!”  But it will, for God is at work in His own, and by His grace we will display the obedience, humility, joy, and purity of the children of  God.  So keep on going and going, and going, to the glory of God!  Let your light shine! One ray of light will accomplish little, but when joined with other rays a great light is created.  Our work is not simply as lone-ranger rays of light but as the entire body of Christ joined together.  Light is what Christians are.  The only question is whether or not we are darkness dispelling light.  Hidden light is still light, but it is useless light.  Light that is hidden because of fear of offence, or indifference or a lack of love for others is useless to God.  Light that is obscured by complaining and arguing is useless to God.  The purpose of what God has worked in our lives is that it should be worked out until the day of Christ, when Jesus returns. 

The Reformed Expository Commentary shares this timely and encouraging note: A steady stream of bad news reveals the West’s widespread cultural decomposition: greed and implosion in the financial industry, indifference to the suffering of the unborn and the poor, defiant challenges to marriage, addiction to drugs or pornography or entertainment, and the idolatry that worships government as a comprehensive savior. A burgeoning global sex trade kidnaps and exploits vulnerable girls and boys to satiate the lusts of people with power and wealth.

Faced with such alarming trends, we could easily be paralyzed by dismay. There is, however, another way for Christians to view cultural decay. In 1969, at the age of sixty-six, the distinguished social commentator Malcolm Muggeridge abandoned agnosticism and came to faith in Christ. A decade later he described the implosion of Western society in terms eerily prescient of the economic meltdown that has occurred at the end of the twenty-first century’s first decade. Yet despite his sobering diagnosis, he sounded a surprising note of hope: 

Let us then as Christians rejoice that we see around us on every hand the decay of the institutions and instruments of power, see intimations of empires falling to pieces, money in total disarray, dictators and parliamentarians alike nonplussed by the confusion and conflicts which encompass them. For it is precisely when every earthly hope has been explored and found wanting, when every possibility of help from earthly sources has been sought and is not forthcoming, when every recourse this world offers, moral as well as material, has been explored to no effect, when in the shivering cold the last [twig] has been thrown on the fire and in the gathering darkness every glimmer of light has finally flickered out, it’s then that Christ’s hand reaches out sure and firm. Then Christ’s words bring inexpressible comfort, then his light shines brightest, abolishing the darkness forever.

Work out your own salvation as God is at work in you.  As Children of God, shine as lights, holding fast to the word of life!  And if you haven’t yet done so, come to the light through the word of life, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I pray that the lights may go on in your life!   

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January 31, 2021 FCBC                        

Philippians 2:1-11                  “HOW TO ADJUST YOUR ATTITUDE!”

A high call to a humble life! 

The church of the Lord Jesus Christ has only one message – we preach Christ.  I’ll never forget the last time I saw my Grandfather Thompson (His name was also John, John Benjamin and he lived to be 100 years old.  He walked with the Lord many, many years.)… As we visited in the Nursing Home in Dunnville, he had me bend down next to his wheelchair and said in my ear, “Preach Christ!”  He did it three times. 

Preaching Christ doesn’t mean you say the same thing every week.  There are so many aspects of

who the Lord Jesus is, and what He says, and what He did and what He teaches and what He requires and how we can know Him and what we can do about it–there are so many things to know that even in a whole lifetime you could never exhaust all that there is to know about Christ.

This was a recurring theme in the Apostle Paul’s letters.  He wanted to know Christ and know Him well.  He was determined to preach Christ and to make the message of the Gospel clear. 

1 Corinthians 2:2 (ESV) “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  He prayed for the Ephesian believers Ephesians 3:19 (ESV) “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

He expressed the ultimate aim of his life in Philippians 3:10 (ESV) “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

He was convinced that knowing Jesus made all the difference in how he lived his life in this world and all the difference in the world to come.

2 Timothy 1:12 (ESV) “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”

One of the Scriptures that gives us a summary of who Christ is and what He has done is Philippians 2:5-11.  This is what the theologians would call one of the outstanding Christological passages.  It is one of the great passages in the Word of God where we see Jesus exalted and demonstrated to be the Lord that He really is.  Some speculate that it may have been an early church hymn.  I think it is simply poetic prose written by an amazing apostle.  If it does turn out to be a hymn, it is an amazing example of ancient Christian hymnology. 

Before we look into this passage that explains the work of Christ, I want you to notice first of all why it was written.  It wasn’t written just as a theological treatise on the person of Christ, and it wasn’t written to be an outstanding Christological passage–it was actually written as an illustration of the attitude that ought to mark the life of a person who professes to be a Christian. 

The whole passage is introduced in verse 5 with these words…”Have this mind among yourselves,  which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  The King James Version says: “Let this mind (or attitude) be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” The New International Version puts it: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:” The New Living Translations says: “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” 

To understand why Paul writes this we need to back up a few verses to set the context.  Paul had been talking to the Philippian Christians about how to get along with each other and enjoy fellowship.  They obviously were facing some problems — problems with each other.  Note the words “selfish ambition,” “conceit.”  People problems were causing them to lose their joy! Some of them had major chips on their shoulders.  I came across an interesting quote regarding having a chip on your shoulder.  “You know what a chip on your shoulder means?”  “There’s wood higher up!” 

They needed instruction on the attitudes and actions necessary to get along in the church.   Verses 5-11 actually give the “how to get along” answer to the statements begun in verses 1-4 introduced by the word “if.”  Read verse 1.  Philippians 2:1 (ESV) “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…”

Paul has explained what we should do “if there is” (this is the first class condition in the Greek language which speaks of certainties, not possibilities.)  It means since there is or since we are Christians, since we belong to Jesus by faith.  He then explains how we are to put into practice what we are in Christ.  (The “if” in this usage is not conditional, it is the statement of fact.)

If you belong to Jesus here are the attitudes and actions that should be evidenced in your life. 

How to adjust your attitude! 

1.  GET YOUR THINKING STRAIGHT: Philippians 2:1-2

2.  THINK OF OTHERS FIRST: Philippians 2:3-4

3.  UNDERSTAND THE MIND OF CHRIST JESUS: Philippians 2:5-11

1.  GET YOUR THINKING STRAIGHT: Philippians 2:1-2

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”  

Verses 1-4 are one long sentence in the original Greek and in these verses Paul makes an appeal to those who belong to Jesus to be certain of what they have in Christ.  This is not a condition expressing what may be it is the statement of the certainty of what is.  Paul expresses four certainties, four facts that describe what it means to be in Jesus and to have Jesus in you. 

This expands on the theme Paul introduced in verses 27-30 of chapter 1.  As we learned last week.

The urgent imperative is to be united.  To live a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ.  Standing firm in one spirit with one mind.  Striving for the faith of the Gospel.  Not frightened by those who oppose.  Facing suffering for the sake of Christ.  Engaged in the conflict. 

The previous sentence in verses 27-30 emphasizes the need to stand firmly united for the gospel in the face of those who oppose the church.

This sentence in verses 1-4 focuses on the need to be humbly united with those who might seek to  divide the church. Paul urges believers to be one so that they will be able to endure suffering caused by those outside the church and to be one to heal divisions caused by those inside the church.

So he states what believers have in Christ.  Let’s look at these four statements as questions that I ask you to answer with AMEN! 

Do you have encouragement in Christ!  AMEN!

Encouragement is the word “parakalesis” used of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit meaning “one called alongside to help.”  Jesus came alongside us to help us meeting our greatest need of forgiveness. 

Do you have comfort from love!  AMEN!

Christ gives us the comfort of knowing that we are loved with an everlasting love. As we read in  Romans 5:5 (ESV) “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Do you have participation in the Spirit!  AMEN!

The word participation is also translated fellowship and is the word “koinonia” Paul used in Philippians 1:5 describing fellowship in the Gospel.  Here Paul tells us that fellowship is based on

the work of the Spirit of God. 

Do you have affection and sympathy!  AMEN!   

In Christ and in the Spirit are presumed here meaning that we have love and concern for one another and this comes from God. 

What Paul is saying is, if all these things are true, then complete my joy be being united, being one.  Paul was not questioning these things he was stating the fact that this is what you have in Christ! 

The Reformed Expository Commentary expands on the concept of oneness saying: 

One crucial dimension of the unity for which we should strive is oneness of conviction. The first and the last descriptions of Christian unity here focus on what we think and believe: “being of the same mind” and “of one mind.” These contain the same Greek verb, phroneo, which appears no fewer than ten times in Philippians, more frequently than in any other epistle of Paul. Although it is hard to translate into English, our word think or the idea “have a certain mind, mind-set, or attitude” is a close equivalent.

Be of the same mind, have the same love, be in full accord and be of one mind.  Not uniformity but unity!  You have been made one in Christ!  So here’s how to live like it. 

2.  THINK OF OTHERS FIRST: Philippians 2:3-4

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

They are to live in love and unity.  Recognizing there are differences but what matters is our oneness in Christ.  Full accord literally means to be “one souled” it expressed being united together in our mutual love for Christ, pursuing together as one the glory of God! 

They are to behave maturely toward each other living in harmony.  “Do nothing out from selfish ambition or conceit.”  These attitudes were obviously the causes of their problems. 

They are to relate humbly to each other.  “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  C J. Mahaney defines humility as follows: “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.”

What Paul means is that our consideration for others must precede our concern for ourselves.  A spirit of pride in ourselves or our relationships indicates a lack of humility before God.

They were to act sacrificially for each other being helpful not hurtful.  Instead of concentrating only on self, each believer should be concerned for the interests of others. 

We are to look for ways to care for the needs of others, but Paul is also telling us to take care of ourselves.  Preoccupation with oneself is sin, but taking care of yourself is sensible and expected, however,  as you do that, take care of others too! 

Quite simply Paul is challenging them and us to live in Unity of purpose and to display that in Harmony, Humility and Helpfulness.  Paul challenges us to reconcile our actions with what we say we believe. 

But he knows we cannot bring our actions into line unless we adjust our attitudes so he brings us to consider the supreme example of humility and selfless concern for others – The Lord Jesus Christ.

 3.  UNDERSTAND THE MIND OF CHRIST JESUS: Philippians 2:5-11

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The great English commentator H. C. G. Moule on these verses in Philippians says: 

We have here a chain of assertions about our Lord Jesus Christ, made within some thirty years of his death at Jerusalem; made in the open day of public Christian interaction, and made (every reader must feel this) not in the least in the manner of controversy, of assertion against difficulties and denials, but in the tone of a settled, common, and most living certainty. These assertions give us on the one hand the fullest possible assurance that he is man, man in nature, in circumstances and experience, and particularly in the sphere of relation to God the Father. But they also assure us, in precisely the same tone, and in a way which is equally vital to the argument in hand, that he is as genuinely divine as he is genuinely human.

Paul looked with awe at Jesus’ willing surrender of the prerogatives of Deity to become a human being, and to die for us on a cross.  But the self-sacrifice of Jesus is also a powerful call to us as believers.  Those of us who look to Jesus as Saviour are also to look to Him as our example.  In fact our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.  Jesus is our example in how to adjust our attitude.  If you confess that Jesus is Lord you must adjust your attitude.  Follow the example of Jesus. 

When we adopt His attitude, there will be a dramatic impact on our relationships with others.  We will be “of one mind.”  What Paul pictures here is a community of believers who model their personal relationships with each other on Jesus.  Such a community will be united, having the same love, and being one in spirit and purpose.  The church, the body of Christ embodies this kind of unity.  Our unity is not based on having the same convictions or even on holding exactly the same doctrines, though convictions and doctrines are important, our unity is based on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our unity grows out of our love for Him, and flourishes when we exhibit a Christlike attitude.  Paul encourages the Philippian believers and us to look at the example of Christ when it comes to understanding how that attitude is to be expressed since we are to do “nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than ourselves.  Each of us looking not only to our own interests but also the interests of others.” 

Today we’re going to take an overview of the mind of Christ, we will look at this passage in more detail at Easter. 

It is this total unselfishness that we see exhibited so powerfully by Jesus. He did not “grasp at” His equality with God.  He did not consider it something to be selfishly held on to.  He “emptied Himself nothing” to come to earth as a human being–a Servant.  Here He even humbled Himself to the extent that He willingly died a criminal’s death.  And He did it all for us. 

First, He accepted the servant’s place;

Second, He entered a sinful world; 

Third, He adopted a selfless position; 

Fourth, He died a sacrificial death; and

Fifth, He received the supreme glory. 

If you and I have this attitude toward our brothers and sisters in Jesus, there will be Christian unity.  And we will be truly one, in spirit and purpose.  We, like Jesus will live to serve.  And in serving we, like Jesus, will find the way of exaltation.  “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11 & Luke 18:14) 

“There is no limit to what a person can do when they don’t care who gets the credit.”   This exaltation was part of what Paul was explaining.  Because Jesus humbled Himself, God the Father has highly exalted Him, literally “to the highest place” verse 9.  For us as well as for Jesus, the way up is down.  For us, as for Jesus, God exalts us when we humble ourselves in service for others.  This requires sacrifice.  Many would say they are willing to serve, few are willing to sacrifice. 

Since Christ did this for us, the call upon our lives is to do no less.  God did this for us!!!

Jesus is God.  This is the foundational truth of Christianity.  For us God became man.  In this confession the early church affirmed the pre-existence of Jesus as God, affirmed His incarnation as a true human being, affirmed His death on the cross, His resurrection and His coming again to be revealed as Lord of all. 

James Montgomery Boice says:  These verses bring us near to the bedrock of the early Christian faith and preaching. They contain most of the distinctive articles of the Christian creed. They teach the divinity of Christ, his preexistence, his equality with God the Father, his incarnation and true humanity, his voluntary death on the cross, the certainty of his ultimate triumph over evil, and the permanence of his reign.  How foolish in the light of these statements are the views of scholars who attempt to dismiss the distinct doctrines of Christianity as late developments in the history of an historically conditioned and slowly evolving church. There was no evolution of these doctrines. There were repeated attempts to clarify them. The history of theology is full of examples. There were often advances in the direction of a fuller understanding of their significance. But the doctrines themselves were always known. Christianity is Christ—this Christ. And these things were believed about him from the beginning.

We should note that the phrase stating Jesus “being found in human form” does not imply that Jesus only seemed to be a human being.  The Greek word used here is “schema,” which lays stress on what is visible to the beholder.  The Son of God was seen by men to be a man, and He truly was what He appeared to be: one of us.  What a passage to focus our thoughts on who Jesus is and what He has done for us.  And what a passage to challenge us in what we should do…to think of ourselves in the same way Jesus did, as servants of God, living our lives for the glory of God.  This shows us the path to joy in relationships – Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.  So the follower of Christ must think always, not of oneself but of others, not of one’s own glory but of the glory of God. 

Let this mind or attitude be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.  Blaise Pascal said: “Do little

things as if they were great because of the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who dwells in thee, and do great things as if they were little and easy, because of His omnipotence.” 

Christ humbled Himself – God therefore has exalted Him.  He has given to Him the name above all names!  Many songs have been written through the years to emphasize the importance of Jesus’ name.  Many of these songs have become common to all believers, but there is a poem which is probably not well known to most Christians.  It is a poem written by a converted atheist, and it expresses his thoughts as he reflected on the name of Jesus Christ. 

I’ve tried in vain a thousand ways My fears to quell, my hopes to raise;

But what I need the Bible says, Is ever, only Jesus. 

My soul is night, my heart is steel— I cannot see, I cannot feel;

For light, for life I must appeal  In simple faith to Jesus. 

He died, He lives, He reigns, He pleads;  There’s love in all His words and deeds;

There’s all a guilty sinner needs   Forevermore in Jesus.

Tho’ some should sneer, and some should blame,  I’ll go with all my guilt and shame;

I’ll go to Him because His name   Above all names, is Jesus.  

(James Procter)

And one day every knee will bow before Him!  This is a reference to Isaiah 45:23-25 (ESV)

“By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’  “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him.  In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory.”

Every single being in the universe, all of God’s creation, will bow and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Unlike Isaiah, Paul specifies the content of the confession, Jesus Christ is Lord. 

You have a choice.  Is Jesus Christ your Lord?  You can bow willingly now, today or on that day you will bow! 

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January 24, 2021 — FCBC                       

Philippians 1:12-30 “WHAT ARE YOU LIVING FOR AND IS IT WORTH DYING FOR?”

The story has been told of a museum guide who would take his tour group into a darkened room, shine a light on a mass of string, colour and apparent chaos and ask the group, “What do you think this is?”  “We don’t know,” was the inevitable reply.  He would then say, “Stand over there and watch.”  As the group moved over to the other side of the room, he would turn on a spotlight.  It was instantly apparent that the mass of jumbled coloured string seen just a moment earlier was in fact an enormous tapestry–seen before from the back side.  The real work had to be seen from a different perspective to understand what the artist was creating.  That is a good way to picture God and His ways.  We often look at what God is doing or what is going on and ask questions, not because we assume there is no purpose to what God is doing, but because we are on the wrong side of eternity to be able to have the perspective that would enable us to see the order and the pattern of God’s work.  In each life, in all circumstances, in all that He allows He is forming a glorious tapestry.  Someday we will see how all the strings and colours fit together. 

As I recalled this story I was reminded of a song I first heard years ago written in 1971 by Carole King, the song bears the title of the album on which it was released, Tapestry.  I still have the album, for those younger that’s one of those huge CD’s that you play on a turntable.  I still have a turntable too and enjoy listening to the song every now and then.  There is something about the crackle of a record that I really enjoy.  The all digital generation has no comprehension of how wonderful it is.  The opening lyrics of the song say:  My life has been a tapestry  Of rich and royal hue  An everlasting vision Of the ever-changing view A wond’rous woven magic In bits of blue and gold  A tapestry to feel and see Impossible to hold. 

I set that before you because the Apostle Paul gives us a wonderful perspective on God’s control of every facet of his life.  God was in full control of Paul’s life and times as He is of ours.  Nothing was happening by chance. 

All the varied threads of Paul’s life and circumstances were being woven by God into a pattern that would result to the praise of God’s glorious grace.  An unknown author put it this way: 

Not till each loom is silent,     And the shuttles cease to fly,

Shall God reveal the pattern   And explain the reason why

The dark threads were as needful In the weaver’s skillful hand

As the threads of gold and silver For the pattern which He planned.

The supreme purpose in the life of the Apostle Paul was to share the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Nothing else really mattered.  After he was arrested by Jesus through his vision of Christ on the Damascus road he saw whatever happened to him in light of his relationship to Jesus.  God was weaving the tapestry of his life to the glory of Jesus Christ. As a servant of Christ he told the Corinthians he faced “far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and was often near death.” And now having been arrested in Jerusalem and brought as a prisoner to Rome he continues to languish in prison but what marks his life is joy!  In the passage before us he rejoices that Christ is proclaimed whether through good motives or bad, he desires that Christ is honoured through his life whether he lives or dies and he encourages the Phliippian believers and us to live lives that are worthy of the Gospel of Christ as God weaves the tapestries of our lives. 

1.  REJOICE THAT CHRIST IS PROCLAIMED AND THE GOSPEL IS ADVANCED!

Philippians 1:12-18

2.  REMEMBER THAT CHRIST WILL BE HONOURED WHETHER WE LIVE OR DIE!

Philippians 1:19-26

3.  RESOLVE TO LIVE FOR THE GLORY OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST! 

Philippians 1:27-30

1.  REJOICE THAT CHRIST IS PROCLAIMED AND THE GOSPEL IS ADVANCED!

Philippians 1:12-18

Paul cared deeply for the people of the church at Philippi as we learned last week.  They were on his mind, in his prayers, in God’s hands, in Paul’s heart and in God’s love and so he prayed earnestly for them to have love that abounds, knowledge that discerns, understanding of what really matters and he prayed that they would be pure and blameless, filled and fruitful through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. 

What we now learn is that the people at Philippi also cared deeply for Paul.  They were concerned that he was a prisoner in chains and that at his age his imprisonment was not only dangerous to his health, his trial could result in his death.  They wondered how he was doing and what was happening, so they sent Epaphroditus to find out and to help out. 

Philippians 2:25 (ESV) tells us that Paul was ready to send him back with this letter of encouragement to them but it also reveals that they had encouraged him. God was working on the tapestry of Paul’s life.  “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need.”

Philippians 4:18 (ESV) reveals even more of the threads that God has been putting together.  “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”  

In verse 12 Paul begins to update them on his current situation.  He addresses the brothers and sisters at Philippi and tells them that what has happened to him has served to advance the gospel. 

That takes us back to Acts 28:30-31 (ESV) “He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him,  proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”

As we have learned Paul was bound but the Gospel was unbound.  How we need that reminder in these days of restrictions and lockdowns.  You and I have every opportunity to share the Gospel. 

The Wesleyan Commentary says:  In an age when society is turned in upon itself, and we are pressed relentlessly to think first, last, and always of how circumstances and situations affect ourselves, it is chastening to see that Paul’s first thought was of how what happened to him would affect his ministry. In the piercing words of Karl Barth: “To the question how it is with him an apostle must react with information as to how it is with the Gospel.”

Paul took every opportunity to share the message of the Gospel and the whole imperial guard, Nero’s elite soldiers, a force of 6 to 9 thousand knew about his imprisonment for Christ.  These were the most elite Roman guards in the entire empire.  They were the personal bodyguards for Caesar and served in his imperial palace.  Paul is awaiting a legal verdict from the emperor himself.  His confinement has not lessened his commitment to make Christ known.  Roman soldiers were bound for hours on end to this man who loved to talk about Jesus.  They were his captive audience to hear the message of the Gospel. 

In these days of confinement what do you love to talk about the most?  Politics and foolish politicians?  The weather and the restrictions?  Or Jesus and His love! 

Because of Paul’s boldness in sharing the Gospel in spite of his chains other believers became bold in speaking about Jesus without fear.  The Gospel was carried into the household of Caesar himself a place where Paul could never have gone but God was busy weaving the threads of the tapestry of Paul’s life.   

Paul rejoiced in the advance of the Gospel, the word used is “prokope” meaning to move out.  The gospel is going forward even through Paul’s imprisonment.  That’s why he sees himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ, not Rome.  And he shares this news in order to encourage them and us to be bold in witnessing for Jesus Christ.  We need to speak the truth with increasing confidence.  Whatever obstacles we may face there is no obstacle that can stop the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We need to see obstacles as opportunities to share our hope in Jesus. 

The great nineteenth-century theologian B.B. Warfield put this wonderfully well:  “In the infinite wisdom of the Lord of all the earth, each event falls with exact precision into its proper place in this unfolding of his eternal plan.”  

God is unfolding his tapestry. 

Paul rejoices that Christ is proclaimed even though some were doing it for the wrong motives.  There were those who spoke against Paul blaming him for the trouble he was in, but he rejoiced that the Gospel was being preached.  “Selfish ambition” literally means “one working for hire.”  It was used of someone who could be bought.  These people were in it for what they could get out of it, not for what they could give to others.  They may have exalted Christ in their words but they were using their position to promote themselves.  We see far too much of that in our day.  Paul had his critics as we all do, but he continued to proclaim Jesus and rejoice that the Gospel was advancing and that there were those who preached Christ out of love for the Lord and love for His Word knowing that Paul was in fact, imprisoned for the defense of the Gospel.  In spite of his trials, Paul rejoices that Christ is being preached.

John MacArthur shows how this can be our reaction too:  “Paul’s example of selfless humility shows that the worse circumstances are the greater the joy can be. When the seemingly secure things in life begin to collapse, when suffering and sorrow increase, believers should be drawn into ever-deeper fellowship with the Lord.”  

Rejoice that Christ is proclaimed and the gospel is advanced. 

2.  REMEMBER THAT CHRIST WILL BE HONOURED WHETHER WE LIVE OR DIE!

Philippians 1:19-26

Paul had full trust in the Sovereign purposes of God being worked out in his life.  He knew that the Philippian believers and others were praying for him and he knew that all of these events would turn out for his deliverance.  Did he mean he knew he would be freed by Rome?  He hoped to be freed but what he knew was that whether he lived or died he was safe in the arms of God.  Peace and rest come when you lay your head on the pillow of trusting God.  So Paul lives with expectation and hope.  Eager expectation means to stretch the neck forward, this is a rare word, used only here and in Romans 8:19 speaking of the eager longing of creation for the sons of God to be revealed. 

Paul is looking ahead.  Hope refers to the confidence that God will work all things together for our good and His glory for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  Paul was hoping to be vindicated for the sake of the Gospel but either way he knew that he would be delivered.  His goal was to honour Christ whether by life or by death. 

He had the heavenly perspective on his earthly life because his faith was in Jesus and that’s why he was able to say:  Philippians 1:21 (ESV) “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” 

What are you living for?  And is it worth dying for?

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the young prince of Denmark, faces an excruciating dilemma. His uncle has murdered his father, seduced and married his mother, and seized Denmark’s throne. Because Hamlet can see no way to avenge his father and restore justice, he contemplates ending his inner torment through suicide. Taking his own life might offer escape from “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune . . . a sea of troubles . . . the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” So, he reasoned, “’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.” Yet he hesitated, fearing the unknown future that lay beyond the grave:

To die, to sleep— To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. . . . For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’ oppressor’s wrong . . . the law’s delay, The insolence of office . . .

But that the dread of something after death, The undiscovered country from whose bourn [realm]

No traveler returns, puzzles the will  And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all . . . .

The words that Shakespeare put into Hamlet’s mouth show a mind at the end of it’s resources, a soul in despair.  And there are too many in that dark place during these times.  They need to see that God loves them and desires to be the Master weaver in their lives. 

Paul is staring death square in the eyes and yet he has hope, he is rejoicing that Christ is proclaimed, and he knows that Christ will be honoured whether he lives or dies because he knows where he is going.  The only way to be prepared to live is to be prepared to die.  Do you know that if you were to die tonight you would go to heaven to be with God?  You can know.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved today!  Turn from your sin and trust in Jesus Christ to save you! 

Paul says to depart and be with Christ is much, rather, better.  He uses a triple adverb to describe what he looks forward to in heaven. It’s not the streets of gold (though those will be pretty fantastic), it’s not loved ones who’ve gone before (though it will be wonderful to see them), it is seeing Jesus face to face, knowing Him as we are known and praising and glorifying Him forever.  

But for the sake of the Philippians and other believers he is willing to stay to encourage them in their faith.  What he asks is that they glory in Christ and what he lives for is to honour Christ, literally to make Christ large meaning to make Christ known to more and more people. 

Remember, if and only if to live is Christ, is to die, gain!!! Have you trusted in Jesus, do you know that God is weaving the tapestry of your life as He was Paul’s?

John Eadie in his commentary on Philippians eloquently summarizes Paul’s thought when he writes:

For me to live is Christ—the preaching of Christ the business of my life; the presence of Christ the cheer of my life; the image of Christ the crown of my life; the spirit of Christ the life of my life;the love of Christ the power of my life; the will of Christ the law of my life; and the glory of Christ the end of my life. Christ was the absorbing element of his life. If he travelled, it was on Christ’s errand; if he suffered, it was in Christ’s service. When he spoke, his theme was Christ; and when he wrote, Christ filled his letters. 

Paul rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed and the gospel was advancing. 

He remembered that Christ would be honoured whether he lived or died. 

And he challenged the Philippian believers and us to…

3.  RESOLVE TO LIVE FOR THE GLORY OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!

Philippians 1:27-30

On the basis of all that he has shared about his present circumstances and his future hope, Paul encourages the Philippians and us to live for the Gospel of Christ.  Paul challenges them to live in a way that is consistent with the Word of God.  “Let your manner of life be worthy” is literally “live your life” in the original Greek it is the word “politeuo” from which we get such words as “politic, political.” It referred to the public duties of a person as a member of a body.  It was used of citizenship.  Paul’s picture is how we should live as citizens of heaven.  Worthy of the Gospel of Christ.  Standing firm in one spirit with one mind.  Striving for the faith of the Gospel.  Not frightened by those who oppose.  Facing suffering for the sake of Christ.  Engaged in the conflict.  Seeing God at work unfolding the tapestry of our lives to His glory. 

D.A. Carson explains: Your change in character, your united stand in defense of the gospel, your ability to withstand with meekness and without fear the opposition that you must endure, constitutes a sign. That sign speaks volumes, both to the outside world and the Christian community. It is a sign of judgment against the world that is mounting the opposition; it is a sign of assurance that these believers really are the people of God and will be saved on the last day.

The proof that the Philippians belonged to God was the fact that they were graced with salvation and with suffering.  They were not only blessed to belong to Jesus by believing in Him they were blessed to suffer for His sake.  Kent Hughes says:  The suffering that comes to a Christian (as a Christian) is not a sign of God’s neglect but rather a proof that grace is at work in his or her life.

The transcending call is to let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.  The only way that can happen is if you know what you are living for and that it is worth dying for.  And the only One worth dying for is the Lord Jesus Christ who died for you.  It is in knowing Him that you are able to say: Philippians 1:21 (ESV) “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Do you know Him today?  Are you telling others about Him? 

What mattered to Paul was that Christ was proclaimed, Christ was honoured and that believers live their lives for the glory of the Gospel of Christ.  What are you living for? 

Do your children and your grand-children know what you are living for? 

Have you told them about Jesus?  Have you asked them if they are saved? 

We need to engage in the conflict of confronting the people we love with the love of Jesus!

The Holman Bible Commentary shares the following summary of the passage: 

PRINCIPLES 

God is bigger than my circumstances.  From on high God understands why!

Proper perspective produces praise.  In Christ, life or death is a win-win situation.

When we are ready to die, we are best prepared to live.

APPLICATIONS 

Rest in the fact that God is with you in the midst of difficulties.

Ask God to help you see His vantage point in your circumstances.

Hold a steady course in the midst of perplexing problems by trusting God.

Thank God that a Christ-centered, eternal perspective brings joy.

As the Sovereign God weaves the tapestry of your life rejoice that Christ is proclaimed, remember to honour Christ, and live for the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! 

————————————————————————

January 17/21 Philippians 1:3-11 

HOW TO EFFECTIVELY PRAY FOR OTHER BELIEVERS!”

Paul’s Prayer for the Philippians.  The foundation of fellowship!  

To have and to be good friends with others is a wonderful experience.  But what Paul describes in his prayer for the Philippian believers goes far beyond mere friendship.  He is describing and defining Christian fellowship.  Fellowship occurs among friends committed to a common cause or goal and flourishes through their joint pursuit of it. 

One of my favourite books, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy sets out this reality. The first book is called The Fellowship of the Ring and that fellowship is made up of individuals of disparate origin and ridiculous diversity that exceed any of our ethnic or social differences.  The group is comprised of: four hobbits, tiny beings with large, hairy, shoeless feet—Frodo Baggins and his friends Merry, Sam, and Pippin; two men, warriors of the first rank always dressed for battle—Boromir of Gondor and Aragorn, son of Arathorn II, King of Gondor who, (spoiler alert ends up being the king who returns).  There is one wizard, Gandalf, the ancient nemesis of evil and a repository of wisdom and supernatural power; an elf, Legolas, from a fair race of archers of the forest with pointed ears; and a dwarf, Gimli, a stout, hairy, axe-wielding creature from the dark chambers under the mountains. 

The nine members of the fellowship of the ring bore few affinities. The elves and the dwarves were natural enemies, each looked down on the other and both had an unspoken agreement to feel superior to the other. However, these nine very different individuals, bound together by their great mission to defeat the forces of darkness and save Middle-Earth, became inseparable and their covenant indissoluble. The man Boromir, despite his lapses, gave his life for the hobbits. And the elf and the dwarf came to form a great friendship, so great that Gimli was inducted into an honoured order reserved only for elves.  And the hobbits the smallest of them all, evidenced the bravest hearts. 

Such can be earthly human fellowship when the conditions are right. But here in Philippians Paul shows us a depth of fellowship that far exceeds any earthly fellowship as he says in verses 4 and 5—“making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”  The word translated “partnership” is “koinonia” and it means “joint participation in, fellowship in.” 

Paul rejoiced in the Philippians partnership with him in the gospel.  This involved their prayers for Paul and their support for his missionary endeavours as we learn in Philippians chapter 4. 

I believe this serves as a reminder to us that though we are separated from one another in terms of meeting together physically we can still rejoice in being spiritually joined as we pray for and support one another.  What precious times we have in prayer and in our growth groups to encourage one another.  Remember here was Paul separated by the miles, a prisoner of Rome, chained to a soldier and he is rejoicing in his fellowship with the Philippian believers and he sends them a letter. 

We may think we have it so hard, but for Paul there was no instantaneous communication.  Unlike us he didn’t have Facetime, Messenger, Google Duo, or Zoom, all of which we used over Christmas. He could not see those to whom he was writing.  It would take ages to get a reply or even to know that the letter had been delivered and yet Paul is rejoicing so let’s learn together how to effectively pray for one another from Paul’s prayer for the Philippians. 

1.  THANKING GOD FOR YOU IN PRAYER: Philippians 1:3-5

A.  You are on my mind: Verse 3 B.  You are in my prayers: Verses 4-5

2.  HOLDING YOU IN MY HEART BECAUSE OF GOD’S GRACE: Philippians 1:6-7

C. You are in God’s hands: Verse 6 D. You are in my heart: Verse 7

3.  LOVING YOU AS JESUS LOVES YOU: Philippians 1:8-11

E.  You are in His love: Verse 8  So I pray that you will have…Verses 9-10a

LOVE THAT ABOUNDS Verse 9 KNOWLEDGE THAT DISCERNS Verse 9

UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT REALLY MATTERS Verse 10a

And I pray that you will be…Verses 10b-11 

PURE AND BLAMELESS Verse 10b FILLED AND FRUITFUL Verse 11

Through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. Verse 11

1.  THANKING GOD FOR YOU IN PRAYER: Philippians 1:3-5

A.  You are on my mind: Verse 3 “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,”

Paul has no regrets in any of his relationships with the believers at Philippi so he literally thanks God for every memory of them.  He thinks of them all the time and prays for them always.  He is consistent in praying for them, the adverb always “pantote” meaning “at all times” expresses the regularity and frequency of his prayers, in every prayer he remembers them.  It has been ten long years since he last preached to them but he continues to cherish this special body of believers.  He is thankful for this beloved church family as I am thankful for you.  The sentence that begins here in verse 3 runs all the way through verse 6. 

B.  You are in my prayers: Verses 4-5 “Always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

If you reread Acts 16 you might find some things that you would think would cause Paul to be sorrowful, not joyful.  He was illegally arrested and beaten, was placed in the stocks, and was humiliated before the people. But even those memories brought joy to Paul, because it was through this suffering that the Philippian jailer and his whole family found Christ! Paul recalled Lydia and her household, the poor slave girl who had been demon-possessed, and the other dear Christians at Philippi.  For Paul each recollection was a source of joy. Warren Wiersbe says:  It is worth asking, “Am I the kind of Christian who brings joy to the mind of others when they think of me?”

The intercession—praying to God on behalf of others—that Paul offers to God is his sacrifice for them. He is representing the Philippians before God, for their spiritual good. Those specific prayer requests will be detailed in verses 9-11.  A thankful heart in intercessory prayer for other believers should be a part of our lives.  In the midst of whatever we are facing we should never lose sight of praying for others.  When we pray this way we set aside our own problems and focus on the needs of other believers.  It is good medicine for our souls.  When Paul prayed for the Philippians, he thanked God for them, and he prayed with joy.

The focus on joy sets this letter apart from all of Paul’s other letters; the word “joy” (in its various forms: joy, rejoice) is found fourteen times in this short epistle.  Paul’s life was on the line, yet he could rejoice and encourage others and so can you and I.  He rejoiced in the fellowship in the Gospel!  The Life Application Bible Commentary says:  We can feel joy in trials because we know that God is still in control (as stated in Romans 8:26-28). True joy is found only in relationship with Jesus Christ. Joy is the gladdening of the heart that comes from knowing Christ as Lord, the feeling of relief because we are released from sin; it is the inner peace and tranquility we have because we know the final outcome of our lives; and it is the assurance that God is in us and in every circumstance.  Supernatural joy floods Paul’s heart as he prays.  Does this kind of joy flood your heart.  Joy runs deepest when we are on our knees before God in prayer. A good test of the depth of joy in our lives is the nature of our prayers for others.  We need to rejoice that through prayer and support we are partners together in the spread of the Gospel!  Paul may be bound but the Word of God is unbound! 

2.  HOLDING YOU IN MY HEART BECAUSE OF GOD’S GRACE: Philippians 1:6-7

C. You are in God’s hands: Verse 6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Paul knows the Philippian believers belong to Jesus Christ by grace through faith.  He is certain of their future.  Steven Lawson says:  Salvation is not a matter of our working for God’s acceptance, but it is God working for us and in us. None of us can work our way into earning God’s favor, nor can any of us through our work maintain God’s ongoing favor. God already did the work for us in the death of Christ upon the cross. Further, he graciously applied this work of Christ in us by the Spirit. Salvation is not by human achievement, but by divine accomplishment through the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross. This free gift was applied to our lives by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. From beginning to end, salvation is entirely a divine work of grace. If God has caused you to be born again, you can be assured that he will complete this work until “the day of Christ Jesus.” As a believer in Christ, you are as certain of heaven as though you have already been there ten thousand years. God finishes what he starts.

This is the real source of joy to know that God is working in the lives of other believers. What was true of the Philippians is true of us as believers today. God is the one who began the great work of redemption in us, making us a new creations by the work of His Spirit. He continues that work in us as we share in the benefits and implications of the gospel in partnership, fellowship with other believers. But we still must await the great day of Christ for that work to be completed by the transformation of our lowly bodies into conformity with the glorious body of the risen Jesus.  The day of Jesus Christ emphasizes the future day when Christ will return for His church, complete all believers’ salvation, and give all believers their rewards. 

In the past God began His good work in us, in the present He is doing His good work in us and in the future He will complete His good work when Christ returns! 

D. You are in my heart: Verse 7 “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”

The Greek word translated “to feel” is used by Paul 23 times in this letter.  It is more than just affection or an emotional expression, it means Paul is deeply concerned about their spiritual well-being.  They have a special place in his heart as he felt their support through prayer and was strengthened in the grace of God as he shared and defended the message of the Gospel.  They were fellowshipping with him.  The word partakers is “synkoinonos” based on the word we looked at earlier, “koinonia” “joint participation in, fellowship in” the Gospel.  And all of it is by God’s grace. Grace is a one word summary of all that God has done for us in Christ. 

3.  LOVING YOU AS JESUS LOVES YOU: Philippians 1:8-11

E.  You are in His love: Verse 8 “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

Paul feels a deep passion for all of the believers are Philippi and he loves them as Jesus loves.  The word for “affection” is “splanchnon” which the KJV translated bowels.  The idea in Paul’s say was that our deepest feelings came from that part of us that we sometimes hear let’s say, gurgling.  The concept is a feeling that comes from our innermost being.  A depth of love difficult to express in words.  No matter how doctrinally sound we may be, if we are without love, this deep and heartfelt affection, we are “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Without love for others,  we are “nothing.”  The power of the gospel is shown in the supernatural affection that it produces, not only for Jesus Christ Himself, but also for those who belong to Jesus Christ. This affection is deepened as believers experience fellowship in the gospel.

So I pray that you will have… Verses 9-10a

Paul’s pastoral heart is revealed in his prayers for the spiritual growth of the believers at Philippi.  He longs for them to become more like Christ. Verses 9-11 are a single sentence in the original. 

LOVE THAT ABOUNDS Verse 9 Philippians 1:9 (ESV) “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more.” 

Paul does not specify if this is love for God or love for others, it is both, love for God results in love for others.  As Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  The Ten Commandments were structured in just this way.

The first four command love for God, and the last six command love for others. Vertical love first, horizontal love second. Love that abounds is a love that keeps on growing. 

KNOWLEDGE THAT DISCERNS Verse 9 “With knowledge and all discernment.”

Without knowledge and discernment love will be off target.  Love abounds in both knowledge and discernment.  Both of these requests involve full spiritual insight which leads to Christlikeness. The first, “epignokso,” is usually used in the NT for the knowledge needed for salvation. The second “aisthesis” was more practically oriented and emphasized lifestyle choices meaning perception, discernment. Christian maturity involves all three elements: (1) correct doctrine, (2) personal relationship, (3) and a godly lifestyle.  A growing knowledge of the Word of God builds up discernment of what is right and wrong and what others need as we express the love of Christ toward them and pray fervently for them. 

UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT REALLY MATTERS Verse 10a “So that you may approve what is excellent.”

The word for approve is “dokimazao” meaning to test with a view toward approval, it is also translated to discern.  It means to understand what really matters.  Wisdom is the application of truth to life situations.  The things that are excellent literally means the things that are tested in the light.  Love displays itself in knowledge and discernment especially in relationships where we learn and apply what is best to our lives and to the lives of other believers. 

And I pray that you will be…Verses 10b-11

PURE AND BLAMELESS Verse 10b “And so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”

True love requires a pure heart and a character without blame.  Put positively, to be pure and blameless means pursuing personal holiness in such a manner as not to give offense to others through any moral failing. The apostle asks God to make it so that in their daily walk they will not

become ensnared by the world.  The God’s Word for You Commentary says:  It matters to God how we live our lives. Forgiveness of sin does not bestow freedom to sin. The grace that pardons us is the same grace that must purify us. This kind of personal integrity should mark the daily life of every Christian. Our love for others will be demonstrated by living in such a manner as will not cause them to stumble in their Christian walk.

Paul puts this request in the context of the coming of Christ, that Christ might find us faithful on the day that He returns.  Romans 13:8 (ESV) “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

FILLED AND FRUITFUL Verse 11 “Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.”  

This kind of fruitful living comes only through the filling of the Holy Spirit.  The first fruit of the Spirit is “love.”  Paul is praying for the kind of spiritual fruit that results when we are in a dynamic fellowship with Christ and a deepening fellowship with one another.  Far better than the Fellowship of the Ring is the Fellowship through the Spirit! 

Fruit brings glory to Jesus Christ because He is the One who has made us right with God, it is His righteousness that shines through our lives to the glory of God.   

Through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. Verse 11

The Puritan Thomas Brooks wrote: “The aim of the obedient soul, in prayer and praises, in talking and walking, in giving and receiving, in living and doing, is divine glory.”

Again a reminder of the Westminster Catechism: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.”  The only way to enjoy fellowship with God is to be in Christ! 

Colossians 1:27 “Christ in you, is the hope of glory.”  Paul’s ultimate aim in prayer is the glory of God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ brings us together as the people of God that we may display the glory of God.  This prayer by Paul for the Philippians provides a helpful, concise checklist that can and should direct our prayers for others. 

A.  You are on my mind: Verse 3 B.  You are in my prayers: Verses 4-5

C. You are in God’s hands: Verse 6 D. You are in my heart: Verse 7

E.  You are in His love: Verse 8  So I pray that you will have…Verses 9-10a

LOVE THAT ABOUNDS Verse 9 KNOWLEDGE THAT DISCERNS Verse 9

UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT REALLY MATTERS Verse 10a

And I pray that you will be…Verses 10b-11 

PURE AND BLAMELESS Verse 10b FILLED AND FRUITFUL Verse 11

Through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. Verse 11

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January 10, 2021 Philippians 1:1-2         “OVERFLOWING WITH JOY IN THE JOURNEY!”

There is a certain sadness when we come to the end of a journey.  I have had the privilege of joining with you in the journey of faith in your lives as members and adherents of Forest City Bible Church for the last 21 ½ years. Part of the journey’s end for me this week was deciding what to study as our final series in the Word of God.  Over the last several weeks many books and passages have been coming to mind even as we completed our travels with the Apostle Paul as he made his way to Rome.

At the beginning of this week  I felt the Lord’s leading to zero in on the book of Philippians, known well as the Epistle of Joy.  Having chosen the book I began to do some reading and re-reading of the Scriptures and when it came time to look at a commentary the first one I began to read said this in it’s Introduction to Philippians:  When a pastor preaches his last series for the church where he has served as pastor, the Scripture he chooses should be carefully selected, to leave a lasting impact with positive encouragement upon the lives of his precious flock.

I could not agree more fully.  I felt the Holy Spirit confirming where we should go.  I am thankful for the opportunity to share this time with you.  It is extra time that I thought I would not have, but God knows and He has a plan in all that has happened.  He continues to lead His dear people along. 

The book of  Philippians harmonizes well with the final words of Acts, Acts 28:30-31 (ESV) “He (Paul) lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him,  proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” 

Paul wrote Philippians while a prisoner of Rome yet his dominant theme is joy.  Tones of joy flow throughout the epistle but the theme reaches it’s crescendo with the triumphant words of  Philippians 4:4 (ESV) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

Max Lucado in his introduction to the book of Philippians in the Inspirational Study Bible writes:

Perhaps the symbol of this generation is the exercise bike.  It represents what most of us have, excess weight.  It represents what most of us want, to be different. 

It represents what most people spend most of their time doing—pedalling furiously and getting nowhere.  High activity but low achievement.  Car pools, diapers, bills, time clocks.  Office walls painted grey with routine.  Houses framed with wooden humdrum.  For many, life is lived on the exercise bicycle.  Day after day in the same seat, doing the same thing but seeing the same scenery.  Is there any end to this tunnel of greyness? 

There is. 

Go with me back in history a couple of thousand years.  Let’s go to the city of Rome.  The thrilling metropolis of gladiators, chariots, and empires.  But don’t stop at the coliseum or palace.  Go rather to a drab little room, surrounded by high walls.  Let’s imagine that we can peek into the room and look.  Inside we see a man seated on the floor.  He’s an older fellow, shoulders stooped, and balding.  Chains are on his hands and feet.  And chained to him is a guard from the Roman army. 

It is the apostle Paul.  The apostle who has travelled all over the world.  The apostle who has liberated people in every port.  The apostle who was bound only by the will of God is now in chains—stuck in a dingy house—attached to a Roman officer. 

Here is a fellow who has every reason to be in a slump! 

He is restricted by walls.  He is afflicted by friends (verse 15).  He is conflicted by danger (verse 21).  He is writing a letter.  No doubt it is a complaint letter to God.  No doubt it is a list of grievances.  No doubt he is writing the New Testament version of Lamentations.  He has every reason to be bitter and complain.  But he doesn’t.  Instead, he writes a letter that two thousand years later is still known as the treatise on joy. 

Sound interesting?  Of course it does.  Who couldn’t use a guide to joy in this world?  Why don’t you spend some time with it?  Dismount the bicycle to nowhere and follow Paul as he guides you down the trail to peace. 

There is a trail through our trials.  And it does bring a peace that passes all understanding. 

The graphic illustrates how the Book of Philippians came to be written while Paul was a prisoner in Rome. 

Remember Paul is writing while being held in chains, in chapter 1 he mentions his imprisonment four times in verses 7, 13, 14 and 17.  He talks about the imperial guard who have the responsibility of keeping him confined.  He is  nearly forgotten in a sluggish legal system, awaiting a trial that will determine if he will live or die and he is fully ready to go either way as he says in Philippians 1:21-24 (ESV) “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

Paul may be bound but as the title of one commentary I have on the prison Epistles (Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, Philippians) says: “Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound.”  As he comes to the end of his letter we learn that even members of Caesar’s household have become saints embracing faith in Jesus Christ.  Philippians 4:22 (ESV) “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”  Paul continues to witness to the power of the Gospel. 

And though we find ourselves in these Covid days where we may feel confined not by chains but nevertheless by restrictions and lockdowns, we too can know joy and continue in our witness to the power of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  As Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:9 “The Word of God is not bound!” 

Paul had a desire in his heart to preach at Rome, but I’m sure he had never imagined that it would be as a prisoner.  Though he was facing many obstacles, Paul overflowed with joy. 

What was the key to his joy? 

There are at least 16 references to the mind in Philippians through words like, mind, think and remember.  Obviously living a joyful life has to do with what we think about.  So the question is,

what are we supposed to think about to live joyful lives?  Paul focuses our attention on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Reference to Jesus Christ is made by nouns and pronouns at least 70 times in 104 verses.  The key to Christian joy is found in the way a believer thinks, his or her attitudes. 

Philippians 2:2 (KJV) “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” 

Philippians 1:21 (ESV) “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Philippians 4:8 (ESV) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

The book of Philippians explains the kind of thinking we as believers must have we are going to experience Christian joy in a world filled with trouble.  Our example in doing this is Jesus Christ

Himself.  In Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) we are encouraged to be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Today we’re going to begin our final journey by looking at verses 1 and 2.

1.  SERVANTS OF CHRIST: Philippians 1:1a

2.  SAINTS IN CHRIST: Philippians 1:1b

3.  GRACE AND PEACE FROM CHRIST: Philippians 1:2

 1. SERVANTS OF CHRIST: Philippians 1:1a

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus.”

The very first word identifies the author.  Paul doesn’t even appeal to his apostleship as he takes pen in hand to write to the believers at Philippi because their relationship is so close.  Along with Thessalonica they were one of the churches that faithfully supported him.  It was common in Paul’s day to identify the author first whereas in our letters our name is generally signed at the end of the letter.  Imagine getting a letter from the Apostle Paul, author of 13 epistles in the New Testament.  Timothy is with Paul, a trusted companion and fellow servant of Christ Jesus.  This is the most important phrase.  They are servants, slaves in the Greek language from the word “doulos” meaning bond-servant.  In Roman society a servant would have a few possessions and be protected by some rights.  Servants would be hired for a certain project and then be able to return home.  A slave, or bond-servant actually belonged to his master like a piece of property.  He had nothing and was entirely dependent on his master to provide for his needs.  He existed to please his owner.  And that is how Paul and Timothy saw themselves as bond-servants of Jesus Christ.  This reminds us that all authentic leadership in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ must be servant leadership. 

Paul presented himself as a slave leader, a slave of Christ who had been bought by his master to be his possession.  This is not onerous, we know and serve a Master who died out of love for His bond-servants.  Following Jesus as Master and Lord brings true freedom.  Every believer is a slave of Jesus.  Paul humbly opens his letter expressing his absolute devotion and subjection to Christ.  That is the first step toward joy, submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  John 15 expresses the joy of abiding in Jesus.  John 15:11 (ESV) “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

2.  SAINTS IN CHRIST: Philippians 1:1b

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:”

Paul now describes those to whom he is writing.  He identifies all the believers as “saints in Christ Jesus.”  Saints means holy ones. The words “holy,” “hallowed,” “saint,” and “sanctification” all come from the same Greek root. These four words sound different in our English language, but they are similar in the Greek language. “Saint” is the most common word Paul uses to address believers in the early church. With this understanding, this phrase could be translated as “to all the holy ones in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi.” 

Steven Lawson says:  The word “saint” is drawn from the word “holy” (hagios in the Greek), which refers to one who is set apart from the moral pollution of this world and set apart unto God. To be a saint means that by the operation of grace, a Christian no longer lives a life of pursuing sin in the evil world system and, instead, is pursuing moral purity. This involves both a negative and a positive separation. This is the dramatic change that takes place in every believer’s life when they are converted to Christ. They are immediately set apart by God from their old life of sin, negatively, and are engaged to a new life of purity, positively.

What made them saints and what makes us saints today is being in Christ Jesus.  We are vitally connected to Christ and have entered into a personal relationship with Him. 

Romans 8:1-2 (ESV) “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

Galatians 3:26 (ESV) “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”  

Paul is reminding the believers in Philippi and us of our privileged position in Christ.  Paul had visited Philippi on his second missionary journey and preached the Gospel.  And God opened the heart of a woman named Lydia.  Along with powerful preaching, Paul set free a demon possessed slave girl which enraged her masters and Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten and thrown into prison.  But you know what happened.  As they sang praises to God at midnight, God sent a powerful earthquake that led to the conversion of the Philippian jailer and his entire household.  The church formed at this time is the group to whom Paul addresses his letter.

Here we see the importance of the local church. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you should be an active member of a local church wherever you live. Christianity was never intended to be lived in isolation from other believers. God’s design for healthy spiritual living is for us to be a functioning part of a church where the word of God is faithfully preached.

Paul in his opening remarks also recognizes the leadership team of the church, the overseers and deacons. Overseers (also called elders) were in charge of the church, “overseeing” it—watching over, nourishing, and protecting the spiritual life of the believers.  Concerning the role of overseers, John MacArthur explains: “They mediate the rule of Christ in local churches by preaching, teaching, setting godly examples, and giving Spirit-guided leadership.”

Deacons were those in leadership who were selected to handle the church’s external concerns.  The word “deacon” means “servant.” Those who served as deacons facilitated ministry behind the scenes.

You can never pray too much for those who serve the  church in positions of leadership.

3.  GRACE AND PEACE FROM CHRIST: Philippians 1:2

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul’s familiar greeting is grace and peace which he used in all of his letters.  Grace and peace were the typical Greek and Hebrew greetings (respectively) utilized by Paul to express God’s desire for the believers’ well-being. “Grace” is God’s undeserved favor—his loving-kindness shown to sinners whereby he saves them and gives them strength to live for Him; “peace” refers to the peace that Christ made between sinners and God through His death on the cross. “Peace” also refers to that inner assurance and tranquility that God places in the heart, producing confidence and contentment in Christ. Only God can grant such wonderful gifts. Paul wanted his readers to experience God’s grace and peace in their daily living.

The relationship between grace and peace is important. There is no peace until there first is grace. That is why Paul mentions grace first. Wherever there is grace, peace inevitably results. The grace of God in a life prepares the way for the peace of God to flood a heart. Grace is the root, and peace is the fruit. Put another way, grace is the cause, and peace is the result. These two spiritual blessings are like twins. Wherever you see grace, there you will find peace.

And the end result of grace and peace at work is joy!  The Life Application Bible Commentary says:  The world offers a temporary and counterfeit version of grace and peace. Grace might be considered luck; peace might be seen as the absence of conflict. But for believers in Philippi and today, God’s blessings are not the result of luck, but because of God’s grace; peace is not a fragile calm, but an inner security. Grace and peace are abundant and available even in troubles, conflicts, and turmoil. Paul was in prison and the Philippians were experiencing persecution (1:28-30), yet Paul greeted them with the assurance of grace and peace.

And he encouraged them and challenged them through his letter to know joy! 

The key to knowing grace, peace and joy is to be in Christ.  Servants literally Slaves of Christ, Saints made holy in Christ experience Grace and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  C. S. Lewis told a story about a schoolboy who was asked what he thought God was like.  The lad replied that as far as he could make out, God was “the sort of person who is always snooping around to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it.” 

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

But if we’re not careful, we will be like the sad-faced man on a bus.  After several days of watching this sober chap board the bus, a curious fellow rider asked him, “Excuse me, but are you a minister?” 

As someone well said, “If you have joy in your heart, please telephone your face!”  

Pierre Teilhard De Chardin said: “Joy is the surest sign of the presence of God.”  This theologian had a good deal in common with the Presbyterian sages who penned the Westminster Confession of Faith “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.” 

The only way to enjoy fellowship with God is to be in Christ! 

Romans 6:20-23 (ESV) “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Come to Jesus by grace through faith, know His peace and experience His joy! 

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January 3, 2021   Acts 28:17-31   “TIME TO GET OUR ‘ACTS’ TOGETHER!”

Max Lucado in the Inspirational Study Bible writes: 

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“The fire that lit the boiler of the New Testament church was an unquenchable belief that if Jesus had been only a man, He would have stayed in the tomb.  They couldn’t stay silent about the fact that the one they saw hung on a cross walked again on the earth and appeared to over five hundred people.  I wonder if sometimes we stay silent because we’ve forgotten the One Who was on that cross.  Let us ask our Father humbly, yet confidently in the name of Jesus, to remind us of the empty tomb.  Let us see the victorious Jesus: the conqueror of the tomb, the One who defied death.  And let us be reminded that we, too, will be granted that same victory!”

As a church family we gather together to celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ is alive! Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed! 

Our studies in Acts are drawing to a close today.  I must admit that I’ve enjoyed every part of our journey through the history of the formation of the early church. The passion and the fire of Pentecost as the church was born.  The spread of the gospel across the world as the church was scattered.  The blinding light on the Damascus Road, Christ arresting Saul and claiming him for the kingdom.  Songs from the dungeon teaching us what worship means.  Miracles authenticating the message and the messengers.  Learning to persevere in spite of persecution.  The power of prayer and the glory of the gospel touching, changing, transforming lives.  And, all too quickly the stories of the lives of  Peter, Stephen, Philip, Paul, Barnabas, John Mark, Luke, Aquila, Priscilla and many more have passed before the screens of our minds leaving us longing for more. 

And that is just the point of the Book of Acts, the story never ends!  It goes on in mighty acts of faith, in random acts of kindness, in simple acts of love, in caring acts of mercy.  It continues in the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the people of God.  It is seen through the power of prayer and the proclamation of the Word of God through preaching.  And it is revealed in the greatest ongoing miracle of all, the salvation of a soul through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. 

The last chapter finishes with a flourish, with a perfect ending challenging us to get our acts together.  The focus is on ears, eyes and hearts. 

1.  HEARING EARS: Acts 28:17-22

2.  SEEING EYES: Acts 28:23-27

3.  UNDERSTANDING HEARTS: Acts 28:28-31

1.  HEARING EARS: Acts 28:17-22

Acts ends with Paul in Rome.  Proud capital of the greatest empire the world had ever known, Rome was a centre of decadent paganism.  Because of his appeal to have his case heard by the Emperor, Paul found himself a prisoner in the midst of a vast mission field.  It is fitting that Acts, which has focussed on evangelism closes with the account of Paul’s first evangelistic effort in Rome. 

Not one to waste time, after being in Rome only three days, Paul called together the leaders of the Jews, probably the heads of the 11 synagogues in the city.  It had always been Paul’s pattern when he evangelized a city, to go first to the Jewish community.  As a prisoner in Rome he could not go to their synagogues so he invited them to come to him. 

The first question they would ask is “Why are you a prisoner of Rome?”  His brief defence before them is the sixth and final one recorded in Acts.  Acts 28:17-20 (ESV) “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.  When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case.  But because the Jews objected,

I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation.  For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.”

The Sanhedrin in Jerusalem had accused him of sedition against Rome, of being the leader of a heretical sect, and of violating the Temple. (Acts 24:5-6) Rome’s Jewish leaders would not have been too concerned with the first charge, and Paul doesn’t even mention it.  The second two charges he categorically denies.  To support his claim of innocence he points out that the Romans were willing to release him.  Three Roman officials, the tribune Claudius Lysias, the governors, Felix and Festus as well as Herod Agrippa had affirmed Paul’s innocence.  The Sanhedrin could not prove its case despite three separate hearings.  The only reason they didn’t free Paul was because the Jews objected, so they did the politically expedient thing and kept him a prisoner.  Paul was therefore forced to appeal to Caesar to have his case decided.   So the Jewish leaders could hear everything from him firsthand, he asked to speak with them.

Then he brought up the real issue behind his arrest and imprisonment.  The hope of Israel.  The glorious hope of Israel was the coming of the Messiah and the resurrection and the kingdom associated with His coming.  It was Paul’s preaching of Jesus as the resurrected King of kings and Lord of lords that antagonized the Jewish authorities.  Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed! 

The Jewish leaders were willing to hear Paul and they denied any knowledge of Paul’s case.  They had heard nothing officially or unofficially about him.  Acts 28:21-22 (ESV) “And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you.  But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” Cautiously and without any commitment they indicated they were willing to have hearing ears about the sect and about Paul’s views.  But, as we shall learn, hearing ears alone are not enough. They needed seeing eyes and understanding hearts. 

2.  SEEING EYES: Acts 28:23-27

So they set a day to come and learn more.  They came in large numbers to the place he was staying and it turned into an all day marathon.  We are not told how many came but the Jewish population of the city at that time is estimated at a minimum of 20,000 and possibly up to 50,000.  No wonder it took all day. 

Acts 28:23 (ESV) “From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.”

Expounding and testifying to the the kingdom of God meant preaching the gospel, the good news that God Sovereignly calls sinners hopelessly caught in the realm of Satan, facing death and destruction because of our sin and He invites us to enter the realm of salvation receiving eternal life and the hope of glory.  To expound means to declare, to expose.  To testify is the word  “diamartyromai” the root of which is “martyr” one who testifies, gives a witness. 

Paul proclaimed the truths concerning Christ using the law of Moses and the Prophets.  He shared the Old Testament promises and the prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Christ witnessing to the power of the Gospel, fulfilling the mandate of the Book of Acts as expressed in the key verse:  Acts 1:8 (ESV) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

And as always, the gospel proved to be decisive and divisive.  Some were persuaded, but others would not believe.  Belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah, whose atoning sacrifice is the only acceptable payment for sins, and repentance from sin and trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ to save us is man’s responsibility.  God’s Sovereignty brings people to hear the good news.  He places before them a choice which they must make.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!  Those who believe have hearing ears, seeing eyes and understanding hearts. 

While some believed, those who chose not to believe were rejecting their Messiah and God had described through His prophet Isaiah what that rejection would be like.  Acts 28:26-27 (ESV) “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”  For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”

Those who refused to believe were rejecting God’s messengers just as had their forefathers.  The apostle’s solemn warning that broke up the meeting was a quote from Isaiah 6:9-10.  That same passage was quoted by Jesus as a rebuke of Israel’s hardhearted rejection of the gospel in Matthew 13:14-15 and in John 12:39-40, John applied the words to Israel.  Paul quoted them in his epistle to the Romans (Romans 11:7-8).

Warren Wiersbe says:  It is one thing to listen and quite something else to hear, and there is a great difference between seeing and perceiving. If anybody should have possessed spiritual understanding, it was these Jewish leaders, but their hearts were dull and hard. Too often those who enjoy the most spiritual privileges are not ready when they must make spiritual decisions.

Their willful act of rejection was sovereignly confirmed by God and they became unable to see with their eyes, to hear with their ears or to understand with their hearts.  Because of continual unbelief, they became unable to believe. They had stopped ears, closed eyes and dull hearts. 

What is your condition today?  Seeing, hearing, will you understand with your heart and by an act of your will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.  Or will you stand in your unbelief, not knowing if this might be the last time that the Holy Spirit of God makes His overtures of love to your heart? 

3.  UNDERSTANDING HEARTS: Acts 28:28-31

Verse 28 explains what an understanding heart does.  In the plan of God a part of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah was God’s offer of salvation to the Gentiles.  Having made the explanation to the Jews, Paul now sets out the invitation to the Gentiles.  God wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Paul said: Acts 28:28 (ESV) “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Will you listen today? 

Some manuscripts add verse 29 “And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, having much dispute among themselves.”  Israel’s rejection of the Messiah did not cancel God’s promises to His people for “God is able” as Paul put it in Romans 11:23 “to graft them in again.”  They needed only to respond with hearing ears, seeing eyes and understanding hearts. 

For two full years, Paul remained a prisoner in his own rented quarters in Rome.  He had the freedom to welcome all who came to him.  “He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” Many more came to have seeing eyes, hearing ears and understanding hearts. 

What happened during those two years?  Paul carried out an extensive and intensive evangelistic campaign, aided by some of his dear fellow workers.  He also wrote four New Testament epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon aptly called the prison epistles. 

What happened when the two years were over?  We don’t know for certain but it would appear that Paul was released from custody.  Having been found innocent by two Roman governors it is reasonable to assume that he was found innocent by the emperor as well.  Most likely, his accusers never showed their faces in Rome to prosecute the case and Paul won by default. 

So why two years?  John MacArthur in his commentary on Acts explains:   First, delays were not uncommon due to a backlog of cases. Does that ever sound familiar.  Second, the records of the case were probably lost in the shipwreck and had to be resent from Caesarea.  And third, they were awaiting the arrival of Paul’s accusers because the Romans took a very dim view of poorly substantiated cases.  Roman law gave him the right to face his accusers so no trial was likely in their absence. 

The final words of Acts tell us that Paul preached with all boldness and without hindrance.  That’s what I find so ironic about the ridiculous opposition of churches to the lockdown requirements of our day.  No one is saying you cannot preach the gospel with all boldness and without hindrance. 

Boldly for two years Paul was able to proclaim the Gospel as a prisoner of Rome but he saw his imprisonment through the eyes of faith: 2 Timothy 2:8-10 (ESV) “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”

Although Acts ends abruptly, it is not incomplete.  It reveals the church’s source of power – the Holy Spirit; the pattern of blessing for the church – walking in the Spirit; the church’s message – the saving gospel of Jesus Christ; the perils to the church – sin from within, false teachers from without; and the church’s priorities – teach the Word to those who know Christ, and preach the gospel to those who do not. 

Because Acts is preeminently a book about evangelism.  The key verse is Acts 1:8 (ESV) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

We can learn much about being witnesses from Paul’s example: John MacArthur shares these principles for evangelism from the life of Paul:

1.  Paul preached the gospel whenever and wherever he had opportunity. 

2.  Paul’s presentation of the message was clothed in humility and grace. 

3.  Paul preached biblically and doctrinally. 

4.  Paul never wasted an opportunity.

5.  Paul preached tirelessly and incessantly. 

6.  Paul preached to all, Jews, Gentiles, slave, free, male, female. 

7.  Paul preached Jesus Christ as Lord, Saviour and Messiah. 

Luke’s objective in writing Acts was to describe the process by which the Holy Spirit led an often reluctant church as it began to fulfill Jesus’ mandate to be his “witnesses…to the end of the earth.”  Luke achieved his goal, but in a deeper sense the very way that Acts ends points to a new beginning.  The book describes one important phase in the history of the church, but that history is far from complete.  Acts is still being written – the history of the Risen Christ who leads His people as they take the gospel to the end of the earth. 

Acts stands as a challenge to our concept of the church and its task.  The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is the messianic community through which He carries out His mission in history.  The mandate of the church is Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We are to go and make disciples in the power of the Holy Spirit as His witnesses declaring that Jesus Christ is alive.  Christ is Risen.  He is Risen indeed. 

Reviewing Acts we see that the first result of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was that everyone “heard,” in his own native language, the “wonders of God.”  We followed the Spirits’ work as He fought off every attempt to limit the gospel to one circle or another.  We watched Him lead a reluctant church out of its native territory and culture, toppling one barrier after another as Samaritan, Ethiopian, God-fearer, pagan, Greek and Roman heard and believed. 

As a result we are led to the conviction that God’s primary agenda for His church is that, led by the same Spirit we should continue to take the Good News to everyone.  We need to ask ourselves: Where does God want me to be involved as He continues to write Acts chapter 29 in the year 2021?  The NIV Worship Bible shares this prayer: 

“Revive us today, Lord, that we may accomplish mighty acts of faith.  As You did at Pentecost, breathe the breath of life into Your church.  Let us see Your power at work among us and through us, accompanying the preaching of the Gospel.  Give us a strong, living, active faith.  Put fire in our tongues when we declare Your wonders.  Plant joy in our hearts when we suffer persecution.  May it be said of us as it was said of the first believers: The NLT translation of Acts 8:4 (NLT2) says: “But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.”

People need the opportunity to gain hearing ears, seeing eyes and understanding hearts. What is the response of your heart today?  

A time honoured tradition every Christmas for our family along with reading the Christmas Story from the Scriptures before opening our gifts on Christmas morning, is watching the movie, A Christmas Carol (better known as Scrooge), by Charles Dickens on Christmas Eve. We always watch the Alistair Sim version produced in 1951. 

After Ebenezer Scrooge is faced with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, he realizes that because of his greed and bitterness he has made himself and others miserable. Most of all, he realizes the importance of loving relationships.

On Christmas morning as Scrooge awakens clinging to his bedpost curtains, he determines to change and positively affect the future, especially that of Tiny Tim.

I think one of the classic lines takes place when Scrooge unexpectedly drops in on his nephew’s well-attended Christmas Day party. In the Alistair Sim version though not in the book, he says to his nephew and primarily his nephew’s wife, to the delight and the astonishment of all, “Can you forgive a pig-headed old fool for having no eyes to see with and no ears to hear with all these years?”  These sincere, humble words represented the reconciliation of Scrooge to his family, in particular his sister’s son and his wife.  And they show us that Scrooge is a changed man, he has gained an understanding heart.   

Another of my favourite scenes is at the conclusion of the movie where we see Scrooge sitting in his office after overwhelming Bob Cratchit with kindness and generosity having told him because he was late to work: “Well, we won’t beat about the bush my friend, I’m not going to stand this sort of thing any longer, which leaves me no alternative… but to raise your salary!”  And he laughs heartily. 

Then after Bob has left quite dumbfounded, as he sits alone in his office, he is overwhelmed by the changes in his life and Scrooge says out loud, “Oh, I don’t deserve to be so happy! But I can’t help it, ha, ha, ha! (He wipes tears of joy from his eyes) I just can’t help it!”

The book ends stating: “It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” 

Scrooge gained hearing ears, seeing eyes and an understanding heart.  May we do the same.  But we know that such change truly comes only from the working of the Spirit of God through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as we have seen so many times in the Book of Acts!  Unstop your ears, open your eyes and understand with your heart.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved! 

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December 27/20 – Acts 28:1-16 

“KEEPING SAFE, THANKING GOD, TAKING COURAGE!”

Paul’s Ministry in Malta and Making it to Rome. 

The Apostle Paul displayed an unconquerable spirit in the Book of Acts.  From the time he encountered Christ on the Damascus Road he lived a faithful and a fearless life in service for Christ through the presence and power of the Spirit of God.  Journeying back through the book of Acts we remember that Paul opposed Elymas the sorcerer to his face.  When he was stoned in Lystra  and left for dead, as his disciples were mourning over him, he got up and walked back into the city.  After being beaten in Philippi and jailed, he and Silas gave a gospel concert at midnight and it must have had quite a beat because there was a miraculous earthquake that set them free.  He stood against the intellectualism of Athens, the corruption of Corinth and the violent mob of Ephesus.  Having been taken prisoner in Jerusalem and incarcerated at Caesarea he continued to witness to the power of the Gospel giving testimony before the religious leaders, governors and kings.  And now as a prisoner having appealed for a hearing before Caesar in Rome he is almost on the final leg of his journey. As we saw in our last time in the book of Acts, Paul was absolutely amazing as he encouraged and comforted his fellow passengers through the storm and the shipwreck described so vividly in Acts 27.  The apostle Paul had desired for many years to visit Rome. After years of waiting, two years in a Roman prison, a terrifying two week long storm at sea and his fourth shipwreck, he must have wondered if it would ever happen. 

Paul was still on his way to Rome, but in God’s plan the people of Malta needed to hear the good news so Paul had another stop to make before he would reach Rome.   

Paul now stands on the shore of the tiny Island of Malta in what is today called St. Paul’s Bay where every year on February 10th the island celebrates the shipwreck of the Apostle Paul.  The name Malta means “a place of refuge.”  A reminder of Psalm 46:1 (ESV) “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  We need to remember that well during these Covid days.  

Malta would be Paul’s home along with 275 other passengers for the duration of the winter months until travel on the Mediterranean would again be possible.  

1.  WET BUT WARMLY WELCOMED: Acts 28:1-2

2.  SNAKES AND SUPERSTITION: Acts 28:3-6

3.  MIRACLES AND MINISTRY: Acts 28:7-10

4.  ARRIVAL, ENCOURAGEMENT AND FELLOWSHIP: Acts 28:11-16

1.  WET BUT WARMLY WELCOMED: Acts 28:1-2

Remember that God had promised Paul that although the ship would be destroyed, no lives would be lost.  He had also promised that the ship would run aground on an island.  Both promises were fulfilled when they found themselves on the island of Malta. 

All 276 passengers made their way safely to the beach, you can imagine them soaked through to the bone, wet and exhausted huddled together on the shore.  Only then did they find out they were on the Island of Malta.

Malta, located 58 miles south of Sicily, is about seventeen miles long and nine miles wide.  Since it is not a large island, it would not have taken the sailors long to discover where they were. 

They may simply have found out from nearby inhabitants.  The people who lived on Malta were of Phoenician descent, and as I mentioned earlier the name Malta means, “a place of refuge” in the Phoenician language.  Malta became a British possession early in the nineteenth century and gained its independence in 1964. 

God had prepared a safe haven for Paul and his fellow travellers and it was clearly in the miraculous plan of God that the ship being driven by the winds for fourteen days would come to rest on this little speck of an island in the middle of the Mediterranean. 

The reaction of the people of the island to their unexpected guests is described as “unusual kindness.”  The people are described as native people, the word in the original is “barbaroi” which means “non Greek speakers”.  The translation barbarian is misleading and no slight is intended to them.  What they did was well beyond what would normally be expected. 

The water was cold, and did anybody notice it was now raining?  The word in the original indicates a drenching rain, just what you don’t need when you’re already exhausted, cold and wet.  Just as Paul had promised through God, not one of them had lost a single hair from their heads but probably most of the hairs on their heads were standing on end.  When you’re wet and cold, there is nothing more comforting than a nice warm fire.  Exhausted from their long ordeal, soaked from their swim to shore, drenched by the driving rain, and chilled by the cold November wind, they welcomed a fire to warm themselves.  But where do we find Paul?  After enduring the many days on the sea and the wintry swim to the shore, surely Paul had earned a break. 

2.  SNAKES AND SUPERSTITION: Acts 28:3-6

Wood needed to be added continually to the bonfire to keep it going.  Paul’s servant heart was in

evidence as he gathered brush to place on the fire.  Humility is essential to true servant leadership.  Jesus said: Mark 10:45 (ESV) “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus gave the classic illustration of humble service by stooping to wash the disputing disciples feet. 

Acts 28:3 (ESV) “When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand.” When Paul put the branches in the fire a venomous snake indigenous to the region was startled from its lethargy by the sudden blast of heat and fastened itself to Paul’s hand.  Paul has just experienced his fourth shipwreck and now this happens. 

Satan is obviously out to destroy Paul but God is out to preserve his life.  God has told him he would be His witness in Rome.  God continued to keep Paul safe. 

It is just the same for you and me.  Romans 8:31 (ESV) “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Romans 8:28 (ESV) “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” 

Acts 28:4 (ESV) “When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” In many translations you will notice that “Justice” is capitalized as a proper noun.  The word in the original Greek “dikastes” actually means “a judge.  One who executes justice.  One who maintains law and equity.”  The people of the island of Malta revealed an awareness of a divine judge who maintains justice.  All cultures have a sense of justice.  The Maltese people had a clear sense of right and wrong. 

Probably they had learned from the soldiers that Paul was a prisoner and here they thought that justice had caught up with him.  Every culture has some concept of right and wrong placed within them by the Divine creator of all things.  Out of love for the world, God makes Himself known even in the most remote places on earth. 

Through His natural revelation God desires for people to seek the unknown through which they learn to know and to pursue a greater knowledge leading to salvation through God’s special revelation.  Paul penned the clear words verifying God’s universal declaration of His existence: Romans 1:20 (ESV) “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”  Men are without excuse but God did not leave mankind without a Saviour. 

Acts 28:5 (ESV) “He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.”  The islanders were expecting Paul’s hand to swell from the bite and the effects of toxic poisoning to run their course with him suddenly falling down dead.  They were superstitious and believed in the Greek goddess of “Justice” the daughter of Zeus and Themis. When he did not die, they jumped to a new conclusion. Acts 28:6 (ESV) “They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.”

This was not the first time, Paul had been called a god (In Acts 14 after the healing of the crippled man in Lystra).  No doubt he quickly set the islanders straight.  Paul and his associates didn’t just arrive on Malta by accident, well actually they did, but it was an accident planned in the mind of God to bring the Word of God to the people of Malta.  And now God had established the credentials of His messenger and further miracles would authenticate His message.

3.  MIRACLES AND MINISTRY: Acts 28:7-10

Not far from where they landed was the estate of the chief official of the island a man by the name of Publius.  (Latin for “popular”.)   He was the Roman governor of Malta.  His estate must have been fairly large since he graciously welcomed all 276 people who had been on board the ship.  How would you like to be Publius’s wife?  “Honey, we’ve got a few people who are going stay with us.”  Not only did they welcome all 276 travellers they entertained them for three days until they could make arrangements for winter quarters. 

As a family we still talk about one winter when we were in Owen Sound we had a special speaker and his family storm stayed with us.  They don’t call the town Snowen Sound for nothing.  Their  kids and ours all succumbed to the stomach flu and were sick all over the place but they all had a great time.  Publius’s hospitality takes on a new dimension when you realize his father Acts 28:8 (ESV) “…lay sick with fever and dysentery.”  Identified as “Malta fever” (Micrococcus melitensis) in the nineteenth century it was traced to the milk of Malta goats, and a vaccine was developed for it in 1887. Untreated, it lasted an average of four months, but in some cases up to two or three years.

Paul entered into Publius’s father’s room “and prayed, putting his hands on him and healed him.”  (Acts 28:8) Paul’s prayer acknowledged his dependence on God’s power.  No surprise, but after word of this spread the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 

Although Luke does not mention it, we have no doubt Paul preached the gospel to the people since the purpose of miracles was to authenticate Paul as God’s messenger.  They stayed for three months, giving Paul many opportunities to preach.  According to tradition the church on Malta dates from this time and their first pastor was Pastor Publius.  (Given the meaning of his name, he was Pastor Popular.) 

Luke records that the people honoured them in many ways and as they were preparing to leave the island they provided the supplies that were needed.  Was this for the entire travelling party?  Probably for Paul and his companions this was an outpouring of love and ministry from the newly founded church.  With sea travel becoming safer again they “set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead.”  (Acts 28:11)

4.  ARRIVAL, ENCOURAGEMENT AND FELLOWSHIP: Acts 28:11-16

When winter had passed, Paul and the others boarded this ship bound for Rome.  They had a three day stay in Syracuse, followed by a brief stopover in Rhegium and then they reached Puteoli.  The most important commercial port in Italy, though 150 miles from Rome was the capital’s chief seaport.  In Paul’s day it was a city of 100,000 people. 

In a city of that size they found some brothers who invited them to stay with them, and no doubt with Julius the centurion’s permission they stayed seven days.  From there, Luke notes with dramatic understatement, “And so we came to Rome.”  (Acts 28:14 ESV) 

A number of Christians from Rome travelled to meet Paul as far as the Forum of Appius (43 miles away) and the Three Taverns (33 miles away).  They were Christians who had heard Paul was coming and came to encourage him.  “On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.” (Acts 28:15 ESV) Paul had been kept safe and now he thanked God and took courage. 

In the early spring of A.D. 61, God fulfilled His promise to Paul.  He arrived in Rome.  The text is brief and leaves us longing for a little more detail.  Luke who wrote so much about the shipwreck, did not include Paul’s reaction when he reached Rome.  Surely he was overwhelmed by the imposing sight of the city, but even more overwhelmed at the faithfulness and the power of God.  Having arrived safely, “He thanked God and took courage.”  Paul had never seen anything like Rome.  At the time of his arrival, Rome was inhabited by one million citizens and approximately the same number of slaves. 

As Paul approached, I believe God knew he would be overwhelmed by the sea of strangers and the certainty of enemies so God met him at every turn and every stop with brothers and sisters in Christ.  Paul uses the words, sister, brother, brotherly or brothers at least 140 times in his epistles.  The Greek word for “brothers” is “adelphos”.  In reference to fellow believers in Christ, the term “came to designate a fellowship of love equivalent to or bringing with itself a community of life.”  As Paul approached Rome, God knew he needed “a fellowship of love” or “a community of life.” 

Paul’s need was not unique.  People are desperate for a sense of community today.  We all want to feel like we belong somewhere.  God recognizes our need for community and has provided for that need to be met through His church- the body of believers organized to provide a community of life.  Paul obviously sensed a strong bond with other believers.  Many Christians were already in Rome.  Paul had never met the Christians in Rome and yet he considered them brothers and sisters in the faith.  Paul’s approach helps us to understand the sense of community that God wants us to know.  You cannot live the Christian life on your own, you need other believers to encourage you to thank God and to take courage. 

As Paul reached the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns on his way to Rome, he was greatly encouraged by a group of strangers who met him there because they were his brothers.  Their faces were unfamiliar, but they belonged to Jesus and were joined in the bond of love. 

Paul was now in Rome and “was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.”  We learn from verse 20 that there were probably several soldiers who pulled Paul duty as the day progressed and were chained to Paul’s wrist.  Paul was put under house arrest. Under this provision, the guard was changed every six hours. Paul would later write to the Philippian believers, Philippians 4:22 (ESV) “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”  How did men in Caesar’s household get saved? By being chained to Paul and hearing the message of the Gospel.   

Paul used his limitations to attempt great things for God.  I’m reminded of the words of William Carey: “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God. Who would have ever thought that a chained prisoner could reach Rome and more? As James Stalker so beautifully pointed out, Paul’s room became a fulcrum from which he moved the world. How did that come to be? As Paul explains in Philippians 1:12-13 (ESV) “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,  so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”  According to the last verse of Acts, Paul witnessed to all visitors “with all boldness and without hindrance.”

Furthermore, while a prisoner Paul, through the Holy Spirit, wrote the New Testament books of Philippians, Philemon, Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Timothy, the first four of which, as John Stott has pointed out, are the most Christological of all his writings. God did great things during Paul’s difficult years and despite his personal and circumstantial limitations. As Paul wrote shortly before being martyred for Christ, 2 Timothy 2:9 (ESV) “I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!”

God’s leading in Paul’s life sets an example for us to follow. God kept Paul safe through the storm and delivered him from the viper.  He sent other believers to encourage him and Paul thanked God. We need to thank God for keeping us safe and for the fellowship we can enjoy and we need to take courage. 

As we enter into 2021 there is a lot of uncertainty but we can be certain of this God loves us and He is Sovereignly working out His eternal plan in our lives.  Keep safe, thank God, take courage. 

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“THE GLORY OF GOD” – Christmas Sunday December 20/2020

One of the lovely things about Christmas is enjoying the multi-coloured lights on Christmas trees and on houses in the neighbourhood and in special displays.  However, how some of the inflatables relate to Christmas I cannot figure out.  I remember growing up in Brantford Ontario and going to Simcoe to see the Christmas lights displayed in Wellington Park. That display is still going strong.  I looked it up online and it’s now called, the Simcoe Christmas Panorama and it has been in place since 1958.  It has welcomed thousands of guests for over sixty years.  I fondly recall taking someone very special to see the lights on her first visit to my childhood home at Christmas. 
Here we are again celebrating the Christmas Season which is all about Jesus first coming to this earth to seek and to save the lost.  Luke 19:10 (ESV) “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  And for all of us this Christmas will be different to say the least.  But the message of Christmas remains constant even in the midst of all of the upheaval that surrounds us. 
The theme I want us to consider for this Christmas Sunday is light.  The Lord laid this theme on my heart as we considered the Apostle Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa two weeks ago.  As he shared about seeing the bright light at midday, brighter than the Sun when Jesus spoke to him on the Road to Damascus for Paul the lights went on and he learned that Jesus was alive and had been sent from God to be a light both to the Jews and to the Gentiles. 
Paul was appointed as His servant.  Jesus said to Paul: Acts 26:15-18 (ESV) ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.  But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,  delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you  to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Paul was appointed as Jesus’ servant and His witness to share the message of the light of the Gospel calling to mind God’s words about His servant Jesus in Isaiah 42:5-7 (ESV) “Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations,  to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”
Jesus is the light of the world and Paul shared the message of the Gospel as he concluded his testimony in  Acts 26:23 (ESV) “that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
John MacArthur says:  One of the most beautiful metaphors used to describe Jesus’ nature and character is that of light.  It conveys the ideas of illuminating the way, revealing truth and exposing sin.  In John 1 we are told: John 1:4-5 (ESV) “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John also tells us that John the Baptist came to bear witness to the light.  John 1:8-9 (ESV) “He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.  The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”  Jesus says in John 3:19-21 (ESV) “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”  Jesus also said: John 8:12 (ESV) “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
In the Old Testament, walking in the light was often used as a figure of righteousness and obedience to God, while walking in the darkness was a figure of wickedness and disobedience.  Now Jesus presents Himself as “the light of the world.”
Coming to faith in Jesus Christ is expressed in the Word of God as coming to the light.  Jesus Christ came not only to reveal the darkness that sin causes, but also to bring the light that overcomes the darkness. 
As the hymnwriter, Philip P. Bliss puts it…”The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin…The Light of the world is Jesus.”  Because those who do not believe live in spiritual darkness, God sent His Light into the world and revealed His glory!  The Apostle John added in  1 John 1:4-5 (ESV) “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”  It is light that reveals the Glory of God so that is our topic for this morning.  God’s glory, the light that shines in our world! 
 
1.  A GREAT DISPLAY OF GOD’S GLORY: Psalm 19:1; Genesis 1:3
2.  A GREATER DISPLAY OF GOD’S GLORY: Luke 2:8-14
3.  THE GREATEST DISPLAY OF GOD’S GLORY: John 1:14; Luke 2:30-32; Hebrews 1:1-3
 
GOD’S GLORY: Psalm 19:1; Genesis 1:3
Psalm 19:1 says: Psalm 19:1 (ESV) “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
Sir William Herschel, a Christian astronomer said: “All human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more strongly the truths we get from on high.”
 
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth and He said “‘Let  there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) God effortlessly spoke light into existence.  This dispelled the darkness and God has been working to dispel the darkness ever since.  In the creation God was the Provider of light and He will in eternity future be the source of light.  Speaking of the heavenly city in Revelation 21:23, John says: “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”
Though all the preachers on earth should grow silent, and every human mouth cease from publishing the glory of God, the heavens above will never cease to declare and proclaim His majesty and His glory.  To say that the universe happened by chance is absurd.  It’s design, intricacy and orderliness point to a personally involved Creator.  Nature proclaims God’s existence and power and all creation reveals God’s glory and majesty. 
The One who said, “Let there be light,” the One whose love moved Him to shine His saving light through creation and upon conscience, the One who set aside a special people for Himself to be a light to the nations, is the One who mercifully clothed His light in a human body so that He might bring light to men. 
 
2.  A GREATER DISPLAY OF GOD’S GLORY: Luke 2:8-14
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Margaret Deland wrote these words: 
Like small curled feathers white and soft, the little clouds went by
Across the moon and past the stars and down the western sky;
In upland pastures where the grass with frosted dew was white,
Like snowy clouds the young sheep lay that first blest Christmas night. 
With finger on her solemn lip, Night hushed the shadowy earth,
And only stars and angels saw the little Saviour’s birth;
Then came such flash of silver light, across the bending skies,
The wondering shepherds woke and hid their frightened dazzled eyes! 
And all their gentle sleepy flock, Looked up then slept again,
Nor knew the light that dimmed the stars brought endless peace to men–
Nor even heard the gracious words That down the ages ring–
“The Christ is born!  The Lord has come, Goodwill on earth to bring!” 
Then o’er the misty moonlit fields, Dumb with the world’s great joy,
The shepherds sought the white-walled town, where lay the Baby boy–
And oh, the gladness of the world, the glory of the skies,
Because the longed-for Christ looked up, in Mary’s happy eyes! 
Bethlehem is near Jerusalem and many of the sheep used in the Temple sacrifices were tended in the hills outside the town.  The hills were prime grazing land and shepherds worked in the area day and night, all year round.  They supplied the lambs to be offered in sacrifice for sins. 
A multitude of the heavenly hosts, a great company of angels appeared to shepherds in fields near Bethlehem declaring: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  A multitude or great company of the heavenly hosts was a term used to describe an army encampment.  The armies of heaven were mobilized to declare the glory of God the Son. 
 
The coming of Christ brings glory to God displaying the wisdom, power and mercy of our God.  The whole character of God stands in His faithfulness and His love.  All of His promises are fulfilled in Christ.  His love is demonstrated through His Son.  Glory to God in the highest heaven, in the highest attributes of Almighty God and in the highest degree in the person of Christ! 
The message of peace is God’s gracious gift to those who are the objects of His good will. 
Why was the message given to shepherds?  Perhaps because they would understand.  The Saviour, who was now born and lying quietly in the peaceful manger, was to be the Lamb of God.  And as the Lamb, He was destined to die for the sins of the world.  To die for these very shepherds as their Saviour.  This is only one of two places in the gospels where Christ is referred to as Saviour, the other is in John 4:42.  Perhaps these shepherds who cared for young lambs destined for the altars of sacrifice, who sat through cold dark nights in the fields to guard and protect their flocks might understand the shepherd’s heart of God the Father, might glimpse what it meant for Him to give His One Lamb, once and for all. 

The NIV Worship Bible shares this prayer:
“Lord, I cannot comprehend that You, the Creator of the universe, took on flesh and were born of a peasant girl.  You, the One who spoke the galaxies into existence, became a speechless newborn baby.  You, the One who gave the stars their light, veiled Your own glory and slipped unnoticed into the human race.  You, the One who clothed all of nature in its boundless beauty and order, came to us wrapped in rags and lying in a feeding trough.  The miracle of Your incarnation is all too unexpected, too mysterious, too holy for me to understand.  I can only follow the shepherds to the manger and bow in astonishment and thanksgiving, glorifying and praising You for all that I have heard and seen.” 
The majesty of the music of creation, the heavens and earth that reveal the glory of God and the magnificence of the angels declaring the glory of God, cannot compare to the glory of the Son of God Himself who came to bring redemption to mankind. 
 

3.  THE GREATEST DISPLAY OF GOD’S GLORY: John 1:14; Luke 2:30-32; Hebrews 1:1-3
John 1:14 (ESV) “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
While Christ as God was uncreated and eternal, the word “became” emphasizes Christ’s taking on humanity.  This reality is surely the most profound ever known to man because it indicates that the infinite became finite, the Eternal was conformed to time; the invisible became visible; the supernatural One reduced Himself to the natural.  In the incarnation, however, the Word did not cease to be God but became God in human flesh.  That is, His deity was undiminished, though He was in human form as a man.  When the Word became flesh, the glorious presence of Deity was embodied in Him.  We beheld His glory as John 1:14 says: John 1:14 (ESV) “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
As Charles Wesley expressed in his hymn “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”  “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the Incarnate Deity.”  Although His deity may have been veiled in human flesh, glimpses exist in the gospels of  His divine majesty.  The disciples saw glimpses of His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration.  The reference to Christ’s glory was spiritual as well.  They saw Him display the attributes or characteristics of God, grace, goodness, mercy, wisdom, truth, etc.  His glory was like that of the Father.  Jesus as God displayed the same essential glory as the Father.  They are one in nature.  The only Son is the One and Only and carries the concept of the only beloved one.  It carries the meaning of singular uniqueness, of being loved like no other.  By this word, John was emphasizing the exclusive character of the relationship between the Father and the Son. 
His glory is full of grace and truth.  John probably had in mind Exodus 33 and 34.  On that occasion, Moses requested that God display His glory to him.  The Lord replied to Moses that He would make all His goodness pass before Him.  Exodus 33:19-20 (ESV) “And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.  But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”
These attributes of God’s glory,  grace and truth, emphasize the goodness of God’s character, especially in relationship to salvation. 
Behold His glory! 
When Paul saw the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ he bowed before Him and said:  “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10 ESV) Jesus told Paul that he would be His witness before Jews and Gentiles.  In Acts 26:22&23 Paul declared the goal of his ministry: Acts 26:22-23 (ESV) “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass:  that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
Christ would proclaim light.  In Luke 2:29-32 Simeon gave witness to Christ.  Luke 2:29-32 (ESV)
 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;  for my eyes have seen your salvation  that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,  a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”  
His song is called the Nunc Dimittis from the first two words of the Latin translation.  This is the first explicit statement in Luke that includes both Jew and Gentile.  Salvation is portrayed as light.  It would be a revelation to Gentiles because they would be able to participate in God’s blessing with a fullness that had not been revealed in the Old Testament.  Jesus is the glory of Israel because through Him the nation would see the fulfillment of God’s promises.  Jesus has restored the glory to Israel and brought the light to the Gentiles so that all people can be saved.  
 
The message that Paul proclaimed was the message of light.  Scripture frequently uses light as a metaphor for salvation.  Because of that, salvation can be described as being called “out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  ( 1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
And believers can be described as sharers “in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:12-14 ESV)
The blessed result of salvation is the forgiveness of sins.  That’s why Jesus came and why He sent Paul to be His witness and why He calls us to witness to the same truth.  As Jesus said to Paul about his ministry to the Gentiles in Acts 26:17-18 (ESV) “I am sending you  to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
Salvation comes only by faith in Jesus Christ. 
The promise made to Joseph in Matthew 1:21 (ESV) “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus Christ is the revealer of the glory of God.  Hebrews 1:1-3 (ESV) “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
 
We would never be able to see or enjoy God’s light if we did not have Jesus to look at.  Standing one day before the Temple, Jesus said, John 8:12 (ESV) “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus Christ radiates God’s glory and He can transmit that light into your life and my life so that we in turn can share the glory of God.  We live in a dark world, into which God shines His glorious Light!  Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV) “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  
 
The Nicene Creed (325 A.D.)
And (I believe) in one Lord, Jesus Christ, The only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light,
Very God of very God, Begotten, not made,
Being of one substance with the Father; By Whom all things were made;
Who for us men and for our salvation, Came down from heaven,
And was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, And was made man. 
The NIV Worship Bible shares this prayer:
Son of God, before Whom angels bow, I kneel humbly at Your feet.  Word of God, through Whom all things were created and by Whom God has spoken, I am silent and awestruck before You.  Light of Light, Who outshines the radiance of heaven, I glorify You.  Even so, O Lord, how can my worship begin to be worthy of You?  However extravagant my praise, You are greater still!” 
 
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  In these days of shining lights remember what Jesus told us:  Matthew 5:16 (ESV) “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  Let your light shine and give glory to God!
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December 13, 2020 FCBC                            Sermon  

Acts 27:1-44                 “HOW TO ENDURE (ENJOY?) THE STORMS OF LIFE!”

One of my memories from my childhood was a of a set of Word Records my parent bought, probably somewhere during the sixties.  They came in bound volumes with titles on the outside.  Great quartets, trios, soloists, instrumentalists.  But my favourites were the children’s stories and one of my favourite stories was Paul being shipwrecked.  I can still hear the description of havoc as the ship is being beaten by the wind and waves.  Lift that bail, tote that barge, lash that sail, secure the hatches, we’re running aground….then silence. 

As we rejoin the Apostle Paul he is finally nearing the fulfillment of his great ambition to go to Rome.  Acts 19:21 (ESV) “Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

In Paul’s day Gentiles saw Rome as the centre of the earth. It was a strategic place to get the gospel out to the nations because everything went in and out of Rome—hence, Paul’s had voiced his desire to go there in the Epistle to the Romans 1:10-16; 15:22-23. In the first century Rome was the most powerful political entity in the world, and Paul was a Roman citizen. The apostle had spent over twenty-five years of ministry in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, but he had dreams of taking the gospel as far west as Spain, using Rome as a launching pad. About three years before this trip, Paul had written his letter to the  Romans preparing them for his visit and outlining his plans.

And as you well know, Jesus had told him he would be His witness in Rome.  Acts 23:11 (ESV) “The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

At this point in the Acts narrative one of the safest places to be would be with the Apostle Paul on his journey to Rome.  God had guaranteed that he would get there.  But he probably never imagined that he would reach Rome as a prisoner.  The description of the way he gets there reads like an excerpt from an exciting novel. We can feel the drama building as the events unfold through Luke’s vivid description. These two chapters also contain details typical of the record of one who was part of the travel group (this is a “we” section).  Luke travelled with Paul along with Aristarchus. 

Paul’s sea voyage to Rome was filled with adventure, great danger, imminent disaster and the Sovereign intervention of the Lord.  Luke uses twice as many words to describe the voyage to Rome as he does telling us what happened when Paul got there.  He records their arrival with the very succinct:  Acts 28:14 (ESV) “And so we came to Rome.” 

Behind the first person account of their journey to Rome, Luke encourages us to see the power of the Holy Spirit, the presence of the Risen Christ, the providential leading of Almighty God. 

He points us towards calmness in the calamities of life.  Courage in the midst of the storm.  Faith that overcomes fear.  And hope that trusts in God no matter what. 

His message is exactly what we need for our day and time as we are in the midst of a Covid storm and controversy dogs our heels and plagues our days and we need to keep our eyes on God and the fact that He is firmly in control even as it seems that everything around us is out of control! 

The NIV Application Commentary shares this insight:  One of the most helpful resources for the study of this passage is a book written more than a century ago by James Smith, The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul. As an experienced yachtsman and classical scholar, Smith “made a careful study of Luke’s narrative in relation to the route which it maps out—a part of the Mediterranean with which he himself was acquainted—and formed the most favorable estimate of the accuracy of Luke’s account of each stage of the voyage.” Smith says about Luke’s style and content, “No sailor would have written in a style so little like that of a sailor; no man not a sailor could have written a narrative of a sea voyage so consistent in all its parts, unless from actual observation.”

Fortunately for us, Colin J. Hemer has made available many of the findings of Smith and of others in arguing his case for the historical accuracy of the book of Acts. Portions of these passages read like a ship’s log. The nautical detail is impeccable. Luke’s knowledge of the sea, ships, and sailing is vividly shown. But in each section of the account there are powerful insights about living in the Spirit, trusting in the Lord, seeing His plan being worked out. 

1.  SETTING SAIL: Acts 27:1-12

Paul’s journey to Rome begins…

2.  STORMY SEAS: Acts 27:13-38

The folly of not listening to warnings and the fun of saying “I told you so!” 

3.  SHIPWRECKED BUT SAFE: Acts 27:39-44

Have faith in God that it will be exactly according to His Sovereign plan!

1.  SETTING SAIL: Acts 27:1-12

Paul’s journey to Rome begins…

The first person plural pronoun “we” tells us that Luke was travelling with Paul.  How providentially handy to have a personal physician along for the journey.  Also accompanying him was Aristarchus, who had trusted in Christ during Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica.  It was he who had been dragged into the theatre at the beginning of the riot in Ephesus. He had accompanied Paul to Jerusalem and now continued with him on to Rome. There is no indication that Luke and Aristarchus were prisoners as well, they were simply there to support and to encourage their friend. 

We are introduced to the Centurion Julius who plays a prominent role in preserving Paul’s life through the storm.  God used him to care for Paul. 

The reminder is this: Paul had people he could rely on for encouragement.  Do you have those in your life who encourage you, give you insight, advice?  That’s why you and I need other believers involved in our lives.  If you haven’t yet joined a Growth Group let me encourage you to do so. 

MAP

Paul is accompanied by some other prisoners, how many, we don’t know and the first ship on which they travel is a boat of Adramyttium, a city north of Pergamum in the region of Mysia in Asia.  This boat was a long way from home and was a coastal vessel, travelling close to the shore and putting in at various ports along the way.  Only the largest grain ships set out into the open sea of the Mediterranean, and Julius hoped that at one of the ports they would encounter one.  Also, only the bravest of sailors set out at this time of year as Luke notes in verse 9 that their trip took place after “the fast”—the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur—had ended, in mid-October. This trip, therefore, took place in the autumn and presented a grave threat to the travellers’ safety. This threat shows itself as early as verse 4, when Luke describes the winds as “against us,” forcing the ship to divert.

Under the best of conditions, in the best seasons for navigating the Mediterranean which are the spring and summer sailing straight to Rome from Caesarea, would take five weeks to transfer Paul to his intended destination. But when this trip is over, the journey will have taken well over four months.  The first part of the journey goes well and they cover the seventy miles to Sidon in one day.  There, Julius treats Paul kindly and allows him to visit his friends in the city.  Then, as they put out again, Luke tells us the winds were against them.  They finally came to Myra in Lycia and there Julius found a ship bound for Italy and booked passage on it. 

The God’s Word for You Commentary says:  Adramyttian ships were typically sixty feet (18m) long, and rough seawaters could easily swamp them. Alexandrian ships were roughly 180 feet (55m) in length, forty-eight feet (14.5m) wide, and forty feet (12m) high. They were the largest ships produced at the time. Though larger, these ships came with their own host of problems and dangers. Not only was this particular ship carrying 276 people (v 37), but these ships also customarily carried grain in their holds. These holds ran the length and width of the ship and were six feet (2m) deep. When filled with grain, the ship took on enormous weight. Further, this grain would be shifted in the holds by the action of the waves, causing a rocking effect that made stabilization challenging for the ship’s captain and if it became wet the weight and the danger increased exponentially. 

The Roman military considered any sailing after September to be extremely dangerous, and anything between November and March to be suicidal. Paul knew the danger of such travel and advised them not to go on warning them:  Acts 27:10 (ESV) saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”

Paul was an experienced traveller, after all, he had been shipwrecked three times and spent a night and a day adrift at sea (2 Corinthians 11:25).  But the captain would be paid a premium if he delivered his grain at this time of year so he wanted to go on.  Paul was humble enough to let others make their own mistakes.  The captain decides to head for the double harbour city of Phoenix to spend the winter there.  But the ship is pushed by the wind out into the open sea. 

2.  STORMY SEAS: Acts 27:13-38

The folly of not listening to warnings and the fun of saying “I told you so!” 

“Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore.  But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land.  And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along.  Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we

managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat.  After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along.  Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo.  And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.  When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.  Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss.  Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.  For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship,  and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’  So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.  But we must run aground on some island.”  When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land.  So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms.  And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come.  And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow,  Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”  Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.  As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing.  Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.”  And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.  Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.  (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.) And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.”  

Their trip became a nightmare and for two long weeks they fought against the seas doing all they could think of to keep safe.  Ancient ships would tow a lifeboat but in a tempestuous storm it could ram the ship, so they towed it aboard.  They wrapped the ship with ropes and cables to try to hold it together.  They jettisoned the cargo and threw the ships tackle overboard leaving the ship without means of navigation or propulsion. 

Paul knows God will get him and the company to Rome. Acts 23:11 continues to drive the narrative. Paul lived as he did because he kept his mind set on the promises of God. Paul, therefore, steps in to offer much needed encouragement and he begins with an “I told you so.”  He is not insulting them, he is identifying himself as the voice of reason and then he shares the reason why they should trust God.  Paul’s words provide three vital applications: 

First, he exudes an unyielding confidence in God’s sovereign will.  He rests in God’s perfect will.  Paul you are going to Rome! 

Second, he is confident in the Lord in the midst of trial.  He witnesses to those on board revealing the one true God. 

Third, he tells them what will happen.  They will run aground on some island.  The act of having faith in God’s purposes is to run the ship aground. 

God has placed all aboard in the hands of the Apostle Paul because Jesus is with him in the storm.  The storm does not restrict God’s sovereignty or hinder the power of the gospel. Paul is not primarily the prisoner of Rome.  He is an ambassador in chains for Jesus!  As he identifies himself in Philemon 1:1 (ESV) “Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus.”  

He continues to direct the crew as they think they will escape by the lifeboat.  He tells them if they enter the lifeboat they will lose their lives.  And he urges them to eat some food giving thanks to God in the presence of all.  They all were encouraged.  Then, they jettison the rest of the cargo including their food. 

3.  SHIPWRECKED BUT SAFE: Acts 27:39-44

Have faith in God that it will be exactly according to His Sovereign plan!

The next day they can see land and they plan to run the ship ashore, but when the ship strikes a reef in open water, the front of the vessel is jammed, while the back of the boat continues to be beaten by the waves. Naturally, the boat begins to break apart. The soldiers know that if they go back to Rome without their prisoners, having let them escape, they will face the same judgment as the prisoners.  So they devise a plan to kill the prisoners and blame it on the extreme situation.

The centurion, however, intervenes as he trusts Paul and wants to save his life. The centurion orders everyone who can to jump overboard and swim for dry land. Those who cannot swim grab hold of planks from the ship and float to safety. Just as God had promised all 276 people on board were spared.  God’s power and providence had triumphed and His glory had been displayed. 

The whole chapter, right up to the very last verse, presents us with a remarkable picture of God’s sovereignty and power. Nothing will thwart the will of God. Indeed, nothing will stop God’s will or hinder His purposes for His people.  God does not promise His people a life free from suffering and trials, but He does promise that in the midst of trial He will be with us.

Paul endured much for the cause of the gospel. But he pressed on because of God’s promise.

We must not lose sight of the reward that awaits those who obey God. God has promised an eternity beyond anything we can ask or imagine. He has promised that we will be with Him, face to face—that death will be no more and sin will pass away. There will be no more tears. No more death. No more sadness. No more grief. God calls His people to hold onto His promises.  

Our obedience will only be as strong as our faith in the promises of God. Paul said in verse 25, “So take heart … for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.”

Does we possess such faith? Do we believe in the promises of God? Do we live as if we believe in His promises? Are we telling others that we have faith in God?  That we know that God is in control?  That we trust His Sovereign purposes to be worked out to His glory and if we trust in Him for our good? 

Earl Palmer, in a fine little book entitled “The Enormous Exception,” tells the story of a pre-med student at the University of California, Berkeley “who became a Christian after a long journey through doubts and questions.”  When Palmer asked the young man why he had chosen Jesus Christ, he answered what had “tipped the scales” in his spiritual journey were the actions of a classmate who happened to be a Christian.

During the previous term the pre-med student had been very ill with the flu and, as a result, had missed ten days of school.  “Without any fanfare or complaints,” his Christian classmate carefully collected all his class assignments and took time away from his own studies to help him catch up.  The pre-med student told Palmer, “You know, this kind of thing just isn’t done.  I wanted to know what made this guy act the way he did.  I even found myself asking if I could go to church with him.”  (from “Simple Faith” by Charles Swindoll retold in “The Inspirational Study Bible”) 

Lord help me to see every storm of life as an opportunity to grow in my faith and dependance upon

you and to build the faith of others! 

William Cowper reminds us in his classic hymn of these sweet words:

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea

And rides upon the storm.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face. (“God Moves in a Mysterious Way”)

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December 6, 2020 – FCBC Sermon

Acts 25:1-26:32                   “THE ABSOLUTE AGONY OF ALMOST!”

Paul’s Fourth Defence before Festus and Fifth Defence before Agrippa and Bernice.

William Jay (1769–1853) preached the gospel from the age of 19 to 84, and was for over 60 years pastor of the Independent Argyle Chapel in Bath, England.  From what we learned of Felix last week and what we see in this passage we’ll consider today his advice written so long ago is timely: 

William Jay said:   ‘Bless God if you tremble at his word; but remember, conviction is not conversion. Depend not on excitement in religion, without principle. Pray that you may tremble to purpose. Let your fear induce you to flee for refuge, to lay hold of the hope set before you. Beware of losing your burden on the wrong side of the hill. Lay it down nowhere but at the feet of him who cries: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”‘

At least two years have passed since Paul was incarcerated in Caesarea. The Roman statute of limitations for a prisoner to be held without proper charges is now past.  Acts 24:26 tells us that Felix sent for Paul many times but mainly in the hope that Paul would offer him a bribe.  There is no mention of him seeking hope in God.  No further word suggests his awareness of sin.  Felix may have resisted the Holy Spirit until conviction finally passed.  If only he had responded when he felt conviction, when he was filled with fear at Paul’s message of sin and righteousness and judgement.  According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Felix was recalled to Rome in order to explain his savage suppression of a dispute between Jews and Syrians over their respective civil rights in Caesarea, and would have been severely punished but for his brother Pallas’ appeal to Nero.

A new Governor Festus had replaced him and we now get to listen in as the apostle Paul gives his testimony before a new audience of a Gentile Governor and a Jewish King and his consort. 

1.  AN APPEALING TIME: Acts 25:1-12

2.  ASKING ADVICE: Acts 25:13-27

3.  A GRIPPING TESTIMONY TO THE RESURRECTION: Acts 26:1-32

1.  AN APPEALING TIME: Acts 25:1-12

If the information that Josephus shares about Festus is correct, he was much more honest than the governor who preceded him or succeeded him.  Unfortunately he held the office only for about two years dying in A.D. 61 or 62.  According to Josephus upon taking office he did tackle the problem of the troublemakers in the land and to the Jewish leaders that meant the Apostle Paul so after only three days when he went up to Jerusalem they made their accusations.  Their appeal to the new governor was to have Paul returned to Jerusalem for trial.  They planned to ambush and kill him on the way.  Two years had passed, and they were either very hungry because of their vow not to eat until Paul was killed or they had abandoned that vow, yet still they harboured such hatred of the apostle that they cold think only of killing him.

Festus wisely told them to come to Caesarea to make their accusations in a hearing convened before him.  It is possible that he had been briefed on the situation by Felix, either way he knew what he was dealing with in the volatile Jewish territory.  What he did not know was how corrupt the Jewish leaders were. 

They came before the tribunal he convened and made their charges that still lacked any proof.  Paul’s fourth defence was simple: Acts 25:8 (ESV) “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”   It is interesting that Paul adds Caesar to his list as that would carry some weight with Festus. 

To this point Paul has been protected by his Roman citizenship which meant that the charges against him had to stand up in a Roman court of law.  But now, in order to secure favour and keep peace in the land, Festus considers releasing Paul for trial in Jerusalem so he asks Paul:  Acts 25:9 (ESV) “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” And it is here that Paul makes his appeal to Caesar a right held by every Roman citizen.  Paul knew that going to Jerusalem would be suicide so he exercised his right to trial in Rome which is you’ll remember is where Jesus had told him he was going to be his witness anyway.  Acts 23:11 (ESV) The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

Paul states that he is already standing before Caesar’s tribunal and he does not fear trial according to Roman law so he makes his appeal to Caesar.  Festus after consultation with his council declared:  “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

But he now faced a dilemma. He would have to write an official report (as he later states in verse 26) specifying the charges that stood against Paul, and the reason for the appeal and it had better be substantial as Nero is the Emperor and would not take a frivolous case lightly.  That sets the stage for what happens next. 

2.  ASKING ADVICE: Acts 25:13-27

The opportunity to gain insight into the situation comes a few days after Paul’s appeal to Caesar.  John MacArthur describes the King and his consort.  King Agrippa (Herod Agrippa II) and his consort Bernice arrive in Caesarea.  They had come to pay their respects to the new governor, Festus.  This is the last in the line of the Herods who figured prominently in New Testament history, Agrippa II ruled the northern part of Palestine during the Roman occupation.  His father, Agrippa I, was the Herod who killed James, arrested Peter and met an untimely end, judged by God by being eaten by worms for failing to give God glory.  His great uncle, Herod Antipas, figured prominently in the gospels as the ruler who executed John the Baptist, sought Jesus’ life, and later tried Him.  His great-grandfather was Herod the Great, who ruled at the time of Jesus’ birth, and murdered the children of Bethlehem in an effort to kill the newborn King.  

His sister Drusilla whom we met last week, was the wife of the former governor, Felix.  His other sister was Bernice.  Their incestuous relationship was the subject of much gossip in Rome, where Agrippa had grown up.  Bernice would occasionally leave her brother and lover for another man, she had been the mistress of the Emperor Vespasian and later of his son Titus, but she always returned.  They are inseparable in the Acts account and the symbol of the vicelike grip of sin on Agrippa’s heart.  Although he did not rule Judea, Agrippa had been granted control of the Temple treasury and the right to appoint the high priest.  The Romans considered him an expert on Jewish affairs and so did the Apostle Paul. 

Their official visit required the couple to spend a number of days in Caesarea which allowed Festus the opportunity to ask for Agrippa’s experience and expert advice.  He “laid Paul’s case before the king.”  Festus reviewed Paul’s situation for Agrippa.  Refusing to accede to the demands of the Sanhedrin to have a trial in Jerusalem (so they could ambush him on the way) Festus held the hearing in Caesarea and discovered that the charges did not involve any serious violations of Roman law but were “points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive.”  (Acts 25:19 ESV)

Festus had discovered that: It was the issue of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that set Christianity apart from Judaism and His resurrection is the cornerstone of the gospel.  Festus knew nothing of these things so he thought Paul should go to Jerusalem to be tried.  Paul, of course refused and appealed to Caesar.  Festus’s dilemma was that he had to send a letter with the prisoner outlining the charges against him and his reasons for handing the case over to Caesar’s court, and he had nothing to write.  He was desperately in need of Agrippa’s help and Agrippa, no doubt flattered by the appeal to his expertise and perhaps somewhat curious says: Acts 25:22 (ESV)  Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.” 

The scene that unfolds is one of the most rivetting in the New Testament.  On the next day with great pomp and ceremony, Agrippa and Bernice enter the auditorium.  This is the only use of the word  “pomp” (phantasia) in the New Testament.  It denotes a grand and showy pageant.  Festus turned Paul’s hearing into an opportunity to honour Agrippa.  Accompanied by the ranking officers and leading men of the city they waited for Paul to appear before them.  Military tribunes were those like Claudius Lysius whom we met earlier who ruled over a 1000 men. 

The spectacle must have been breathtaking.  Agrippa would have been decked out in all the trappings of royalty, including a purple robe, golden crown, rings and perhaps a sceptre.  Bernice, though not technically Agrippa’s queen, would have been similarly attired.  The five tribunes assigned to the area would have been in full dress uniform and the prominent men of the city wearing their finest clothes.  An honour guard of soldiers would escort all of them into the auditorium.  Then Paul was brought in.  The contrast could not be more striking.  Into the midst of the assembly hall, walks a Jew who has been described as short, bald and physically unimposing.   Those who entered with pomp and ceremony proved themselves to be nothing but pompous fools.  Paul who was the least impressive person there has been proved by history to be one of the most noble and powerful men who ever lived. 

The stage is set and Festus opens the proceedings by introducing Paul.  And he openly shares his problem: “I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him.”  

Paul was probably not bound by law to even attend this inquiry.  He had appealed his case to Caesar and it was out of this jurisdiction.  But Paul would not miss an opportunity to share the gospel in such an auspicious setting.  Through Ananias Jesus had told Paul Acts 9:15 (ESV) “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”  This fifth defence was the last that Paul would make in Israel itself.  

3.  A GRIPPING TESTIMONY TO THE RESURRECTION: Acts 26:1-32

This passage forms Paul’s longest defence speech explaining his ministry and sharing the Gospel.  Paul’s testimony contains two main themes: Jesus Christ’s resurrection proves Him to be the Messiah, and Paul’s transformed life proves the reality of Christ’s resurrection. 

Rather than go through what Paul says verse by verse we’re going to take an overview this morning and learn the principles of how to witness.

1.  Address unbelievers with respect: Acts 26:1-3

Paul’s opening comments to Agrippa show respect for authority a reminder of Peter’s instruction in 1 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV) “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,  having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” 

What we say is most important but how we express it has an effect.  We need to speak the truth in love with gentleness, courage and compassion, caring enough to confront. 

2.  Share what it was like not to believe in Jesus: Acts 26:4-11 

Paul explained what his life was like before he met Jesus.  He was devoted to God and to the law and lived out his Jewish heritage as a Pharisee.  He believed God’s promises and thought he was serving God by opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  He believed that God raises the dead but he did not believe the claims of Jesus Christ. 

3.  Tell them how you came to believe in Jesus : Acts 26:12-15

This is the third time that we hear Paul’s Damascus road story which is all about Jesus, not about Paul.  He always made sure that Jesus was the main person in his testimony and He should be in our’s too.  When speaking to people about Jesus we should talk about Jesus more than we talk about ourselves.  Our conversations need to point people to Jesus.  Paul was struggling against Jesus until he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.  Paul learned from Jesus Himself that God had a plan and a purpose for his life.  He learned that Jesus is alive.  Christ is Risen.  He is Risen Indeed!  And Paul was to be His witness as Christ appoints him as “a servant,” which recalls Isaiah 42:1–7 (cf. Acts 13:47), from which the imagery of light for the gentiles is drawn. He is sent to turn Jews and Gentiles from darkness to light, and “from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in” Jesus (Acts 26:18 ESV). 

4.  Share the Message of the Resurrection and the Call to Repentance: Acts 26:19-23

From the first chapter of Acts onward, Luke continues to emphasize the Messiah who suffered, died, and rose from the dead.  The message of the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (ESV) “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,  and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”  

Present in the preaching of the apostles was the promised Messiah of the Scriptures. And also present was the call to repent and believe. Until we see Christ, let’s not get tired of talking about the heart of the gospel. 

5.  Remember that God will help you as you witness to the truth: Acts 26:22-23

Paul’s comment in verse 22 reminds us that our help comes from God.   Jesus promised His followers:  Luke 12:11-12 (ESV) “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say,  for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

To be faithful servants and witnesses of Jesus, we need to rely on Jesus for power and grace.  Jesus’ death and resurrection are the fulfillment of God’s promises to redeem a people unto Himself.  Proclaim light.  Paul told them in Acts 26:23 (ESV) “that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Jesus is the light of the world.  Let your light shine.  Hide it under a bushel, no…

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Paul explains that it was because of his devotion to the message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that the religious leaders tried to kill him.  But no matter the reaction, Paul proclaimed Jesus boldly.  He let the light of Jesus shine through him. 

6.  Be prepared to encourage a decision and be ready to face rejection: Acts 26:24-28

The gospel demands a response, and we should be ready to pose some probing questions to those who do not believe. We must give them clear opportunities to accept or to reject Christ. Paul certainly did so with Agrippa. Be respectful but not cowardly.

Festus called Paul insane, and we may expect similar comments to be aimed at us when we follow Paul’s example. We’re simply called to deliver the message about humanity’s need for Jesus. Only God converts. We can thus trust him with the results of our efforts, and we can rest in his presence when attacked.

7.  Pray, pray, pray, (Pray the Three Open Prayer:  “Lord, open the door.  Lord, open their heart.  Lord, open my mouth.” ) Acts 26:29

Paul prayerfully desires everyone there to know Jesus.  He has a heart of compassion for the lost. 

Acts 26:29 (ESV) “And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

Festus reacted with ridicule, calling Paul crazy, he could not comprehend the idea of a resurrection but Agrippa knew the message of Jesus and His resurrection and Paul pressed for a decision.  If he believes in the prophets, he should believe in Jesus.  But Agrippa reacts with sarcasm.  Do you think you can persuade me to be a Christian? 

Paul is faithful to his witness to Jesus.  And with these words by Paul the inquiry ended.  They left knowing Paul had done nothing worthy of death or imprisonment  and “Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”  (Acts 26:32 ESV)

Once again, Paul had been found innocent of doing anything wrong.  And he had boldly proclaimed the gospel to some of the most important people in Palestine.  Now, after two years of waiting, it was time for the Lord’s promise to Paul to be fulfilled: Acts 23:11 (ESV) “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” The testimony of the gospel about a crucified and risen Lord will be brought, appropriately, by an apostle in chains.

What Agrippa, Bernice, Festus, and all the dignitaries…failed to understand was the Paul had been the judge and they had been the prisoners on trial.  They had been shown the light and the way to freedom, but they had closed their eyes and returned to their sins.  The trial was over, but their sentence was still to come. 

What a wonderful and amazing thing is the opportunity to trust Jesus Christ and be saved!  What a terrible tragedy is wasting that opportunity and perhaps never having another. 

The inconvenience of indecision.  The absolute agony of almost.  “The Hound of Heaven,” by Francis Thompson. In this poem Thompson describes the sinner’s attempt to flee God and God’s relentless pursuit. Thompson captures with terrible beauty the futility of rebellion:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways 

Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter. Up vistaed hopes I sped;

And shot, precipitated, Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

But with unhurrying chase, And unperturbed pace,

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, They beat—and a Voice beat

More instant than the Feet— “All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”

The time to embrace the light is now!  Tell me, in this situation, who proved themselves to be crazy?

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November 29, 2020 FCBC Sermon

Acts 24:1-27                          “FELIX ON TRIAL!”

Paul’s third defence. 

Hugh Latimer was one of the early English Reformers along with Nicholas Ridley, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer. Latimer advanced the cause of the Reformation in England through his vigorous preaching and ultimately through the inspiration of his martyrdom.  Because of his Protestant views, he was burned at the stake alone with Ridley by the Catholic Queen Mary in 1555.  During his lifetime he was known as the most honest man in England, was revered by the common people, became the Bishop of the high church, and served as chaplain to the King. 

He often preached before King Henry VIII (the king who tried to keep the number of his wives up to the number of His title), and on one occasion he offended the king with his boldness.

So he was commanded to preach the following weekend and to make an apology. On the next Sunday, after reading the text, he addressed himself as he began to preach:

Hugh Latimer, dost thou know before whom thou art this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life if thou offendest; therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease; but then consider well, Hugh, dost thou not know from whence thou comest; upon whose message thou art sent? Even by the great and mighty God! who is all-present, and who beholdeth all thy ways, and is able to cast thy soul in hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully.

He then gave Henry the same sermon he had preached the week before—with even more energy!

As we will see this morning the Apostle Paul had that kind of boldness.

Paul has been delivered from a plot to kill him by being transported to Caesarea where he now awaits trial.  The Lord Jesus who has guaranteed that he would be His witness in Rome as he has been in Jerusalem has used the Roman army to deliver him twice from the angry mob that would have killed him and from the recent plot against his life.  Having arrived safely in Caesarea, Felix the Governor has decided to hear his trial and decide his fate. 

1.  THE JEWISH LEADERS SHOW UP WITH THEIR LAWYER BUT NO CASE:

Acts 24:1-9

2.  PAUL SHOWS THEM UP AND PRESENTS A FLAWLESS CASE:  Acts 24:10-21

3. FELIX SHOWS NO INTEREST IN PURSUING JUSTICE AND DECIDING PAUL’S CASE: Acts 24:22-27

1.  THE JEWISH LEADERS SHOW UP WITH THEIR LAWYER BUT NO CASE:

Acts 24:1-9

Felix the governor having read the letter from Claudias Lysias had the right to decide Paul’s case without even a hearing.  He could have declared Paul innocent based on Lysias’s testimony in Acts 23:29 (ESV) “I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment.”  He simply could have dismissed the case, but wanting to please the Jewish Leaders, Paul’s accusers who are on their way to Caesarea, he holds Paul in custody in the Praetorium awaiting his hearing.  They arrive after five days. 

The high priest himself, Ananias heads up the group and comes along with some of the elders, which is no surprise.  But what is somewhat surprising is that they have hired a lawyer named Tertullus.  All we know about him comes from this passage.  He could have been a Roman, a Hellenistic Jew, or a Greek. Whatever his ethnic or religious persuasion, no one doubted his competence, however, as we will see he really had no case to present. 

As a trained and experienced professional lawyer, Tertullus begins with what was called a captatio benevolentiae, that is, an endeavour to capture the judge’s good will. Traditionally, it was complimentary to the point of hypocrisy and often included a promise of brevity, but on this occasion it descended to “almost nauseating flattery” as Barclay says in his commentary. 

Tertullus expresses thanks for the peace in the land and the foresight of Felix and his reforms to benefit the land.  In truth, Felix had suppressed several insurrections with brutal force and had earned the horror of the general population not its thanks.  So his words in verse 3, “in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude” are disingenuous at best. 

This may not even be all the flattery that Tertullus heaped on Felix.  No doubt, Luke’s record of the proceedings is thankfully abbreviated.  Begging Felix to hear his presentation he begins to set out  three accusations against Paul.

First, this man is a plague literally a pestilent fellow, or a perfect pest, a troublemaker.  Tertullus claims that Paul stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world.  This was a most serious accusation because of its political overtones.  Insurrection was not tolerated by the Roman Empire.  Agitators were put down mercilessly. 

Second, Tertullus says that Paul is the ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.  The word for sect in the original Greek is hareis from which we get our word heresy.  In Paul’s day it was applied to both the Pharisees and the Sadducees as groups within Judaism but here it is used in definitely a negative sense of followers of Jesus the Nazarene. 

The third charge against Paul was that he tried to profane the temple. This relates back to the accusations of the Asian Jews who had seen Paul in Jerusalem with Trophimus a Gentile from Ephesus and claimed that Paul had defiled the temple by bringing a Gentile into the holy place. 

This was a dangerous accusation because the Romans had given the Jews the right to decide their own religious matters and if that’s what it turned out to be, Paul could be turned over to them.  Tertullus sanitizes and rewrites what happened to Paul saying “we seized him” whereas the truth is they took him, beat him and tried to kill him on the spot.  Some manuscripts add the phrase “and we would have judged him according to our law. But the chief captain Lysias came and with great violence took him out of our hands, commanding his accusers to come before you.”  The effect of this addition is a complete reversal of the facts, attributing the violence to Lysias instead of to the Jewish crowd, as the orderly arrest had been ascribed to the crowd instead of to Lysias.

Tertullus concludes his remarks with a direct appeal to Felix implying that if he does his job and examines Paul well, he will come to the same conclusions and the Jews joined in the chorus saying this was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. 

If you hear a lie long enough you begin to believe it’s true.  Finally, the pompous oratory and inconclusive evidence is ended and Paul is given the opportunity to speak in his own defence. 

2.  PAUL SHOWS THEM UP AND PRESENTS A FLAWLESS CASE:  Acts 24:10-21

Felix is aware of what he is dealing with and Paul acknowledges that in his opening remarks.  This too is a captatio benevolentiae though his words simply state an important fact.  Tertullus flattered Felix, Paul states the facts of which Felix is aware.  He knows the Jewish context well.  Paul is referring to Felix’s ten-year connection with Israel and familiarity with religious events in and around Jerusalem. Felix had only been in Caesarea for two or three years, but he had previously been stationed in Samaria; therefore, he brought nearly a decade of awareness about “the Jewish problem” to this trial.  Paul invited Felix to check out the true facts. 

Paul’s masterful defence calmly and categorically refuted the charges one by one and presented the basis of his belief. 

First, he was not a troublemaker stirring up rebellion.  It was only about 12 days earlier when he had arrived in Jerusalem and his purpose was to worship not stir up trouble.  He had no time to foment an insurrection and he had no intention of doing so.  He came to worship. 

Since this was the only charge that in any way violated Roman law, Felix should have dismissed the case for lack of evidence.  The two remaining charges were religious in nature and outside the competence of a Roman court to judge. 

Secondly, Paul addressed himself to the charge that he was the ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.  He acknowledges that he was a follower of the Way as Christianity was called at that time, but the members of the council were the ones who called it a sect.  He worshipped the God of their fathers and believed the teaching of the Scriptures. 

The Holman New Testament Commentary summarizes saying: 

Paul admitted to several things quite precisely:

1. He worshipped the God of the Hebrews.

2. He was a follower of the Way.

3. He believed everything in the Law and the Prophets.

4. He had hope in God.

5. He believed in the resurrection of the just and the unjust.

6. He worked hard to keep his conscience clear before God and man.

This was Paul’s public confession of his faith which was their faith.  The faith to which he was loyal.  The Way was in direct continuity with the Old Testament revelation of God and the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ as the One in whom the promises of God have been fulfilled. 

We need to note that in his testimony Paul presented the truth of the resurrection. Paul accepted the plenary (full) inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures, believing everything that was written in them, unlike the Sadducees.  They were the real heretics.  They did not truly worship God because they rejected His Son.  Anyone who rejects that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, does not know God and does not truly worship God.  Paul was more orthodox than his accusers.  (The real test of fellowship is Biblical Orthodoxy.)  Paul served the God of his fathers, believed in the inspiration of the entire Old Testament and accepted everything it taught. 

Paul’s belief led him to hope in God and to look toward the future, realizing there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.  The resurrection is our hope and the guarantee that we shall be raised is that Christ is Risen!  The resurrection of the just and the unjust reminds us that all will be raised.  As I have said at the end of every interment of which I have ever been a part:  After the words of committal come these words.  According to the promises of God, we look forward to the day of resurrection, the final judgement through Jesus Christ our Lord, at who’s Second Coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the earth and the sea shall give up their dead.  The dead shall be raised, both the just and the unjust, the one to eternal glory, changed and made like unto Christ’s own glorious body, the other to eternal loss. 

Paul’s belief directly affected his behaviour causing him to keep a clear conscience before God and man.  The same statement he made before the Sanhedrin in Acts 23:1. 

The third accusation against Paul was that he had profaned the Temple.  This he vigorously denied:  Acts 24:17-21 (ESV) “Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings.  While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia—  they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me.  Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council,  other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’”

Paul’s purpose in visiting Jerusalem had been purely religious to bring gifts to the poor and to present offerings. It was Jews from Asia that had started the trouble so why were they not there to  press their charges?  It was a clear princple of Roman Law that the accused had the right to face his accusers.  The fact is the Pharisees had declared him innocent, only the Sadducees thought him guilty and that was because of his believe in the resurrection of the dead. 

Paul ably refuted all charges against him.  The issues were theological in nature and did not belong in a Roman court of law. 

3. FELIX SHOWS NO INTEREST IN PURSUING JUSTICE AND DECIDING PAUL’S CASE: Acts 24:22-27

Felix should have declared Paul not guilty and allowed him to go on his way.  But we need to remember God had other plans in mind as Jesus had told him.  Acts 23:11 (ESV) “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

Felix had an accurate knowledge of the Way but he chooses the route of cowardly delay.  He could not convict Paul.  Lysias had found no fault in him.  The Sanhedrin had found no fault in him.  And Tertullus didn’t have a solid case.  However, Felix did not want to release Paul because for several reasons.  He wanted to keep the Jews happy and as we see in verse 26 he was hoping for a bribe.  Probably Paul’s testimony that he brought gifts and offerings to Jerusalem caused Felix to think that he could get some money out of Paul or his friends so he decides to remand Paul in custody with the excuse that he would wait for Lysias to come down to testify.  Lysias had already written out his opinion on the case so that was a lie but Felix did allow Paul some freedom allowing his friends to come and go and tend to his needs.  It was during this two year time period that Luke gathered together his material for the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. 

Paul was being given leniency but he should have been given liberty. 

There was to be no further public hearing for two years but during this time Felix continued to investigate the Way.  Some manuscripts attribute the interest to his Jewish wife Drusilla. 

Drusilla was a sensuously beautiful person, one of the ten descendants of Herod the Great whose

names appear in the New Testament, and, like all the Herod’s, possessed of a character marked by selfishness and profligacy. She was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I; and at this time (57 or 58 A.D.), she was not yet twenty years old. When Drusilla was still a small girl, her father had betrothed her to marry the crown prince of Commagene in Asia Minor. The betrothal was eventually broken off because the groom-to-be was unwilling to become a Jew.  Her brother Agrippa II gave her in marriage to the king of Emesa when she was only fourteen or fifteen years of age.

The young queen was only sixteen when Felix persuaded her to leave her husband and marry him. She was Felix’s third wife, and they had a son named Agrippa. After the recall of Felix, Drusilla and her only son by him perished in the eruption of Vesuvius. She was one of three royal wives taken by Felix. According to the unanimous testimony of the ancients, she was a woman of spectacular beauty.

And she and her husband came to listen to Paul.  And it is here that we come to the most important words in the passage.  Paul’s words.  Paul spoke about faith in Christ Jesus and he reasoned about righteousness, self-control and the coming judgement.  A reminder of the work of the Holy Spirit described by Christ.  John 16:8-11 (ESV) “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:  concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;  concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;  concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” 

All three topics would have fit well considering Felix and Drusilla’s lifestyle. By highlighting God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness, and the judgment to come, Paul was showing them why they needed Jesus. The message was not a nice, warm, uplifting talk. It involved confrontation with a call to repentance.

None of these points were popular then, nor are they today. The exclusivity of Jesus Christ offends people.  The fact that Christ alone is the way, the truth and the life.  And submitting one’s whole life under the Lordship of Jesus in holiness continue to offend people. But we must be more concerned about offending Christ than our wicked culture. Our responsibility is the same as Paul’s to speak of faith in Christ and share His Word in humility and love telling men and women there is heaven to be gained and hell to be shunned. 

Neither Felix nor Drusilla have pursued righteousness.  Self-control is foreign to them, indulgence rules their lives.  And the message of judgement caused Felix to react in fear.  The word used is “emphobos” the root of which is phobia, fear.  It means literally he was terrified but not enough to do anything about it.  What does he do about his guilt?  He pushes it away and keeps on pushing it away even as he has further conversations with Paul.  The release of Felix from sin meant more to Paul than his own release from prison. Paul always preached for a decision, and under the conviction of the Holy Spirit Felix knows this message is for him. It fills him with fear. He is startled, terrified, at the prospect of the last day. But this does not lead to humble faith.  He follows the famous last words of so many who are close to the Way but have not trusted in Jesus Christ.  Let’s wait.  “Go away for the present…”  Felix trades the hope of life eternal for the hope of money through a bribe.  And he loses both.  After two years he is removed from office and replaced by Porcius Festus. 

Meanwhile Paul is left in prison but he is still on his way to Rome to witness to Jesus as he did in Jerusalem and now continues to do in Caesarea. Interestingly under Roman law, two years was the maximum duration of preventive custody. 

Paul’s life challenges us in our witness for Jesus.  The Inter Varsity Press Commentary says: 

In an age when the majority view all moral values as relative, the Christian witness needs to find a way to speak of God’s righteousness again in such a way that it raises a standard for all.

In a time when sin is viewed as alternative lifestyles, psychosocial dysfunctions, addictions or even disease, the gospel witness needs to find a way to speak meaningfully of responsible moral self-control. In an age of anxiety when humans know “something is wrong,” though they have rejected the moral categories—absolutes, sin and guilt—that would enable them to know “someone is wrong,” the Christian witness must learn how to declare a judgment to come in terms that make sense.  Unless this happens, repentance will be impossible and the salvation rescue will appear unnecessary and hence irrelevant.

Felix’s life is a reminder that when the Holy Spirit brings conviction to your heart and life of sin and righteousness and judgement, the time to act is now. 2 Corinthians 6:2 (ESV) “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Felix refused to face his guilt and accept God’s forgiveness.  What will you do about yours?  Believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved.  Don’t put it off until a tomorrow that may never come. 

Responding to God’s appeal brings new life. Delay may result in eternal death.  I read this week that:  Christian preaching is only Christian when it summons the dead to newness of life.

He was going to be all that a mortal should be Tomorrow

No one would be better than he Tomorrow

Each morning he stacked up the letters he would write Tomorrow

It was too bad indeed he was too busy to see his friend, but he promised to do it Tomorrow

The greatest of workers this man would have been Tomorrow

The world would have known him had he ever seen Tomorrow

But the fact is he died and faded from view, and all that was left when living was through

Was a mountain of things he intended to do Tomorrow.

The time to repent and respond is NOW!

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November 22, 2020 – FCBC Sermon

Acts 23:11-35                        “PROVIDENTIAL DELIVERANCE!”

Though travel at this time is quite limited, I am sure that in the past we have had some journeys that take on many legs.  I remember the summer that I was getting married I travelled with the Seminary Quartet as far as Winnipeg and from there my friend Scott and I had decided that we would go and work in a mine in the Yukon for the summer.  As we made the journey by plane, it was a hop and skip with many legs before we arrived in Yellowknife.   Over the next day, as we finally arrived at Keno Hill and made an application at the mine, we were told it would be a two week waiting period.  By this time, I was missing someone acutely and decided to come home to work for the summer.  My friend went on to work in the mine and I came back and worked at Muskoka Bible Center to be near the one I love as our wedding approached.  My many-legged journey ended. 

As we join the Apostle Paul here in Acts 23, his is just beginning.  He has made his appeal as a Roman citizen for trial in Rome and God has guaranteed his arrival.  Jesus told him in Acts 23:11 (ESV)  The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”  So Paul is on his way to Rome, but the trip takes on many legs. 

We’re going to go on a little Scriptural Safari as we get started this morning to learn more about the life of the Apostle Paul before we consider his present circumstances described in this passage in the Book of Acts.   Obviously Paul was no stranger to danger and all too familiar with what it meant to suffer for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He described what he went through in his ministry in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 (ESV) “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.  Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.  Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?”

From the very beginning of his ministry when he witnessed for Christ in Damascus Paul faced threats on his life.  Acts 9:22-25 (ESV) “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.  When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.”

During his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion the Hellenistic Jews tried to kill him. 

Acts 9:29 (ESV) “And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him.”  He and Barnabas were driven out of Antioch in Pisidia after sharing the Gospel with the Gentiles who rejoiced and glorified God that salvation was offered to them. 

Acts 13:50-51 (ESV) shows the reaction of the Jews “But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.  But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium.”

In Iconium they threatened to stone him Acts 14:5-6 (ESV) “When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country.” 

It was in Lystra Paul was stoned and left for dead.  Acts 14:19-20 (ESV) “But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of

the city, supposing that he was dead.  But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.”

In Corinth the Jews tried to get Paul arrested.  Acts 18:12-17 (ESV) “But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal,  saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.”  But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint.  But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.”  And he drove them from the tribunal.  And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.”

Paul spoke to the Ephesian Elders as he was making his way to Jerusalem explaining to them that he knew he would face even more suffering and he told them of the plots of the Jews to kill him and their plan to kill him while at sea which caused him to travel back through Macedonia.  He told the Elders: Acts 20:22-23 (ESV) “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,  except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.”

When we read Acts 23:11-35 it is no surprise to encounter another plot against Paul’s life.  After all, suffering was part of what Jesus had promised Paul when He called him to follow Him.  Ananias was sent by Jesus to Paul to lay hands on him that he might regain his sight after his encounter with the living Christ on the road to Damascus.  Paul was blinded by the bright light and Ananias was told by Jesus. Acts 9:15-16 (ESV) “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

All of this sets the appearance of the Lord Jesus to encourage Paul in Acts 23:11 that we finished with last week in a more intense light.  Jesus was with Paul in all that he suffered and He is with you and me today in whatever we may be going through. 

So let’s consider what we can learn from this passage…

1.  GOD’S PLAN: Acts 23:11

2.  MAN’S PLOTTING: Acts 23:12-15

3.  GOD’S PROVIDENCE: Acts 23:16-35

1.  GOD’S PLAN: Acts 23:11

“The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

The Life Application Bible Commentary says:  Look at the richness of the encouragement of the Lord here. Christ told Paul to Be encouraged and then gave him the substance of why he should be.  First, he gave Paul a word of praise for his faithfulness to the ministry—just as you have told the people about me here. Second, he gave Paul a word of promise—you must preach the Good News in Rome. God, in essence, promised Paul safe passage to another field of ministry.

I think there is a third part that goes with the praise and the promise.   Praise – Paul you’ve done a good job witnessing in Jerusalem.  Promise, Paul you will be my witness in Rome.   I would add Protection Paul, I am going to see that you get there.  And the praise, promise and protection set before us God’s Providence.    

I have no doubt that Paul slept well that night.  How have you been sleeping?  You and I need to trust that God is in control, that He is working out all things according to His eternal plan.  He is sovereign and in His providence we can trust that Jesus is standing by us.  So, Take Courage! 

God is in control and as we will see God is at work.  Look at those whom God uses to sovereignly deliver Paul. 

Paul’s nephew.  The only mention of his family in Scripture, but God had him in the right place at the right time. Who knew he had a sister whose son was in Jerusalem?  God did! 

Claudius Lysias the Roman Tribune, whom we have already met used of God to deliver Paul twice already.  You’ll remember he is the chiliarch, the ruler of 1000.  Who knew he would take such good care of Paul?  God did! 

The Roman soldiers, note how many soldiers God deploys and how Paul’s travel plans take shape.  Who could mobilize half of the armed forces in Jerusalem to take Paul to Caesarea?  God could!   And finally Felix, the Governor.  Who could give Paul a hearing in front of the most corrupt official

in the land and his wife?  God could! 

Paul is in the hands of God and so are you and I.  So let’s look at the plot and then see God’s providence. 

2.  MAN’S PLOTTING: Acts 23:12-15

The morning immediately following Christ’s reassuring words to Paul a group of Jews gathered with the express purpose of plotting to murder the apostle.  These may have been the Jews from Asia who had been following Paul, but we are not told.  The chief priests and elders bereft of any morality or decency join with them in their plotting.  The Jewish leaders were openly criminal as they had been throughout the trial of Christ.  But God’s plan is not derailed by man’s plotting. 

John Stott says: “Man’s careful and cunning plans cannot succeed if God opposes them.” 

It was not unusual for the Council to ask for more information about Paul so they were sure their plan would succeed.  They bound themselves with a solemn oath, vowing to go without food or drink until Paul was dead. 

What they did not know was that God had already granted Paul safe passage to Rome.  They would have to go without food for a long time as it would be about 10 years before Paul’s death in Rome.  If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the stomachs growling of the forty men bound by an oath to kill Paul. 

As has been said: “Man proposes, but God disposes.”   God declared through the prophet Isaiah:  Isaiah 43:13 (ESV) “Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work,

and who can turn it back?” 

The forty fasting men and scheming religious leaders had forgotten that Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ and that the exalted Lord was watching from heaven. To these leaders, politics and position had become more important than God. They were ready to plan another murder, just as they had done with Jesus. This also revealed the flimsiness of their case against Paul. They knew they had no case, but they so desperately wanted to get rid of him that they were willing to stoop to any means to do so. As always, however, God, not the Council, was in control.

3.  GOD’S PROVIDENCE: Acts 23:16-35

We know nothing of Paul’s sister and nephew except what is recorded here.  We don’t know how it came about, but Paul’s nephew learned of the plot, knew it was wrong and in the providence of God was able to come to Paul with the news.  He knew and relayed all of the pertinent details to Paul and then to the commander. 

Paul immediately sent his nephew to talk to the commander.  It is assumed that Paul’s nephew is quite young as Claudius takes him by the hand and speaks to him privately.  It is here we see the courage and the integrity of Claudius Lysias.  He could have plotted with the Jews, but he was used of God to deliver Paul.  He knew he had to get Paul out of Jerusalem as soon as possible.  So he mobilized almost half his force.  As a chiliarch he was in charge of 1000 soldiers.  Here he sends Paul with a force of 470.  200 soldiers, 70 horsemen and two hundred spearmen.  Paul was now receiving a Roman citizen’s proper treatment.  And he got to ride in style as they were commanded

to provide mounts for Paul.  Why the plural “mounts”?  Paul’s companions also got to ride along.  We don’t know how Luke became aware of the instructions included in the letter but it may have

been presented as  a part of Paul’s trial later on.  One thing to note is that Lysias certainly tried to make himself look good.  It was not quite the whole truth.  He implies that he rescued Paul because

he learned that he was a Roman citizen which we know he did not learn until he was about to unjustly try to beat the truth out of him. 

Leaving at 9 o’clock that night, Paul and his escort went from Jerusalem to Antipatris abut 60 km away. Antipatris was a Roman military post often used as a rest stop for travelers between Jerusalem and Caesarea. It had been built by Herod the Great and named in honor of his father, Antipater.

It would certainly have been a quick march probably lasting most of the night.  The soldiers then returned to Jerusalem and Paul and his companions, carried on the further 40 km to Caesarea. 

Arriving there they delivered Paul and the letter to the Governor, Felix. 

The Bible Exposition Commentary says:  Antonius Felix was governor (procurator) of Judea. He was married to Drusilla, a Jewess who was daughter of Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:1) and who left her husband to become Felix’s third wife. She was sister of Herod Agrippa II (Acts 25:13ff). The Roman historian Tacitus said that Felix “exercised the power of a king in the spirit of a slave.” Felix was called “a vulgar ruffian” and lived up to the name.

Not only did Paul travel in style on horseback with an escort fit for a king he was now put, not in the prison, but in the palace, Herod’s praetorium.  We might wonder why Felix asked where Paul was from.  It was primarily a matter of jurisdiction.  Paul had asked for a Roman trial and with Paul being from Cilicia, Felix could determine that Paul was from an area under the rule of Felix’s superior.  To pass Paul on to him would not sit well.   Tarsus in eastern Cilicia where Paul was from was part of a combined province of Syria-Cilicia, the ruler of that area was also in charge of Judea so Felix answered to him.  Trying to pawn Paul’s case onto his superior would not go well nor would requiring the Jewish officials to travel further to make their accusations against Paul. 

So Felix determines that he will hear the case when Paul’s accusers arrive.  Until then, Paul gets to live in the palace, the governor’s residence.   In the providence of God Paul’s travel was being arranged in miraculous ways. 

Augustine said: “Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to His love and the future to His providence.”  Though at times the road of God’s Providence may be rough, we walk it with Him!  In God’s providence.  Paul was assured of God’s presence.  Jesus stood by him. 

Paul was provided God’s protection.  His nephew, Claudius Lysias, the soldiers, Felix. 

God was working out His plan.  Psalm 34:7 (ESV) “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.”

Kenneth Gangel comments, “Sometimes God delivers his children by the simple word of a young relative. Sometimes he has to call in the cavalry. At all times, he is ultimately in charge”

God’s providential protection of His servant demonstrates His faithfulness.  Based on his own experiences, Paul could declare to the Corinthians that “God is faithful.”  The first step occurred the day after God promised to bring Paul to Rome.  He also showed His creative care for Paul by

sovereignly providing a safe and comfortable trip to Caesarea.  And now Paul would enjoy the Herod Hilton for his stay in the seaside city. 

You can almost imagine the description going like this: Paul you have won a trip to Rome.  You and your companions will enjoy all travel expenses paid by the Roman judicial system.  You will bounce your way via Roman steed as far a Caesarea where you will stay for a time in the Herod Hilton, following that your travel plans will include an island stay and then some time later special accommodation has been prepared in Rome for you and your friends. 

God is the Deliverer.  He can deliver us through peril, or He can deliver us from peril.  Like Paul, during the course of our lives, we can probably expect both.  We can’t put God in a box.  We can’t assume that in a certain situation He will act a certain way.  He is far to creative for that.  He does not deliver by the same methods over and over again.  He keeps things interesting!  Deliverance through natural means is no less the work of God than deliverance through supernatural means.  He can shake the foundations of the prison, or He can employ the Roman cavalry to escort His servant out of town. 

It is one of the mysteries of providence that many times we cannot see why things are happening as they are. Yet God is surely at work in ways that we could not have planned for ourselves.

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November 15, 2020 – FCBC Sermon

Acts 22:30 – 23:11                  “STANDING BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN”

Paul’s Second Defence!

Paul now stands on trial before the Sanhedrin, the governing body of the Jewish people, in charge of the Temple and it’s treasuries.  Their way of life was threatened by the followers of the Way as it had been threatened by the Lord Jesus Himself and it doesn’t take long to see their opposition in action as Paul perceiving their own division sets before them the hope of the resurrection. 

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ forms the dividing line for every person in the world.  The message of the Gospel is the Resurrection of Jesus.  What you believe about Jesus determines your destiny for eternity.  As we proclaim every Easter and declare every Sunday as we gather to worship.  Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (ESV) “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”  

In his imaginative work “The Great Divorce”, C. S. Lewis. draws a picture of the reality of the resurrection. When the main protagonist enters into the heavenly realms, he is confronted with a new world. He and all the other people who had died and arrived with him were like phantoms or ghosts, but the inhabitants of the new world were “solid people.” Flowers were like diamonds. Leaves were too heavy to pick up. Grass penetrated his feet. This new reality was heaven, and they were experiencing the reality of the resurrection and life after death, a life of profound physicality even as it is suffused with spiritual life.

The best modern work on the Resurrection is “Surprised By Hope” by  N. T.  Wright. In it, Wright seeks to answer two questions: 1. What happens when we die? and 2. What does the answer to that have to do with how we live now? It is one of the most beautiful and inspiring books you can read about the resurrection. 

It draws out the reality that the resurrection is not just hope for the future, it is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ that enables us to live in the present knowing the power and the presence of the living Christ because we know that Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  So as we look at Paul’s second defence before the Sanhedrin we’ll consider three important questions that I believe are all answered by living in the sure hope of the resurrection. 

1.  HOW DO YOU LIVE IN GOOD CONSCIENCE AND NOT SPEAK EVIL OF RULERS?

Maintain a good conscience before God.  Acts 22:30-23:5

2.  HOW DO YOU BRING THE GOSPEL INTO FOCUS FOR THOSE WHO OPPOSE IT?

Talk about the hope that you have in Jesus Christ who is Risen.  Acts 23:6-10

3.  HOW CAN YOU GO ON IN THE FACE OF INSURMOUNTABLE ODDS?

When you take your stand for Jesus, Jesus will stand by you!  Acts 23:11

1.  HOW DO YOU LIVE IN GOOD CONSCIENCE AND NOT SPEAK EVIL OF RULERS?

Maintain a good conscience before God.  Acts 22:30-23:5

The Roman Tribune who has arrested Paul is still trying to understand why there has been such an outpouring of wrath against him and since allowing Paul to speak didn’t clarify anything and since he could not beat the truth out of him because Paul was a Roman citizen, he determines to bring Paul before the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin to try to find out why he was being accused by the Jews. 

It would be safe to assume that this was not a regular session of the council but one called together by the Tribune to enable him to decide what to do with Paul.  If it was simply a religious matter he could then determine how to proceed. Paul knew that he was on trial for his life so he opened his defence with an appeal to God and to a good conscience.  He had been following the will and purpose of God in all that he had done. 

He looked straight into their eyes and said:  Acts 23:1 (ESV) “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”  He turned his plea of not guilty into a personal testimony for the Lord.  Paul consistently used his times of persecution as opportunities to witness.  Paul fixed his eyes on them and addressed them as brothers.   

Paul lived out his convictions and his conscience was clear before God. Welwyn’s Commentary says:  Conscience is the mind functioning in the context of a known standard. Scripture speaks of conscience as a faculty of the human mind—the mind of human beings made in the image of God. It is part of what it means to be human (2 Corinthians 4:2). Paul speaks of the ‘consciences’ of ‘Gentiles, who do not have the law’, nevertheless ‘bearing witness’ to the reality that ‘the requirements of the law’ were ‘written on their hearts’, so that they did ‘by nature the things required by the law’. The conscience, he says, operates through our thoughts, ‘now accusing, now even defending’ our actions in terms of that moral standard (Romans 2:14-15).

The common proverb, ‘Let your conscience be your guide,’ is fundamentally misleading. It is God who must be our guide, through a sanctified conscience because our conscience can be seared.  The conscience can cease to function as it should and any behaviour can be justified.  The seared conscience is evident in those who have no sense of right and wrong like so many we see today, even leaders of countries. 

Almost as soon as he had begun to speak Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth.  Ananias became high priest in A. D. 48,  and he reigned through to A. D. 58 or 59.  Josephus, a respected first-century historian, described Ananias as profane, greedy, and hot-tempered. He was hated by many of his Jewish contemporaries because of his pro-Roman policies.  Eventually he was killed by his own people for siding with the Romans.  So although in this instance he judged Paul worthy of a slap he was soon to be judged by God as was the entire Sanhedrin and the Jewish religious system itself with the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. 

Paul speaks very harshly to him in prophetic words.  Acts 23:3 (ESV) “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”

The question many ask is “Why did Paul react this way?”  “Are we not to turn the other cheek?” While that is true we are also to speak the truth.  In Matthew 10:19-20, and Mark 13:11, Jesus told His followers that they would be brought before kings and governors for the sake of His name, but that He would give them the words to speak. 

Matthew 10:19-20 (ESV) “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.  For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” 

Mark 13:11 (ESV) “And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.”

Some commentators speculate that Paul lost his temper here.  That he was in the wrong and he later apologized for his error. But I don’t believe that to be true. 

To me the real question is: Did the Holy Spirit inspire the words of Paul in this instance.  I believe He did.  His words echoed those of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 23:27 (ESV) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” This amounted to calling Ananias a hypocrite. “Whitewashed wall” may refer to the practice of whitewashing gravestones. This created a clean and positive appearance for what contained death and corruption.

Some make much of Paul’s apology saying Paul was entirely wrong in what he said and he sinned when he spoke, suggesting that when Paul says: “I did not know he was the high priest” he was admitting he was in the wrong.  The speculation runs rampant on this count.  Paul’s poor eyesight meant that he didn’t recognize the high priest.  Since this was a hearing and not a regular meeting of the Sanhedrin the high priest was not clothed in his formal robes.  Paul had been away from Jerusalem for so long he didn’t know who the high priest was. Speculative excuses aside, I think Paul was speaking prophetic words of judgement and was saying that there was no way of recognizing this man as the high priest because of the way he acted.  Ananias’ behaviour makes him unrecognizable as a ruler of the people and unworthy to hold that office. 

So what of the Scripture quotation?  “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.”  Paul respected the office of the ruler but he did not respect the man.  I believe he spoke words of prophetic criticism and condemnation.  I believe Paul was pointing out that the high priest was unrecognizable in his actions ordering that Paul be struck.  His conscience was still clear before God. 

He answers the question:  HOW DO YOU LIVE IN GOOD CONSCIENCE AND NOT SPEAK EVIL OF RULERS? Maintain a good conscience before God. 

2.  HOW DO YOU BRING THE GOSPEL INTO FOCUS FOR THOSE WHO OPPOSE IT?

Talk about the hope that you have in Jesus Christ who is Risen.  Acts 23:6-10

At this point Paul masterfully redirects the proceedings bringing the real issue to light.  Paul recognizes the makeup of his audience. Half are Sadducees, the other half Pharisees (Acts 23:6). These two groups had sharp disagreements about the Jewish religion.

The Pharisees taught a more conservative understanding of the law and held all the books of the Hebrew Scriptures as authoritative. Furthermore, they believed in a resurrection from the dead.

The Sadducees,  held only Genesis to Deuteronomy as authoritative and denied a bodily resurrection. Paul exploits this disparity and declares that he stands trial because he holds to the hope of the resurrection of the dead. His words function like tinder and gasoline on an already smoldering fire. The assembly erupts as the two competing worldviews clash (verses 7-8). The disagreement culminates when the Pharisee party declares Paul’s innocence of all charges (verse 9). The scene ends with the tribune intervening by having Paul taken and removed from the situation (verse 10) by the soldiers standing by.

In turning the discussion to the resurrection Paul focussed all attention on the hope that we have in Christ.  And it is interesting that the Pharisees bring it all to a boiling point saying: “What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?”  Jesus spoke to him and was about to speak to him again! 

Sadly the Sadducees would have argued strongly that such communication was not possible because they didn’t believe in the existence of spirits and angels.

I believe that some of them were getting the message clearly that Paul believed in the resurrection because he had met on the road to Damascus the risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  He was telling the Pharisees, “I know you believe in the resurrection, I have a Resurrection you must investigate!”

We must take the opportunities that God brings to us to tell people about our Saviour. 

Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  Paul answers the question:  HOW DO YOU BRING THE GOSPEL INTO FOCUS FOR THOSE WHO OPPOSE IT? Talk about the hope that you have in Jesus Christ who is Risen.

The disputing became so fierce that the tribune again feared that Paul would be torn to pieces so he and his soldiers brought him back into the barracks. 

3.  HOW CAN YOU GO ON IN THE FACE OF INSURMOUNTABLE ODDS?

When you take your stand for Jesus, Jesus will stand by you!  Acts 23:11

Paul has just been through two terribly trying days and Jesus comes and speaks words of comfort and encouragement to him.  Jesus stood near to Paul and said:  Acts 23:11 (ESV) “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

Charles Spurgeon commented on this passage: One is reminded of the Quaker who came to see John Bunyan in prison and said to him, “Friend, the Lord sent me to you and I have been seeking you in half the prisons in England.” “No, verily,” said John, “that cannot be! For if the Lord had sent you to me, you would have come here at once, for He knows I have been here for years!”

Look carefully at what Jesus is saying?  Paul you have given a good testimony to the facts about me in Jerusalem and you will do the same in Rome.  No questioning of Paul’s words of condemnation of Ananias.  Paul had given a good witness.  He is encouraged by Jesus that he is on the right track.  What God through His Spirit had laid on his heart is unfolding.  Acts 19:21 (ESV) “Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” Paul was facing exactly what had been revealed to him as he had expressed to the Ephesian elders:  Acts 20:22-23 (ESV) “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.”  

His friends had tried to persuade him not to go.  The prophet Agabus had predicted he would become a prisoner.  And now Jesus affirms his actions.  “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

Take Courage is a present active imperative in the original.  The three times that Jesus uses this term in the Gospels it is translated “Take heart.” 

The Life Application Bible Commentary says:  Look at the richness of the encouragement of the Lord here. Christ told Paul to Be encouraged and then gave him the substance of why he should be.  First, he gave Paul a word of praise for his faithfulness to the ministry—just as you have told the people about me here. Second, he gave Paul a word of promise—you must preach the Good News in Rome. God, in essence, promised Paul safe passage to another field of ministry.

We might imagine that after this visit, another in a long line of God’s encouragement appearances to Paul, the apostle rolled over and drifted off to the kind of restful sleep that only a child safe within his Father’s strong arms can experience (Psalm 127:2).

“God does not guarantee an easy voyage, but He has promised a safe harbour.” The lessons are clear.  God is with us.  God is for us.  God is not finished with us yet.  And God is still at work.  The Lord is always near His witnessing people!  So Take Courage. 

Maintain a good conscience before God.  Talk about the hope that you have in Jesus Christ who is Risen. Know that, When you take your stand for Jesus, Jesus will stand by you!

As Paul said in Romans 8:31 (ESV) “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Deitrich Bonhoeffer wrote this while awaiting execution under the Nazis: 

O God, early in the morning I cry to You.  Help me to pray

And to concentrate my thoughts on You: I cannot do this alone. 

In me there is darkness,  But with You there is light;

I am lonely, but You do not leave me; 

I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;

I am restless, but with You there is peace. 

In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience;

I do not understand Your ways,  But you know the way for me…

Restore me to liberty,  And enable me so to live now

That I may answer before You and before me.

Lord, whatever this day may bring Your name be praised.

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November 1, 2020 – FCBC Sermon

Acts 22:1-29        “A CAPTIVE’S AUDIENCE! – PAUL’S FIRST DEFENCE”

We come to a major turning point in the life of the Apostle Paul.  Since his conversion on the Road to Damascus in Acts chapter 9, he has shared the Gospel as a free man, except for his brief imprisonment that we know of in Philippi.  However, from this point forward to the end of the Book of Acts, though Paul is a prisoner he continues to witness to the power of the Gospel and to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ. 

His assault and arrest lead him to be an “ambassador in chains” for Jesus Christ as he called himself in Ephesians 6:20.  As a free man he had preached the gospel throughout the Roman Empire and now as a prisoner he would be enabled to preach the gospel to Roman officials, Kings and probably even the Emperor himself.  Like John Bunyan, who wrote “The Pilgrim’s Progress” while imprisoned in Bedford jail, Paul wrote four New Testament books (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon) during his imprisonment at Rome. 

As we learned last week, even his chains enable him to keep on telling others about Jesus. Luke describes six defenses Paul makes of the Gospel message while in his chains. His words in his defense are testimonies to his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  

The first that we’ll consider today, is before a Jewish crowd at the northwest corner of the temple area as he speaks from the steps of the fortress Antonia.  After that the second is before the supreme Jewish Council in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin.  The third and fourth are in Caesarea before Felix and Festus, who succeeded one another as procurators of Judea, and the fifth, also held in Caesarea is before King Herod Agrippa II.  Paul then made his way to Rome where at the end of the Book of Acts, he shares his final testimony, his sixth defence before the Jewish leaders in Rome. 

These speeches in his defence, together with the circumstances of his arrest that we looked at last week, take up six chapters in our Bibles or nearly 200 verses. 

His masterful defences ably answered the false charges levelled against him–a fact that even the Roman authorities who held him as a prisoner had to acknowledge in Acts 26:30-32.  This passage describes his first defence as it unfolds before us.  After the attack of the mob and the dramatic rescue by the Roman soldiers, Paul is being taken to the barracks so that the commander can find out why the unruly mob had dragged this man out of the temple intent on killing him.  Paul, restrained in two chains is being dragged up the steps carried by the Roman soldiers.  The crowd is shouting one thing and another and crying out “Away with him” and though the commander has asked Paul who he is and what he has done, he cannot hear his answer because of all the noise. 

Reaching the top of the stairs Paul “asked the commander, “May I say something to you?” (Acts 21:37 ESV) Shocked by the language Paul spoke (as he expected him to be an Egyptian), Claudius Lysias (the commander who is identified by Luke in Acts 23:26) asks him incredulously, “Do you speak Greek?”  Greek was the language of the cultured, educated men, not common criminals and certainly not that of the terrorist he assumed Paul to be.  Paul identifies himself and asks for the opportunity to speak to the crowd. 

Hoping to calm the situation and find out what caused it, Lysias consents.  Acts 21:40 (ESV) “And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:”

The crowd is hushed as Paul speaks to them in their own Hebrew dialect, Aramaic the common language among the Jewish people.  He tells them how Christianity’s most violent persecutor became the Gospel’s greatest missionary.  His focus as in the other four New Testament accounts of his testimony is on God’s power and sovereign grace. 

We’ll look at what Paul says, the reaction of the crowd and the response of Claudias Lysias this morning.

1.  PERSECUTOR: Acts 21:1-5 I am a Jew just like you. 

2.  PREACHER: Acts 21:6-21 Jesus met me and He changed my life.

3.  PRISONER: Acts 21:22-29 The crowd reacts, the Tribune responds, Paul appeals to Rome.

1.  PERSECUTOR: Acts 21:1-5 I am a Jew just like you. 

We can barely imagine the scene: Paul probably at least 60 years old at this point, has just been rescued from the mob who were stirred up by the Jews from Asia believing that Paul was acting against everything in which they believed.  They had seized him, dragged him out of the temple area and were seeking to kill him.  Paul had just been severely beaten and now he begins to speak to the crowd in their own language.  Though Roman guards surround him, his mind is set on the Jewish people.  Paul continually evaluates how he can turn a conversation or opportunity to speak toward a presentation of the Gospel.  We should do the same. 

He addresses them in exactly the same way that Stephen did in Acts 7 beginning: “Brothers and fathers, hear.”  And he makes his defence, which translates the word apologia from which we get out English words apology, or apologetics (the defence of the gospel).  Paul was not apologizing, he was making a defence of his conduct, his life.  As he spoke in their language they became even more quiet.  He immediately refutes the charge that he is against the people telling them: “I am a Jew just like you.”  He then sets out his impeccable Jewish credentials.  Born among the Hellenistic Jews of the Diaspora in Tarsus of Cilicia he had been brought up in Jerusalem where he was educated under Gamaliel – the most revered Rabbi of that time and one of the greatest of all time.  Paul said he was strictly trained in “the law of our fathers.”  He had been indoctrinated in Old Testament law and the rabbinic traditions, becoming a Pharisee who could claim to be blameless under the law.  A claim he stated clearly in Philippians 3:5-6 (ESV) “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;  as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” The charge that he opposed the law was tacitly false, completely unfounded and utterly ridiculous.  His personal conviction about the law was as stated in Romans 7:12 (ESV) “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”

Paul declared to the crowd that he was as “zealous for God as all of you are this day.”  (Acts 22:3)

Paul credited the attack on him as a part of their zeal for God but his zeal had far surpassed theirs

because he persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison. (Acts 22:4) He had been the Christians most feared persecutor overseeing the death of Stephen and then pursuing the believers who fled to other cities.  The high priest and council of the elders empowered him in what he did giving him permission to drag back to Jerusalem for punishment those who had become followers of this Way.  Paul’s conduct before he met Christ refuted the false allegations against him. 

The God’s Word for you commentary says:  If Paul had stopped his speech at this point, the crowd would have applauded. Paul, however, no longer rooted his life in his ethnic identity, education, or work. Something powerful and transformative had gripped Paul as he traveled on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians (verse 5)…. Paul, by sharing about his life before meeting Christ, allowed his story to demonstrate the transformative grace of the gospel.

That is where our stories of salvation need to begin.   Sharing what we were before Christ allows our lives to demonstrate the transformative grace and glory of the Gospel. 

2.  PREACHER: Acts 21:6-21 Jesus met me and He changed my life.

Paul went on to defend his actions explaining that the God of Israel had sovereignly, powerfully intervened in his life and turned him from being the Christians foremost persecutor to being its primary preacher. 

The account of Paul’s dramatic conversion occurs three times in the book of Acts.  Paul adds to the detail concerning the light that shone into his heart and life. He tells us: “About noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me.”  The added detail is that this occurred about noon. 

Noon, when the sun is at its brightest was when the Son of God made Himself known to Saul.  The blazing glory of the glorified, exalted Christ far outshone even the brilliant midday Mid-Eastern sun.  Those who were with him saw the light but did not hear the voice speaking to him.  He further describes the fact that as a result of being blinded by the light he could not see.

Speechless with terror, Paul fell to the ground and heard a voice saying: Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”  Lying face down to the ground, stunned and blinded Paul could only cry out: “Who are you, Lord?”  Jesus replied: “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” 

What a shock!  The One whom he had despised and rejected.  The One he thought was just another false Messiah was the Lord of glory.  Jesus the Nazarene had spoken directly to him from heaven.  He faced life’s most important question.  Who is Jesus? 

Those with him could corroborate his testimony, they saw the light, they heard the sound, but they did not understand the words.  Overwhelmed by the glorious confrontation with the Lord Jesus Christ the proud Pharisee could only humbly ask, life’s second most important question: “What shall I do, Lord?” 

Have you answered life’s most important questions:  Who is Jesus?  And what are you going to do about Him?  Christ told Paul to “Rise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.”  (Acts 22:10 ESV) So as a blinded man, Paul was led to Damascus by his companions and there Ananias came to meet him.  He too was a keeper of the Law an important detail to Paul’s accusers.  Ananias said: “Brother Saul, receive your sight!”  At that moment Paul was healed and could see him, he then went on: Acts 22:14-16 (ESV) ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth;  for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.  And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Paul declares before the mob what Ananias declared to him years previously: Jesus is God.  God’s sovereignty in salvation is in evidence here.  God has chosen you!  Paul was chosen by God and appointed to be a witness to all men of what he had seen and heard.  God had chosen Paul, but Paul needed to make a response.  The sovereignty of God, the responsibility of man.  Some try to support baptismal regeneration (the false teaching that baptism is required for salvation) from verse 16.  Although baptism is an act of obedience required of all Christians, it does not save.  In the construction of the sentence in the original language, the phrase “wash your sins away,” must be connected with “calling on His name.”  Connecting that phrase with “be baptized” leaves the participle “epikalesamenos” (calling) without an antecedent.  Paul’s sins were washed away not by baptism but by calling on the name of the Lord.  Paul called on the Lord’s name which is the act that saves.  Baptism and the washing away of sins follow. 

Paul in his defence had taken the best offence, turning the tables on those who opposed him.  He had acted only in submission to God; therefore accusing him was to make an accusation against God.  He continues his testimony to reinforce that point! 

Paul’s transformation from persecutor to preacher met with persecution and so the Lord told him to get out of Jerusalem.  Paul must have been somewhat hard to persuade since the Risen Christ had to appear to him to tell him to get out of town.  Even then Paul protested.  Paul must have been somewhat hard to persuade since the Risen Christ had to appear to him to tell him to get out of town.  Acts 22:19-20 (ESV) “And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you.  And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ Paul thought that the radical transformation of his life would persuade them to see the light and believe but Jesus knew their sin-hardened hearts so He said to Paul: “Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.” (Acts 22:21 ESV)

Paul was commissioned by Christ as the apostle to the Gentiles

3.  PRISONER: Acts 21:22-29 The crowd reacts, the Tribune responds, Paul appeals to Rome.

When they heard that God had sent Paul to the Gentiles they reacted furiously saying: “Away with such a fellow from the earth!  For he should not be allowed to live!”  (Acts 22:22 ESV) Racial prejudice pushed their outraged passions beyond the bounds of reason.

In his last sentence, Paul, in effect, announces that the grace and goodness of God has been extended to the Gentiles. The crowd can listen no longer. They have heard enough. Paul is declaring that even Gentiles are part of God’s family. The Jews cannot stomach this thought because they hate the Gentiles.  Paul did not in any way soften or lessen the message of God’s grace for all peoples to try to win the Jews over.  He spoke the truth of God which offended the people and challenged the culture of the day.  We are called to do the same.  We must not water down the message of the Gospel to make it more palatable.  Luke puts it succinctly. “Up to this word they listened to him.” 

The riot was breaking out all over again and the Tribune was no nearer to understanding its cause so he ordered that Paul be brought into the barracks to be beaten to find out what was really going on.  The Romans had perfected the art of persuasion and extended cruelty to unsurpassed bounds.  Scourging by the Romans was done with a flagellum (a wooden handle to which were attached leather thongs tipped with bits of metal and bone) it would literally tear the flesh from a victims back.  This is what Jesus endured before His crucifixion probably bound in exactly the same place as Paul.  In preparation the guards would stretch the victims back tightly by tying the hands to a post, to maximize the effect of the flogging. 

The beating by flagellum was so cruel as was death by crucifixion, Roman citizens were exempted from both by Roman law.  Paul asked a very timely question of the centurion in charge: “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?”  (Acts 22:25 ESV)  The centurion supervising the beating immediately responded.  “When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.”  (Acts 22:26 ESV) 

Gravely concerned the commander came to Paul.  Lysias stood to lose not only his military commission but possibly even his life for violation of Roman law. Acts 22:27-28 (ESV) “So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.”  The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.”

Claims of Roman citizenship were generally accepted at face value since the penalty for a false claim was death. 

Lysias’s explanation of how he gained his citizenship at great cost underlines its value.  Roman citizenship was officially not for sale.  But corrupt officials could be bribed especially during the reign of the Emperor Claudius which may account for Lysias chosen name of Claudius Lysias. 

Citizenship could also be granted as a reward for service to Rome. Paul did not obtain his citizenship by bribery or by grant, but by birth.  Paul was immediately released from his chains as another breach of Roman law was to put a citizen in chains without a preliminary hearing.  Lysias, thoroughly perplexed decided to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin the next day to try to find out what was going on. 

John Bunyan,  lay in Bedford jail twelve years for preaching without a license in England. Many times Bunyan was offered his liberty if he would quit preaching.  But every time he would say,  “Let me out today and I will preach tomorrow.”

John Bunyan points out in his book, Pilgrim’s Progress, “Mr. Pliable does not go to prison to be martyred for the truth.” 

In his book “THE HOLY WAR,” John Bunyan provides a dramatic closing scene between Emmanuel (Christ) and residents of the town of Mansoul (you and me).  Emmanuel has helped them beat off the Diabolonians (Satan’s army), and now he stands in the town square telling them how to stay free from Satan’s clutches.  Emmanuel says: “I have loved you, Mansoul.  I bought you for a price; a price not of corruptible things, as of silver and gold, but a price of blood, my own blood, which I spilled freely to make you mine, and to reconcile you to my father.  And I stood by you in your backsliding, when you were unfaithful, though you did not know I was there.  It was I who made your way dark and bitter.  It was I who put Mr. Godly-Fear to work.  It was I who stirred up

Conscience and Understanding and Will.  It was I who made you seek me, and in finding me, find your own health and happiness.  Nothing can hurt you but sin; nothing can grieve me but sin; nothing can make you fall before your foes but sin; beware of sin, my Mansoul.  I have taught you to watch, to fight, to pray, and to make war against your foes; so now I command you to believe that my love is constant to you.  O my Mansoul, how I have set my heart, my love upon you!  Show me your love – and hold fast – until I take you to my father’s kingdom where there is no more sorrow, no grief, no pain….where you shall never be afraid again….”

As Emmanuel rides away in his chariot, Conscience, Understanding and Will discuss the future and how they will have to be alert to keep the Diabolonians at bay.  Unless they depend completely on King Shaddai (the Father), Emmanuel (the Son), and the Lord High Secretary (the Holy Spirit) they will fail and fall into enemy hands.  “Is this way better than the freedom you had before?” asks Understanding, referring back to days before Emmanuel had come into their lives. 

“The freedom we had before was like–” Will struggled for words, “like birds flying through broken windows in and out of a deserted house – flying aimlessly, going nowhere.” “Do you love him because you have to?” Understanding’s probing was gentle; their talk was to reiterate their faith, and in their talking, they strengthened each other. 

“I do not have to love him,” said Will.  “I am free.  He has always left me free to do as I please.” “Then?” questions Understanding. It ends this way…I love him because I want to.” Will said simply.  “And I can never love him enough,”

That was what Paul learned on the road to Damascus and it saw him through his journeys in freedom, his suffering for the Gospel and it would see him through as a prisoner of Rome. 

What about you?  Who is Jesus?  What are you going to do about Him?  Will you trust Him or will you turn away?  Believe on Him today!  He loves you.  Open your eyes and see His infinite love! 

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October 25, 2020 – FCBC Sermon  

Acts 21:17-36                      “A FLAWED PLAN OR A GOD PLAN?”

When I was in school every year there were speech contests.  I was thinking about that because one speech I did in Grade Six I got to participate in the city final and that speech was about running a race. It came to mind because in the life of Paul he talks about finishing well in  2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV) “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

That fits what unfolds in these chapters as Paul is arrested, imprisoned and faces five different trials as he makes his way to Rome. 

For my speech in Grade six I shared the story of the breaking of the four minute mile barrier.  When it finally happened a goal was reached that sportsmen and athletes alike had dreamed of for many years.  It is one of my favourite sports stories.   

In 1954 the Englishman Roger Bannister ran the first four minute mile.  Three months later, the great Australian runner John Landy ran 1.4 seconds faster – they met in a race that was greatly anticipated and that would make history at the Empire Games being held in Vancouver, British Colombia.    Bannister was known for his strong finish, and Landy for setting a strong pace. Landy led from the beginning.  As they neared the finish, Landy took a split second glance in the last turn to see where Bannister was, just as Bannister was making his final kick and Landy lost the race in that instant as Bannister sped past him. 

What made that speech particularly memorable to me was that the finals were held shortly after I had my tonsils out and in the middle of the speech I lost my voice.  It did finally come back and I managed to finish.   I didn’t win anything but I did get an honourable mention.  I think they were just trying to be nice. 

I was reminded that in running the race you have to keep your eyes on the goal and that is exactly what the Apostle Paul been doing.  As far back as in Acts 19:21 (ESV) “Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”  And we learned in Acts 20:16 that he wanted to be there before Pentecost Acts 20:16 (ESV) “He was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.”  

Finally after many weeks of travel and in spite of many pleas from his friends to not go to Jerusalem as well as the message from the prophet Agabus that he would be arrested, Paul arrives at his destination.  In light of what we studied last week, it is interesting to note that had Paul not gone to Jerusalem, the prophecy of Agabus would not have been fulfilled. 

Remember Paul’s friends saw the prophecy as a warning of prohibition.  But Paul saw it as a warning of preparation.  He knew what awaited him in Jerusalem as he told the Ephesian Elders.  Acts 20:22-23 (ESV) “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,  except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.”  

As Luke develops the storyline you can see several parallels to the Lord Jesus Christ in His resolve to go to Jerusalem and His perseverance despite divine predictions of suffering.  Like Jesus, Paul would not be deterred. 

His arrival in Jerusalem marks the end of his third missionary journey and through the rest of the Book of Acts, Luke describes the life of Paul the prisoner.  His assault and arrest lead to five trials that Paul had to endure as his life is suddenly changed from travelling as a free man and proclaiming the Gospel, evangelizing most of Asia Minor and Greece to being a prisoner of Rome in chains.  But even his chains enable him to keep on telling others about Jesus. 

Luke describes the five trials Paul had to endure and the opportunities it afforded him to proclaim the message of the gospel.  His words in his defence are testimonies to his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  

As we will see next week the first was before a Jewish crowd at the northwest corner of the temple area.  After that the second was before the supreme Jewish Council in Jerusalem, the third and fourth  were in Caesarea before Felix and Festus, who succeeded one another as procurators of Judea, and the fifth, also held in Caesarea was before King Herod Agrippa II. 

These five trials, including in each case, Paul’s speeches in his defence, together with the circumstances of his arrest that we will look at today, take up six chapters in our Bibles or nearly 200 verses.  Why did Luke go into such detail?  Luke was present throughout these events.  He arrived in Jerusalem with Paul and the next “we” section in Acts 27:1 and following, shows that he sailed with Paul to Rome.  During the two years of Paul’s custody in Caesarea, Luke was a free man, and we can rightly assume that as he remained in the area, he was a help to Paul at every opportunity and this season also afforded him the time and contacts to gather the information he needed to write his two volume work of Luke and Acts under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as he would be able to interview some of the principle players in the drama of the Life of Christ and he knew first hand and through long conversations with Paul the adventures of the Apostle on his three missionary journeys.  Luke was not only an historian recounting the life of Christ in the book of Luke and the history of the church in the Book of Acts, he was also a theologian showing the development of the church and the spread of the Gospel in the known world, fulfilling the key verse of this book: Acts 1:8 (ESV)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

This verse forms a geographical outline of the book of Acts.  Jerusalem, chapters 1–7; Judea and Samaria, chapters 8–12; ends of the earth (i.e. Rome), chapters 13–28. This outline may denote the author’s literary structure and purpose. Christianity is not a sect of Judaism, but a worldwide movement of the one true God fulfilling His Old Testament promises to restore rebellious mankind to fellowship with Himself.  The message of the Gospel continues to challenge believers to go into

all the world.  Literally, we are to be His witnesses to the end (eschatos) of the earth fulfilling the mandate to proclaim the gospel message until time is no more.  So let’s see today how Paul begins his journey toward Rome where he would finish the race. 

1.  PRAISE TO GOD AND P. R. PROBLEMS: Acts 21:17-26

2.  STRATEGIC FAILURE – PAUL IS ATTACKED: Acts 21:27-31a

3.  RESCUED BY THE ROMANS – ARRESTED AND  BOUND, A CAPTIVE’S AUDIENCE:

Acts 21:31b-40

1.  PRAISE TO GOD AND P. R. PROBLEMS: Acts 21:17-26

Paul and his companions were given a warm welcome by the brothers in Jerusalem but overall things were about to heat up considerably.  The next day Paul goes to share with the church at Jerusalem what has happened during his third missionary journey.  No doubt at this point he also entrusted to them the offering received for the church.  Interestingly his meeting is with James the brother of Jesus, author of the book of James and the leader of the church at Jerusalem and all of the elders of the church.  Why not the whole church?  Two reasons:  It was too large to gather in one place and they were dealing with a volatile situation in the church.  We might ask: Where are the apostles?  Some were dead by now and the others were fulfilling the mission to go out with the gospel. 

Paul reported in detail on his work (the Greek has the sense of recounting every single thing) so they probably met for quite some time.  The one golden thread that holds it all together that God Himself had done the work.  It was not what Paul had done, it was what God had done among the Gentiles and those with Paul from the Gentile congregations were living proof. 

The response to the news was very positive as it should be, they glorified God.  “Doxazo” in the Greek means to glorify, to honour.  But sadly, they immediately try to deal with their P. R. Problem.

This is where we need to discern if the plan they come up with is a flawed plan or a God plan. Look at what is missing.  Tellingly, there is no mention of prayer.  There is no mention of the Holy Spirit. There is the good news that many Jews have believed, literally myriads upon myriads, thousands upon thousands had believed.  Some estimate at this time there were 50, to 60,000 believers in Jerusalem.  But what they say next, I believe, is of great concern.  “They are all zealous for the law.” 

They had been released from the bonds of their sin by belief in the Lord Jesus but they were still holding on to their legalism and pride in the Jewish religion. They had listened to the rumours about Paul and now prior to discussing it with Paul the leaders of the Jerusalem church had come up with a solution to the P. R. Problem they wanted to propose.  No mention of praying about it, no mention

of the Holy Spirit, I may be somewhat harsh but personally, I think it was a flawed plan.  They are reacting to rumours about Paul that are false.  He did not preach against the law.  In every instance where is was appropriate he kept the law. 

However, on the other hand, I have to see that this was a God plan because the Holy Spirit had already told Paul he would be delivered to the Gentiles.  So let’s see how it comes about.  They address Paul as brother and tell him to join four others in keeping a vow of purification that would be completed in 7 days.  Note that Paul willingly submitted himself to the leadership of the Jerusalem church. Paul acts with a spirit of accommodation in order to preserve the unity of the church.  He is a loyal Jew.  

In their instructions, the leaders repeat the guidelines for Gentile believers decided by the Jerusalem council. Why did Luke include that and why did the leaders repeat it here?  That decision meant that the Gentiles did not have to become Jews to follow Jesus.  Gentile Christians could continue to live as Gentiles.  And Jewish Christians could continue to live as Jews.  But I believe that here the situation had gotten out of hand, they were holding on to Judaism and mixing it with Christianity and that caused confusion.  The book of Hebrews was written to show the need for the observance of the law was past.  Paul Himself told the Galatians the law was our guardian or schoolmaster to bring us to Christ and there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male or female, all are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:21-29) In point of fact God Himself would soon, bring about the end of Judaism with the destruction of the Temple in A. D. 70.  

2.  STRATEGIC FAILURE – PAUL IS ATTACKED: Acts 21:27-31a

And the plan failed miserably, or did it?  The Holy Spirit had said Paul would be bound and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles and that’s exactly what happened. 

The stratagem of Paul publicly participating in redeeming the Nazirite vows of four men in order to show his faithfulness as a Jew backfires. While preparing for the purification ceremony, Paul is grabbed and beaten by a crowd of angry worshippers on a false charge that he deliberately defiled the temple’s purity.

The Jews from Asia, unbelievers probably from Ephesus since they recognized Trophimus, show up and condemn Paul.  They lie and claim that Paul had brought a Gentile into the temple.  Paul is seized and dragged out of the temple by the mob of people.  They were stirred up, they seized Paul, they dragged him out, they were seeking to kill him.  Paul is in great danger. 

And the gates of the temple are shut meaning that it is no longer serving it’s purpose.  It no longer functions as the place where God’s grace is mediated to all.  Jesus alone has become the place of grace.  Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  

F. F. Bruce concludes, “This was the moment when, in Luke’s eyes, the temple ceased to fill the role allotted to it in his history up to this point. The exclusion of God’s message and his messenger from the house formerly called by his name sealed its doom.”  The temple cannot have any further significance for God or for the Christian church.

For Luke, the focus of divine forgiveness and salvation has shifted from the temple’s altar to the cross of Christ. Nothing can be allowed to stand in the way of anyone who would come to Jesus in faith to receive God’s grace.

3.  RESCUED BY THE ROMANS – ARRESTED AND BOUND, A CAPTIVE’S AUDIENCE: Acts 21:31b-40

In the providential plan of God the news reaches the commander of the Roman troops in Jerusalem.  They were on high alert during the time of the Jewish festival season.  That the Roman soldiers “ran down” implies that they descended the stairs of the palatial fortress Antonia, named by King Herod to honour his friend Marc Anthony. It adjoined the northwest corner of the temple complex and served as a garrison for Roman troops. Josephus reports that soldiers patrolled on the wall above the temple courts and were stationed around the porticoes during festival times, when crowds, easily incited to insurrection, jammed into the temple.

The Roman tribune of the cohort is the “chiliarch” in the Greek, the commander of a thousand.  He responded to the situation immediately with soldiers and centurions.  A centurion was in charge of 100 men.  So the plural centurions means that at least 200 came charging down from the fortress.  The crowd immediately stops beating Paul and they arrest him and bind him with two chains. 

The word translated arrested in verse 33, is the same word used for the crowd that seized Paul in verse 30, “epilambanomai.”  The commander tries to get the story straight but there is so much yelling by the crowd they literally have to carry Paul away to safety in the barracks.  Just as with Jesus, the crowd is crying out, “Away with him.” 

As they arrive at the top of the stairs Paul asks to speak to the people.  Claudias Lysias the Roman Commander assumed Paul was an Egyptian terrorist but he immediately changed his mind when he heard the facts.  The revolutionary to whom Lysias was referring was described by Josephus as ‘an Egyptian false prophet’ who, about three years previously, had brought together 30,000 men (Josephus the Jewish historian was prone to exaggeration, according to the Roman official it was 4,000 men!).  He had led them to the Mount of Olives, and promised them that, when the walls of

Jerusalem fell flat at his command, they would be able to break into the city and overpower the Romans. But the procurator Felix and his troops intervened, and the assassins were killed, captured or scattered.  The Egyptian had disappeared, and the commander at first thought that he had now come to light again.  But he was surprised as Paul began to speak to him in Greek. 

Paul enlightened him about his identity. He spoke proudly of his citizenship of Tarsus, which was ‘the first city of Cilicia, not merely in material wealth but in intellectual distinction, as one of the great university cities of the Roman world’. He then asked permission to be able to address the crowd, which was granted.

So, as we will see next week, Paul makes the first of his defences to the Jewish mob that had just tried to kill him.  You might say they were a captive’s audience.  Paul began his witness to the end of the earth to people he would never have met, had he not become a Roman prisoner.  God’s missionary did get to Rome, and the Romans paid for the passage. 

That is what happens when God’s people trust Him!  Are you trusting Him today?