Living the Gospel Together (Phil. 1:27-2:11)

Publié le 25 avril 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon by Pastor Vincent Bourrel

LIVING THE GOSPEL TOGETHER

A doctor decided to vaccinate an Englishman, a Frenchman, a German and an American.

He said to the Englishman:

– This way to your vaccine please.

– I don’t want it!

– Come on! A gentleman would get vaccinated.

And the Englishman got vaccinated.

The doctor addresses the German:

– Now it’s your turn.

– No, thank you!

– That’s an order!

And the German got vaccinated.

The doctor addresses the American:

– Now it’s your turn.

– No way!

– But you know, your neighbor has been vaccinated.

And the American has been vaccinated.

The doctor addresses the Frenchman:

– Now it’s your turn!

– I will not be vaccinated!

– Come on, a gentleman would get vaccinated.

– No way!

– It is an order!

– No, it’s not!

– You know, your neighbor got vaccinated…

– I don’t give a hoot!

– Listen… who are you exactly?

– A Frenchman.

– Ah, a Frenchman! Anyway, you’re not entitled to the vaccine.

– WHAT DO YOU MEAN, I’M NOT ENTITLED TO IT??!!!

…. and the Frenchman got vaccinated.

It makes us laugh because there is something true that belongs to the culture of each people:  Culture is « what is common to a group of individuals » and « what binds it together », that is to say what is learned, transmitted, produced and invented. 

Culture is forged in the geography of a country, in its history, laws, prominent figures, values, it is expressed in all ways, in art, in language, in one’s way of life, the way you respect the little green man when you cross the street, the time you spend at the table, the consideration you give to the opposite sex… 

Paul explains that the church should embrace the culture of the gospel, a culture and citizenship all its own. And that culture should unite them, be reflected in their relationships, and in the way they live in this world.

As citizens of heaven v.27-30

Conduct worthy of the Gospel 

The city of Philippi was a Roman colony because it had been the scene of important battles won by the empire, and a number of veterans had settled there (Acts 16:12). These colonies saw themselves as little Rome. They pledged unqualified allegiance to Rome and to the emperor. They prided themselves on this privileged status.  

In telling the believers in Philippi to « conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel » Paul uses a particular term that refers to their citizenship in Christ. BDS translates « Live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ, as true citizens of his kingdom. If the citizens of Philippi are devoted to Rome and seek to live like Rome (architecture, dress, lifestyle) believers should be all the more devoted to the better kingdom of Christ. We should be devoted to the Lord of lords, and seek to adopt the lifestyle of the Gospel. 

What is living in a gospel way? Paul mentions 4 traits:

v.27 firmness in Christ: orthodoxy of our theology, and integrity of character. Resist temptation! Don Carson (theologian) There are worse things than dying (I’d rather die than have everything I’ve taught and written in my books contradicted by my behavior). Faithful to the truth of the gospel.

United (in the same spirit) to one another: this is a thought that runs through the whole letter. Among the things that threaten the church in Philippi is a tension between two women who are very involved in the church (4.2). It’s easy to take sides with one or the other… to defend one’s point of view, to assert one’s rights, and when you function like that you tear yourself apart and show that you are no different from the world. But the gospel breaks down the walls that divide us because it offers a culture that transcends all other « sub-cultures ». 

Fighting for the faith of the Gospel: what must mobilize our efforts and our fights is the Gospel. Of course the Christian struggle is not physical or violent, on the contrary it is deeply peaceful and loving. Our weapons are spiritual, they are humility, gentleness, courage, love, self-giving… but we want to see lives transformed by the gospel of JC.

Suffering: if we have to. We do not seek suffering but if it is imposed on us, we accept it because we see it as an association with our master. At the heart of the gospel we find the only just man who suffers for the unjust. You remember how Paul was imprisoned in Philippi for the Gospel and how he and Silas sang the praises of the Lord after being beaten and how the prisoners and prison guards were won to Christ that night. 

It is a real challenge to live in a way worthy of the Gospel, to adopt the culture of the Gospel, a different way of life. People who have left their country know what I am talking about, there is an adaptation, you have to know a little bit of history, values, and to meet French natives to understand a little bit of French culture. Gal de Gaulle, one of the great figures of France said when he was tearing his hair out trying to govern the country. « How do you want to govern a country where there are 258 varieties of cheese? « 

To adopt the culture of the gospel, one must know the history of the gospel and be amazed by the main figure of the gospel.  

Having known the Gospel, v.1-4

v.1 Paul does not doubt for a moment the reality of comfort in Christ, of love, of fellowship, of compassion… He knows that the believers in Philippi have found all this in God. But he uses this wording « If there is… » to provoke the Philippians, to invite them to remember these things so that they may influence their way of life. V.1 can be paraphrased as follows: « Since there is so much encouragement in Christ, since his love has such persuasive power, since his Holy Spirit brings us together in wonderful fellowship, since Christianity shows so much compassion and mercy, let us live together in joyful harmony. »

The church in Philippi knows that all these things are in Christ and they already live in unity and fellowship in the church. But the human weakness to which the believers are still subject makes this unity fragile. v.3 Our hearts are still subject to the party spirit and the desire for glory that cause conflicts and divide.

Rivalries and the desire for glory are symptomatic of a misunderstanding, or a forgetting of the gospel.

In the spirit of a debate, one strives to lower the other to appear better, to speak ill of him. Vain glory is the desire to be well seen, to be well considered by others, and this glory depends on the approval of others. We use the weaknesses of others to make ourselves look good. We put ourselves forward, we assert our rights: 

  • I have the right to spend this money for me, I earned it
  • I have the right to have some consideration, respect, recognition from others (my children, my colleagues, my spouse…)
  • I have the right to feel sorry for myself after all I am suffering
  • I have the right to defend myself, to take justice into my hands…

But this is not really the language of the Gospel.

We are preoccupied with our own interests and we feel threatened by all those who stand in our way, so we put them down, we denigrate them. It’s subtle, for Christians: we seek that approval in our service, our ministry. We cling, we cling to our status. 

But the culture of the Gospel is quite different, it is humble and focused on the good of our brothers and sisters, v.3b-4.

This unity of thought, this desire to consider others as superior to ourselves, stems from the fact that we have everything in Jesus Christ. And what we have in him shapes us to the core of our being. V.1 reminds us of what we have in him, in Christ: 

In Jesus we are forgiven, our faults of yesterday, today and tomorrow are paid for. There is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ. I have nothing to fear, nothing to prove.

In him we are adopted as his children, we have done nothing for it, it is he who has paid to obtain for us this new status and the privileges that are attached to it. The Holy Spirit has made his home in us, he guarantees us the new life to come. 

In him we are loved more than we could ever imagine, we are accepted and welcomed into his presence, not because of any good deeds we may have done, but because of God’s grace toward us. We are united by faith to Jesus Christ who has the full approval of God.

When we remember these truths, when we meditate on them at all times and invite our hearts to believe them, then we realize that this spirit of partiality is totally vain. I cannot be less or more than what I already am in Christ and the fact that others have the same privileges does not take anything away from me. The desire to be seen as good, to have a good reputation, to have people’s approval is senseless since I have obtained everything when I deserved nothing (or the opposite of what I received). It would be like bragging about being the first to get into the lifeboats when the Titanic sank. The only thing we can do is express our gratitude for the grace we have received. 

The gospel allows us to live differently, to live humbly, to live not by comparing ourselves to others, but by seeking the interest of our brothers and sisters.

Having Jesus Christ as a perfect model, v.5-11

To understand and love the culture of the Gospel we must look at and imitate the one who is the Gospel: Jesus Christ. So that the wonder of Christ becomes the motivation for the transformation of our lives, a change of mentality and an irresistible desire to be like him.

Vs. 6-11 are probably taken from a hymn sung in the early church. 2 stanzas his abasement (6-8) and his exaltation (9-11)

v.6 « existing in the form of God ». The Greek expression forcefully underlines that Jesus is God from all eternity before his incarnation he was God and equal to God the Father in every way.

As the rest of v.6 says

« he did not regard his equality (isos) with God as something to be snatched away. As something to « hang on to » but he stripped himself of his equality taking the form of a servant. 

This does not mean, as some have claimed, that Jesus stripped himself, or emptied himself of his divinity, the gospels present his extraordinary miracles, his power over creation, demons, disease and death, so that we recognize that he is God.

Rather, it means that by taking on a human nature Jesus gave up all his heavenly privileges to humble himself and serve us. He did not exchange his divine status for that of a servant, but as God, while remaining God, he took the form of a servant. 

In his nature God is humble.

The Almighty God is the servant God, so it is not difficult for him to serve others. 

It’s amazing that the greatest being there is, the most majestic being there is, who is worthy of all praise, is characterized in his innermost being by this desire to serve, he seeks the interest of others. This is how God is.

v.8 « He humbled himself… » Consider his humbling himself at the time of his incarnation (a bb, in a stable, dependent) and then « He appeared as a mere man » He who created the universe and sustains all things worked as a carpenter in an unglamorous town for most of his life. Isaiah says that he had nothing to attract attention. Then at the time of his arrest, trial and crucifixion. He was mocked, falsely accused, spat upon, punched and whipped. Yet he never defended himself, never became bitter, never accused anyone… He refused to assert his rights as God and even as a man. He did not cling to his privileges but gave them up… to save us. 

v.9-11 the exaltation of Christ

« Therefore » directly related to his abasement. Paul shows that this is how the gospel works. First humiliation, service, obedience and death followed by glorification: resurrection, ascension, coronation to the right hand of the Father where all things are subject to him, and glory.

Because of this God has highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name… 

Look at v.10-11. In the universe « every knee will bow at the name of Jesus and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. The lordship, the majesty of Christ, which was not recognized by all during his stay here on earth, and which is not recognized today, will one day be recognized by all. Of course by those who have already believed in him. But also by all those who refused to believe in him, the living and the dead. They too will recognize the lordship of Christ in eternity even though they will experience eternal punishment.

The example of Jesus must transform our attitude and our hearts.

Pastor Trevor Harris says, « When we begin to grasp the magnitude of what he is doing, the greatness of his humility, the generosity of his sacrifice, we cannot but be humbled before him. And our pride, our selfishness are exposed as folly. Being in the benefit of the sacrifice of so humble a God, how can we indulge in rivalry, jealous competition and selfishness? « 

Conclusion 

The Gospel is good news for those who have not yet believed: we do not need to die for our faults Jesus does it out of love for us. We can only recognize our need for him, place our trust in him and worship him.

The gospel is good news for those who believe. The culture of the gospel, so beautiful, so liberating, finds applications in all areas of our lives, we can be as we are because we are forgiven, loved by him. We can accept to lose, to not be recognized, because it is the one who serves who is like Christ. In our homes, in our relationships as a couple, in the church, we can seek the interests of others.

To quarrel, to divide would be like showing that God has no power over our lives and our unity.