Thoughts on Sunday’s sermon:
Over the course of last week, our discussion around Sunday was how to handle a text like Philippians 2:19-30, which doesn’t seem to afford a ton of explanation (because it’s pretty clear) and it’s mainly about 2 guys: Timothy and Epaphroditus. My thought heading into this text was to look at the overall narrative of Philippians and also to see the work of Jesus, in and through these men. It seemed obvious to me that I needed to preach that text like it’s given: not a lot of explanation and more application. That’s a challenge for me, because, in my opinion, application is a weak spot in my preaching. But I’m thankful that the Lord seemed to work deeply in our church this past Sunday.
I had many folks respond to the sermon by sending me texts, emails or thanking me afterward. This was in response to the application point that we should honor those who serve us in Christ. One thing I noticed about CLF is that you really respond when the stirs you. It’s one of the things that visiting preachers notice about our church. I’ve had many tell me that they can’t believe how eager our folks are to hear God’s word and our people thanked them profoundly. So, CLF, don’t change this…it’s a wonderful thing that the Lord is doing in you!
One application point that I made on Sunday really needs to be clarified. That was the point about Paul’s, Timothy’s and Epaphroditus’ focus on caring for Christians. I want to make sure this point is clear and biblically defined. So, let me do my best in this blog to do that:
- In my opinion, one of the things that gets ignored in church, is the emphasis in the New Testament on Christians caring for other Christians. Often, we put it in the framework of, Christians need to be caring for non-Christians (true) and making sure the gospel gets to our non-Christian friends, neighbors, and co-workers (true). But, we miss the distinct focus that the NT places on preferring other Christians in our hearts and in our lives.
- Just a simple survey of the NT shows this:
- “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Rom. 12:10)
- “Live in harmony with one another.” (Rom. 12:16)
- “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” (Rom. 14:13)
- “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Cor. 13:11)
- “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal. 3:13)
- “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Gal. 5:15)
- “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” (Eph. 4:2)
- “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32
- Now, the list of references could go on for quite some time, but the reason this is important is that “one another” does not mean everyone…it means brothers/sisters in Christ. To claim this means anything other than that, is adding to the text.
- Now, a very compelling emphasis is found in Galatians 6. Paul wrote this, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Notice the word, “especially”…there is to be preference in doing good to our Christian friends. This is not implied, this is explicit.
- Further, as I mentioned Sunday, the NT letters were written to “the saints”, “the elect”, “members of God’s household.”
One reason I bring this to our attention is because much of our cultural push-back with regards to “church” has to do with what and who we prefer. Let me give you a couple of examples:
- “All Christians do is hurt each other.” The biblical reply to this is “that’s why Jesus commanded us to forgive each other.”
- “Non-Christians are actually nicer than Christians.” And I must admit, sometimes this is true. However, the non-Christian ethic and spirit of the world, is not inclined to the pursuit of unity and peace between us, when we wrong each other. But the gospel all about that. Further, this is why Paul emphatically told us in Romans 15:14, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” When we are treated poorly by other Christians, this is an opportunity to instruct them in a better way.
Another reason I bring this is up is because of the “philosophy” of church. Why do we gather on Sundays? What role does the church have in this world? What are we to do together, as a church? Those are huge questions. And here’s my best attempt to answer this:
- The church gathers to glorify God, care for and equip the saints. The priority of focus on the church, should be on God and then His blood-bought people.
- The church’s mission is the Great Commission, where every member, celebrates the work of Jesus, marvels at the work of Jesus, tells the good news about Jesus to others, and lives the gospel in-front of a lost and dying world. The ministry of the NT is “go and tell” not “come and see”.
- And together as a church, we are to be in Christian ministry (in every sphere of life), to glorify God, bless our world, and advance the gospel. We are to represent our King everywhere we go.
- This means, where there’s conflict between us, we work to solve it. When there’s sin between us, we forgive and seek forgiveness. You see the point.
Now, the final reason, I bring this up is because of Jesus’ compelling words in 2 places:
- “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
- “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:23)
- Both of these verses are shocking. Our loving one another, will show people that we’re Jesus’ disciples. And, linking arms in unity, will show the world that Jesus was sent by the Father. Could there be a higher reason to prefer Christians?? I think not.
Finally, some will say, well how do we get the gospel out? The biblical response is: you declare the gospel and you demonstrate to the gospel. This is not an “either/or” issue. This is a “both/and” issue. When we prefer Christians, love Christians, care for Christians, we are declaring to world the importance of Jesus’ death for His people. And, we invite our non-Christian friends into our world for the purpose of sharing Jesus with them.
Much more could be said on this, but I’ll stop for now. Obviously, if you have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to share them.
Quotes I left out:
- “But according to Paul’s call to the Christian community to live in a manner worthy of the gospel (1:27), the work of the gospel provides not only the foundation for the community but also the continuing direction for community life. “We are obedient to the Gospel and meet its demands when we are active in the ministry of love. This active love is the obedience of the confession of the Gospel.” Hansen, G. W.
- “Caring for the needs of friends should not lead to anxiety; freedom from anxiety should not lead to a lack of concern for friends.” Hansen, G. W.
- “None of this is automatically true of Christians. We do not always love one another; nor are we always ready to acknowledge one another as fellow workers and fellow soldiers. We sometimes look on each other with suspicion; we hold aloof, fearful of guilt by association with those purchased by the same precious blood; we refuse to pray with those who call upon the same precious name. There are Christians who begrudge the gifts God has given to others and are afraid that praise deserved by a fellow Christian might threaten their own prestige. All too often self-concern dulls our hearts to the needs of the church. Our eagerness (verse 28) is directed to self-advancement, and our anxiety diminishes only as our personal security increases. The apostolic standard—which is the standard of Christ—is a target we have not yet reached and one which we are not always concerned even to hit.” Motyer, J. A.
This next Sunday, we’re pressing forward to Philippians 3:1-11 and Paul’s magnificent obsession. I hope you will join us to worship our Risen King and rejoice in His greatness.