Scripture Reference: Philippians 1:1-18
The Basics Of The GospelRev. Philip Miller | September 12, 2021
Scripture Reference: Philippians 1:1-18
Selected highlights from this sermon
God is reconciling all of us to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ—and that changes everything.
As Pastor Miller leads us through Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, he reminds us that we need to get back to the basics of the Christian life in order to live joyfully, bearing abundant fruit. In this first sermon, he shares with us four fruits of the Gospel which should be evident in our lives.
It is so great to be back with you this morning, and (applause) I want to thank you for your prayers for my family as we were away. We had a little family reunion in Tennessee, vacation time in Colorado, and then last week I spent a little time in a leadership cohort that I’ve been doing over the last couple of years in Arizona. And for those of you who know me, you know how much I love nature and getting outdoors, and so I had the joy of seeing the Smoky Mountains, the Rocky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon all in a month. Isn’t that amazing? So, I’m just excited about that. (applause) We came back very refreshed. Thank you for the time away.
I want to extend a huge thank you to Pastors Bill, and Ed Stetzer, and Larry, and Eric. Didn’t they do a great job in the Psalms for us? (applause) Yeah! Let’s thank them.
It’s wonderful to be back with you this morning. It’s true. There’s no place like home.
In 1961, at the start of training camp, Vince Lombardi walked into the locker room of the Green Bay Packers and spoke what would become one of the most iconic lines in all of sports history. “Gentlemen, this is a football.” (chuckles) He was reminding them of the fundamentals, getting back to the basics, because it’s easy to forget the basics. It’s easy to neglect the core disciplines of the game that make for a winning team. And Vince Lombardi knew that no amount of trick plays or player talent would be enough if they didn’t master the very basics of the game.
And the same thing is true, friends, of the Christian life. If we want to be joyously in love with Jesus, if we want to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit, if we want to be growing together as the family of God, it doesn’t matter how many fancy conferences we go to, or how many of the latest books we read, or podcasts we consume. If we aren’t engaged in the very basics of the life of following Jesus, it won’t matter. All of us, whether we’ve been following Jesus one day or a lifetime, need to remember the basics—get back to basics. And I know of no better place to go to remind us of the basics of the life of following Jesus than the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Philippians is all about getting back to the basics, the basics of following hard after Jesus, the basics of living in the power of the Holy Spirit, the basics of the interdependencies of the life of the family of God.
So grab your Bibles. We’re going to be in Philippians, chapter one, as we pick up our series today. We’re going to look at the first 18 verses. You’ll find today’s reading on page 980 in the blue pew Bible there by your knees. Today we’re going to get back to The Basics Of The Gospel, The Basics Of The Gospel. Because we are followers of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, the good news that God is reconciling all things, including us to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ, that Gospel, that good news is the news that changes everything.
The Gospel changes everything, and today we’re going to see four fruits of the Gospel for our lives. We’re going to see how the Gospel creates a Gospel family. It creates Gospel charity. It gives us a Gospel destiny. And it gives us a Gospel priority. A Gospel family, a Gospel charity, a Gospel destiny, and a Gospel priority.
Will you bow your heads? Let’s go to the Lord as we open His Word.
Father, will you be with us now? Teach us what it means to get back to the basics of following Jesus Christ. This year, filled with pandemics and chaos has unhinged so many of us, knocked us off course and messed up our rhythms. We need to get back. Teach us, we pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen. Amen.
First, we see here A Gospel Family, A Gospel Family. Philippians 1:1: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Just pause for a moment here. The Apostle Paul and his protégé Timothy are writing this letter to a church that they planted in the city of Philippi about a decade earlier. Paul came to Philippi on what we call his second missionary journey around AD 49. You can read about this in Acts 16.
He now writes this letter about a decade or so later, AD 60 to 62, while under house arrest in Rome. And in many ways this letter is a thank you note. You know the ones your mom made you write? This is a thank you note. The Philippians had heard that Paul was in prison, so they took up an offering to help with his expenses and to stand in solidarity with him. And they sent one of their own, a guy named Epaphroditus, to bring to Paul a care package, a journey that would have been over 800 miles. And on this seven week journey it took its toll on Epaphroditus’s life, and upon arrival he had to be nursed back to health because he fell gravely ill in [his] travels. But now, having sufficiently recovered from his illness, Epaphroditus will head back to Philippi with this letter of thanks in hand, a letter we call Philippians. It is addressed here to the Philippian congregation, the church, and to their leadership: the overseers, the elders, and the deacons. And in customary Pauline fashion, he extends his greetings with the phrase, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The customary Jewish greeting, of course, was Shalom (peace), and so Paul has that but he leads with grace, because it is by grace that we have peace with God, our Father, through our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Now, verse 3: “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. 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.”
I love this. He says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” “You remembered me. You sent me a gift. And now I remember you. I remember you in my prayers. And I’m full of thanksgiving.”
I think Paul would have remembered someone like Lydia. Lydia was a businesswoman from Thyatira. She was a dealer in high-end fashion goods. She marketed beautiful clothes for beautiful people. She was wealthy and influential, and she had been captivated by the beauty of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Paul would have remembered the demon-possessed slave girl, who was poor and oppressed without rights or freedoms, who would have been commercially exploited by her owners, who had [been] liberated by the power of Jesus Christ.
Paul would have remembered the jailer, the suicidal jailer whose life had been spared by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He and his whole household had found life in Jesus.
All of these faces and others from Acts 16 would have flashed through Paul’s mind, and he offers with each one a prayer of thanks. Gratitude that this group of disparate people, who otherwise would have had nothing in common, had been brought together as a family by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
He says, “I make my prayer with joy.” Why? “Because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” He’s like, “We are no longer strangers. We’re partners. Our lives, our pursuits, our destinies are bound together with one another. We’re joined together in partnership in the Gospel. But the first day you believed and cast all your hopes on the good news that Jesus Christ had died in your place and for your sake, and offered His life to pay for your sin and shame so that you might be adopted into the family of God, and made right with Him forever, when you believed that Gospel, from that day on we became partners, partners in this great work that God is doing in our our lives and through our lives in the world. We became partners in the Gospel. God knit our souls together, deeply and permanently. He bound us to one another, and He united us as a forever family in Christ. And this is just the beginning. It’s just the beginning.”
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.” What God began He will finish. God never drops the ball. “This Gospel that has taken hold of our lives,” he says, “this beauty that captivated your soul, this freedom that God has won for you, this life that God has redeemed, this is just the beginning, and the best is yet to come, because one day we will see Jesus.” Amen? And we shall be like Him, for we will see Him as He is!
Friends, this is a Gospel family! Rich and poor, slave and free, prisoners and jailers alike; people with nothing in common who are now united as partners in the Gospel, God’s own handiwork becoming together like Jesus himself.
Friends, the Gospel enfolds us into uncommon unity. Do you see that? One of the ways you know the Gospel is at work in your life or in the life of a community is it brings together people who would never otherwise be together. That’s one of the things I love about The Moody Church. God has brought together here a beautiful family from all walks of life, from every socio-economic strata, diverse ages and ethnicities. He has made us partners in the Gospel by His grace. You cannot explain a church family like ours except for the grace of God. Amen? (applause) This is God’s doing, and we are partners in the Gospel.
This is a Gospel family, but we have to live into it, you see. We have to live into it. The question is: Will we allow the Gospel to redefine our social circle? Will we allow the Gospel to redefine our social circle? Will we allow the Gospel to make us partners with people we would otherwise avoid or despise, but now, because of the grace of God, have become our own Gospel family? We have to yield to the work of the Spirit, you see, to the power of the Gospel, to live into what God has made, this Gospel then.
Secondly we see here our Gospel charity. Our Gospel charity. 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. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
Friends, look at the heartfelt emotion in these verses: “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart…I yearn for you all.” That’s not a light word. “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
Even after a decade, friends, his heart is just full, warmed with affection for these dear brothers and sisters in Christ because they’re all drinking from the same fountain of grace, you see. It is the grace of God that moved the Philippians to extend generous compassion, a gift of love toward Paul. And it is that same grace now that moves Paul’s heart in tender prayer on their behalf.
Friends, these verses are full of deep affection, intense longing, they’re visceral and emotive. Paul knows that this deep affection flowing through his own heart comes ultimately from Jesus. That’s the only place it could come from. He says, “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” So this is Paul’s affection. “I yearn.” It’s flowing from his own heart, and yet it is sourced ultimately in the affection and heart of Christ that is pouring through him toward the Philippian believers. In other words, the Gospel infuses in us unexpected affections. The Gospel infuses in us unexpected affections.
The Gospel of grace, friends, forges deep connections between the members of the body of Christ and we learn to love each other fervently from the heart. Having received the affection and charity and love of God, lavished on us in Jesus Christ, that love received now begins to overflow through us so that we become conduits of the love of Christ for one another. The Gospel teaches us to love one another with the very love of Christ Himself. We get to embody the love of Christ for one another. And as He loved us and gave Himself up for us, so we are to love one another and give ourselves up for one another.
The question is: Will we allow the Gospel to realign our hearts’ affections? Will we allow the Gospel to realign our hearts’ affections? Will we allow the Gospel to turn our selfish hearts outward in love toward others, to bind our hearts together with affection and sacrificial self-giving love? Will we open ourselves wide to the affections that Christ intends to unleash through us for the sake of others? Will we yield to this Gospel charity?
Thirdly we see our Gospel destiny here. Our Gospel destiny.
Verse 9: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
What a prayer this is, friends. He prays that your love, our love, that our love may abound more and more, that it may grow in you and multiply around you, that your love for God and love for one another would abound and overflow, that it would be unfettered and unlimited and undeniable, that your love would abound,” he says, “with knowledge,” because love without knowledge is just sort of aimless and soft, isn’t it? But love with knowledge is life-changing. It is wise and discerning. It is a love that sees what is excellent, what is true and good and real and beautiful. It is a love that propels and urges us forward to become more and more like Jesus Christ Himself, that we might be pure and blameless, that we might stand before Jesus Christ full of the fruit of righteousness to the glory and praise of God.
Do you see this? Abounding love, growing in knowledge, full of all discernment so that we approve what is excellent and pure, and blameless and righteous to the glory and praise of God. Don’t you see? The Gospel, friends, is ushering us into unforeseen glories. The Gospel is ushering us into unforeseen glories.
The Gospel has not only bound us together as a family (Amen?), the Gospel has not only given us the affection of Christ for one another, but He does this so that the love of Christ might abound in our lives and sweep us along toward our common destiny of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God forever. “And I am sure of this,” Paul would say [sic], “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Friends, there is no higher end, no greater glory, no better dream than to stand pure and blameless and righteous before God in Jesus Christ. It is to this end that God is working in your life at all times and in all places and by all means.
Friends, listen to me, listen, listen. The aim of your life is not to build a nest egg. The aim of your life is not fifteen seconds of fame on TikTok. The aim of your life is not leisure and fun. The aim of your life is that you might be gloriously like Christ, that you might stand before the Father in purity and blamelessness and righteousness and glory forever. (applause)
The question is: Will we allow the Gospel to refocus our dreams? Will we allow the Gospel to refocus our dreams? Will we allow this vision of standing righteous in Christ before the Father in glory to become our prayer, to become our longing, to become the dream and aim of our lives?
Our Gospel family, our Gospel charity, our Gospel destiny, finally, our Gospel priority. Our Gospel priority.
Friends, not only does the Gospel bind us together as a family, giving us the affection of Christ as we spur one another on toward this glorious destiny we have in Him, but the Gospel becomes the priority for which we live and even sacrifice.
Look at verse 12: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has 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. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
Pause for a moment. He says, “My imprisonment might look like a huge setback for the Gospel, but in fact, it’s just the opposite. Everybody here knows that it’s because of Christ that I am in prison. There’s an imperial guard here, roughly eight to nine thousand soldiers who guard the palace of Caesar. And they know that I am here because of Jesus. Not just them, but everybody!”
Everybody’s talking about Jesus, this Jewish carpenter from an insignificant nation some 1,400 miles east of the bustling capital city of Rome, in the heart of the great Roman Empire, this Jewish carpenter turned teacher and rabbi, who laid down His life and is rumored to have come back in resurrection power-because of Paul’s imprisonment-is now a topic of conversation at the heart of the Roman Empire in the palace of Caesar himself.
“So not only is the Gospel advancing in Rome. It’s advancing everywhere,” Paul says. “People everywhere are preaching the Gospel. Some who have seen my willingness to suffer on behalf of the Gospel are emboldened to speak the Word fearlessly with courage and resolve; at least that’s most people.”
But there are others who see in Paul’s imprisonment an opportunity, a chance. You know, Paul’s a big preacher, and all of a sudden he’s locked up. “Here’s our chance to gain influence, and expand our reach and shine and draw some crowds and gain some recognition for ourselves.” That’s pretty messed up, and Paul could have been bitter and resentful and cynical, but he’s not.
Look at verse 15: “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.
The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
Paul says, “Look, regardless of their motives—good, bad, ugly—the bottom line is that Christ is being proclaimed, and I rejoice in that!” Because the Gospel empowers us for unselfish mission. The Gospel empowers us for unselfish mission.
The most important thing for Paul was not his comfort, friends. It was not his freedom. It was not his rights. It wasn’t even his ministry or his vindication or even his life itself. No, the most important thing for Paul was the Gospel of Jesus Christ—that the name of Christ was being lifted high, that the good news was being proclaimed in all the world, that many more people might have a chance to know and follow Christ.
Friends, the Gospel teaches us to gladly serve and sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel. The question is: Will we allow the Gospel to reprioritize our lives? Will we allow the Gospel to reprioritize our lives? Will we allow the Gospel to become the most important thing in our lives? Will we gladly serve and sacrifice, that the Gospel may go forth? Will we cheerfully give of our time and talent and treasure that others might hear the good news of Jesus so that they too might become part of a Gospel family, filled with a Gospel charity, called to a Gospel destiny to live out a Gospel priority?
Friends, this is the Gospel! (applause) This is the Good News of Jesus Christ that changes everything. Will you allow this Gospel to change your everything? That’s the question. This is the Gospel.
Father, in this chaotic, crazy world, where there is so much clamoring for our attention, for our time, for our emotions, sometimes we might feel like Paul, trapped, unable to do the things that we want to do in life. Father, in this crazy moment help us get back to the basics of the Gospel. Help us to trust deeply that the good news of Jesus is the most important thing about our lives. It is who we are, that it defines our family and it changes our hearts, and binds us together in love and affection for one another in ways that don’t make sense, and that together you have called us not to build little kingdoms on this Earth but to live for your kingdom and your power and your glory, that one day we will stand before you in glory.
As Jesus says, “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Father, one day that will be who we are, for we will see Christ face-to-face, and we will be like Him. Help us to remember who we are, what family we belong to, what destiny is our ours in Christ, and help us to put the Gospel at the very center of our priorities in this life.
Father, we give you ourselves. We hold nothing back. Take us and use us. Fill us, form us, change us, use us. Multiply the Gospel through us in our lives and our words, in our acts of love and care and sacrifice. We give you ourselves. Unleash the Gospel through our lives, we pray for Jesus’ sake, for the glory and praise of God.
And all of God’s people said, “Amen.” Amen!