15 October 2012
Introduction: There are many times when writing and receiving letters brings great joy and excitement. I remember when I was in basic training and they had “mail call”. Oh, to hear your name called! Every letter was worth the push-ups it took to get it! I have friends who have been in prison, and their story is much the same. The emotions attached to these letters are precious and very real. The anticipation of receiving a return letter in and of itself brings great joy in writing one. Paul was in a similar situation when he wrote his letter to the church in Philippi. They had a dear relationship, and Paul was now imprisoned in Rome, writing a joyous letter to them. He had previously received a gift from them, and this was his response to the church that sent him such a precious gift.
Transitional Sentence: As with every letter, following the introduction comes the purpose. In this case, Paul wants to reassure the church that the advancement of the gospel is now and always will be the highest priority – even when we have a hard time seeing how it is to be accomplished.
1) Adverse Circumstances Can Encourage Others (vs. 12-14)
I have known men who have been in prison, as Paul was. Their testimony was powerful and impactful. I have known men who were addicts of different sorts. Their testimony was powerful and impactful. I have known men who were liars. Their testimony was powerful and impactful. This does not have to be the case, though. Our testimonies can also be used for our own glory. We all go through difficult circumstances in life. How are you using those circumstances? Are they bringing Christ glory – or focusing attention on yourself? Christ can and wants to use your testimony to glorify Himself, let Him!
2) Competing Motives Both Provide Platforms for God (vs. 15-17)
When I see people use the name of Christ in a way that I think is inappropriate, I often let it get me upset. I wonder, “Do they even know the Lord?” Paul seems to say that God can use all motivations for bringing glory to Himself. Don’t let it fluster you and cause division in the body of Christ when you see people do this. As long as the gospel is preached, Paul says, we should be rejoicing. The name of Christ is powerful enough to stand alone. The name of Christ can alter the course of people’s lives. The name of Christ, regardless of where and how it manifests itself, brings the potential for life-changing transformation. Don’t let bad motives from others keep you from rejoicing in His name.
3) Christ’s Glory Is To Be Our Uniting Focus (v. 18)
Paul wraps up this portion of Scripture by saying that our uniting focus – our source of rejoicing – should be the name of Christ and His glory! If the glory of Christ is our focus, then the body will remain united and rejoice as one. Paul tells us to rejoice regardless. Christ can receive glory in good or bad, false or true, dark and light. Knowing this, brothers and sisters, rejoice. Rejoice in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If we do this – if we keep His glory and His advancement as our uniting focus – we can remain united as one and rejoice together.
Conclusion: All of us go through various trials in life. Some of us come from circumstances that seemed to hinder us more than help us. God can use you to do His work. Remember, Paul was imprisoned when he wrote this letter – and he was also a murderer! Use your testimony to God’s glory, for the advancement of His Kingdom. Like our circumstances, it is easy to get caught up being frustrated and angry at others who seem to be doing things for the wrong reasons. There are people that we see that seem to use Christ’s name for their own glory, or use His name to rationalize something they themselves wish to accomplish. This can indeed be frustrating, but the name of Jesus is getting out there nonetheless! Paul cites some who preach out of “selfish ambition”, of those who “stir up trouble”, of those who “preach Christ out of envy”, among other things. It is certainly easy to get frustrated at these individuals. However, the Lord can speak from both of these platforms – and Paul says we should rejoice because of it. Let the name of Christ be our uniting factor. Finally, if this is the case, we will have hearts full of rejoicing! Every time Christ is preached, we should rejoice. The glory of Christ is why we serve, and, since He can get glory from “false motives or true”, our hearts should be full of rejoicing. If Christ is our uniting focus, we will be giving Him as much glory as He can possibly get from us.
NG, LR, NCU, USAR
My collection of personal papers written over the years