Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

Partners in the Gospel

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

If you're able, please remain standingand let's hear the end of the book of Philippians. This is chapter four, beginning at verse ten. Philippians four, verse ten. I rejoiced in theLord greatly that now, at length, you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Notthat I'm speaking of being in need, for I have learned, in whateversituation I am, to be content. I know how to be brought lowand how to abound in every in any and every circumstance. I havelearned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance in need. I can doall things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you toshare my trouble, and you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning ofthe Gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with mein giving and receiving, except you. Only, even in Thessalonika, yousent me help for my needs once and again, not that I seek thegift, but I seek the fruit that increases. To your credit, Ihave received full pay, Amen and more. I am well supplied, having receivedfrom epaphroditus that gives you sent a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable andpleasing to God, and my God will supply every need of yours according tohis riches and glory. In Christ Jesus, to our God and father be gloryforever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. Thebrothers who are with me greet you. All the saints, greet you,especially those of Caesar's household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be withyour spirit. Amen. Please be seated well here. Paul closes his letterin many ways similarly to the way he began. He talks to them abouttheir partnership in the Gospel, their work together for the sake of the gospelsspread. We even in a sense, as the the letter opened being addressedto all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi with the overseers anddeacons, are also addressed here. At the end. These words greet everysaint in Christ Jesus seemed to be commanded to this particular group of the eldersand Deacons, who then would pass along this greeting to the all the saintsand in particular. He has in mind...

...all of them individually, every saintin Christ Jesus. He sends this greeting from a difficult place, but it'sa greeting full of blessing and grace from our God and father. In thesefinal verses we reflect again on many of the themes that have come up throughoutthe letter, this letter of Paul to the Philippian Church at in particular.We see coming out of this text on their partnership in the Gospel. They'reworking together for the sake of the Gospel. Paul says that they've supplied for hisneed so that he would go out. He talks about how it is acceptableto God and and various other things ways in which the Philippian church werecaring for Paul and making sure that this minister of God was was taken careof in his in his ministry. And as we think about that, whatwe'll see tonight is that our partnership in the Gospel is not just working atogether for the sake or the spread of the Gospel, but it also meansliving by its power. Well, begin by thinking about the responsibilities that wehave to one another in the church. We see some of that here inthe text, this need of needs and responses, of giving and receiving.When God makes us members of his church, he calls us to fulfill certain responsibilitiesto each other. Like a properly functioning human body, the members ofthe body of Christ have to work together, each serving their particular function for thebenefit of the others. The brain does its function for the benefit ofthe body, the blood, the arm, and on and on and on.And scripture speaks in this way in many, many places. There's somany passages throughout both the old and New Testament that indicate that command. Weare to serve one another, both in our spiritual needs and in our physicalones. In thinking about those physical and material needs, we have a lotof different instructions. In first John Seventeen, for example, we read that ifanyone has the world's good and sees his brother in need, yet closeshis heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little Children, let us not love in word or talk, but indeed or in truth. James One fifteen says similarly, if a brother or a sister is poorlyclothed and lacking in daily food and one of you says to him or tothem go in peace, be warmed and be filled. Without giving them thethings needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith byitself does if it does not have works, is dead. And so, inthese very explicit ways, the New...

Testament tells us that, his brothersand sisters in Christ, we are to be caring for one to one another, specifically the needs of the body. Paul will even speak narrowly of certaingroups of people within the church. Widows, for example, within the church whoare truly in need, are to be enrolled for material care. FirstTimothy Three says that we are to honor widows who are truly widows, andPaul will go on to explain that the church should enroll them, I'm toreceive material care. This needful duty was in fact the reason that the martyrStephen and six other men were chosen and acts chapter six to be devoted tothis particular need of seeing to the care of the widows of the Church.Another specific group, Paul Mentions our ministers. In that same chapter, First TimothyFive, Paul uses similar langue, which of connecting honor and financial support. In first Timothy Seventeen through eighteen, Paul says, let the elders whorule be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in Preaching andteaching, for the scripture says you shall not muzzle an ox when it treadsout the grain, and the laborer deserves his wages. This is what's goingon in the background. Then here is Paul, writes to the Philippians andsells them. You are caring for me, you are taking care of the thingsthat I need. Indeed, he says, I have been well supplied, I'm well taken care of. Another Apostle, the apostle Peter, sumsup our Lord's commands in this regard when he says in First Peter, foreight through ten, above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since lovecovers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. Aseach has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewardsof God's varied grace. As each has received a gift, we are calledto use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace.This are these verses that I'm quoting here are just a sampling of the passagesthat we find throughout the New Testament and many, many more along similar linesin the old. Sometimes they're called these one another passages, these ways inwhich we are called to care for one another, in many, many spiritualways, which I haven't mentioned, but also in these physical ones. Andit's in this same physical sense that the the Philippians are caring for Paul's need. You remember, after all, that he's in prison. He has aparticular needs as he's there, as he's...

...going out and ministering, he hasto provide for himself food, clothing, other kinds of things like that,and in some of these places it wasn't always easy reread. And First Thessalonians. Paul says to the Thessalonians that you didn't give me anything, I tookcare of my own needs. Here it seems as it's a little bit uncertain, but it seems that perhaps what was going on in the background there thathe doesn't mentioned the Thessalonians, is the Philippians gift that was supporting him whilehe was among the Thessalonians, partially taking care of his needs and the thingsthat he required there so that the Gospel could go clearly to them. Withoutany concerns. So when we take all these things together, the point shouldbe clear. When God makes us members of his church, he calls usto fulfill certain responsibilities to one another. We already use the gifts God hasgiven us, whether that's time or talents or money. We are to usethese gifts to serve one another and in doing so, got serve God himself, as he has commanded these things. But in fulfilling these duties there isa temptation which we have to be aware of, a temptation we have tobe very cautious of. In fact, there will many. There are many, but I'll highlight one and it's this. When fulfilling these duties to one another, in all the organizational and taking care of aspects of the church,we will be tempted to fulfill these duties in a merely outward way. Butwhat we see in this passage is that the giving and the receiving that goeson in the body of Christ is to be thought of an exercised in notonly an outward way but a spiritual and inward way as well. The temptationis very clear and we've all experienced and fallen into it. To think ofour duties is merely the business of the church, the proper functioning of thebody. Often times we take these things down to purely logistical or managerial termsor tasks. We do these things simply to get them done. The doorsneed to be unlocked, the hymnals need to be collected, people need toarrive early to set up and stay late to clean up. We have peoplethat need to prepare for communion, collect offering, play the piano, operatelights and sound. We need people to give their money when they're doing wellso that others can be supported in their time of need. All these thingshave to be accomplished and we can very easily get on a track of simplyaccomplishing them, checking the boxes and making sure everything's getting done decently and ingood order. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but there's something deeper, a deeper perspective, which apostle indicates...

...to us here in this passage aboutthese kinds of things. Paul wants us, like the Philippians, to think ofthese tasks not merely as the operations of an earthly organization, but thespiritual operations of a heavenly one, and swith spiritual ends attached to it.Look at some of the ways he speaks about these transactions that they're making betweenone another in love. He says in verse fourteen that it was kind ofyou to share my trouble. The PHILIPPIAN church isn't in jail with Paul.They didn't travel with him along the roads, but in all ways, in variousways, he counts their sending of this gift with this minister epaphroditus.He counts this as sharing in his trouble. It's a sign of their love,it's a commitment to the Gospel. It has this very spiritual aspect toit. We see that in is, as Paul continues. He says inyou Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the Gospel, which means inthe beginning of his work, of the Gospel, when I left Macedonia,no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving. Accept you only. We see also that Paul puts these in spiritual terms when thinking about theirbenefits or the ways in which it affects and comes to him, affects thePhilippians and comes to Paul. Notice what he says, not that I seekthe gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. Sowhen Paul, in a sense enjoys their generosity, it's true that he appreciatesthe generosity of the gift itself, but he also sees generosity in a spiritualway. He says, I appreciate or I'm thankful for your generosity. Hewants not just the gift. In fact he says he doesn't want the gift, but he wants the fruit that increases to your credit. You see howhe speaks in these he mixes these financial and spiritual terms. The work ofthe spirit in their lives, in their giving, is this fruit that heknows will increase to their credit. Paul again put takes this yet a stepfurther when he says that he has received from epaphod epaphroditus that gives you sentand listen to how he describes them a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable andpleasing to God. Could Paul put this monetary gift in more spiritual terms thanthis, to put this in the same category as the Old Testament spiritual sacrificesand indeed even that sacrifice that Christ himself...

...made on the Cross. You seewhat Paul's doing here. He's not merely saying that money needs to be movedaround, that people need to be cared for. Of all these things,he sees them in a very spiritual way, sharing in the trouble, sharing inthe Gospel, signs of love and commitment to God, a benefit thatis a cruing to them, a benefit to him as well, as weread and in Romans Chapter Fifteen, a spiritual sacrifice, and then, ofcourse, the trust of the Soul in God's provisions. Of these things,he says, as they give of themselves, of their money in their time,that God will supply every need of yours according to the riches in gloryin Christ Jesus. All of these things on Paul Point to us. Thisfact, this point that are giving to one another, are meeting the needsof one another and fulfilling those responsibilities, is not merely the aspects of anoutward material organization, but they are connected to an inward spirituality. To seethings in a spiritual way more fully gets at the kind and qualities of ourduties toward one another. We're not merely giving some one a ride or hostinga meal or moving money from one side of a ledger to another. Inthese outward actions, we are participating in the spiritual life of the body ofChrist, fulfilling spiritual needs in his name. And so it goes without saying thatwe should desire to be this kind of church, that we should striveto be those who fulfill the material needs we owe to one another, andwe should do so in a spiritual way and according to spiritual goals. Butas we desire this, as we want and and hope and pray to bethis kind of church, the kind of church that the Philippian church is,the kind of church that we are called to be, we have to putthis work that we are called to, these duties and responsibilities, in aproper category. Just because these things are spiritual doesn't mean that they are thegospel themselves. To put these works in their proper category, we have tosay that they are the fruit of the Gospel, not the Gospel itself.In other words, these spiritual requirements don't just come automatically by our trying hard. They have to come by the power of the spirit of God working inus. This is so important because it doesn't make sense if we try tothink of these holy and spiritual works as...

...something that can be accomplished by ourunholy and fleshly selves. If we say, okay, I understand what God isrequiring us to do, this spiritual people. He is calling us tobe this deeply spiritual, with a capital s holy, spiritual kind of people. Do we really believe we will become that simply by digging deeper into ourinner resources? Or will we be that by being people that are empowered bythe Holy Spirit in dwelt, refreshed, regenerated by the spirit of God workingin and through us? It has to be the latter. In other words, these fruits of the Gospel are not produced by our fleshly selves. Theyare produced by the Gospel, by God's grace, working in US and continuingto work in US, sanctifying us according to his word. We rely onChrist, in other words, who established his church and promised that his establishingof the Church wouldn't fail. We rely on him our head to support anddirect and and lead the body. We rely on the spirit who in dwellsthe body of Christ and is working in US and through us. When wethink, for example, of our fragrant offering and sacrifices that are acceptable andpleasing to God. We can't think of those as those that are offered inOur Name and to our glory. We have to think of them in nate, offered in the name of Christ and to his glory, or, touse the words of scripture from Ephesians Five, too, we are called to walkin Love, as Christ love us, loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. You See, our abilityto offer something that's pleasing to God, to offer up something that he acceptsand delights in, only happens because it comes in this larger sacrifice, inbeing belonging to the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This is why, whenwe seek to do the things of God, the things described here at the endof Philippians four, we do so not in our own strength or accordingto our own power, or according to our or for our own glory,but on reliance on the grace of God into his glory. That's why Paulbegins and ends his letter this way. He says, the grace of theLord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. This is the thing that is goingto make us the people that we want to be, the people that Godhas called us to be, and so it is to the grace of Godthat we must always go. When we...

...hear these duties, when we hearthese requirements and we see both the ways in which we want to fulfill themand the ways in which we haven't fulfilled them, our response aunt should benot to go deeper into ourselves, but to go further and rely more onthe grace, on the grace, on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, for it is him that is with our spirit, that strengthens us andmotivates us and changes US and renews us. This is why, when we seekto do the things of God, we do so with reliance on thegrace of God and do them to the glory of God. If we tryto do otherwise, striving to be a spiritual body through fleshly and self glorifyingmeans, we will surely fail and we will give people the Gospel in acup of the law. God forbid. Instead, we depend not on ourselvesbut in God working in us, supplying, as Paul says, all that weneed. And when we live by grace, the glory will be allto God's and we will be glorified in him. May God grant to usthe spirit to do this work, in US and through us. May Welearn to partner together for the Gospel Spread, and to do so by the Gospel'spower. Amen.

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