Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 7 years ago

Partners in the Gospel

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

If you're able, please remain standing and 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 the Lord greatly that now, at length, you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I'm speaking of being in need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I am, to be content. I know how to be brought low and how to abound in every in any and every circumstance. I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble, and you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you. Only, even in Thessalonika, you sent me help for my needs once and again, not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases. To your credit, I have received full pay, Amen and more. I am well supplied, having received from epaphroditus that gives you sent a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God, and my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches and glory. In Christ Jesus, to our God and father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers 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 with your spirit. Amen. Please be seated well here. Paul closes his letter in many ways similarly to the way he began. He talks to them about their partnership in the Gospel, their work together for the sake of the gospels spread. We even in a sense, as the the letter opened being addressed to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi with the overseers and deacons, are also addressed here. At the end. These words greet every saint in Christ Jesus seemed to be commanded to this particular group of the elders and Deacons, who then would pass along this greeting to the all the saints and in particular. He has in mind...

...all of them individually, every saint in Christ Jesus. He sends this greeting from a difficult place, but it's a greeting full of blessing and grace from our God and father. In these final verses we reflect again on many of the themes that have come up throughout the 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're working together for the sake of the Gospel. Paul says that they've supplied for his need so that he would go out. He talks about how it is acceptable to God and and various other things ways in which the Philippian church were caring for Paul and making sure that this minister of God was was taken care of in his in his ministry. And as we think about that, what we'll see tonight is that our partnership in the Gospel is not just working a together for the sake or the spread of the Gospel, but it also means living by its power. Well, begin by thinking about the responsibilities that we have to one another in the church. We see some of that here in the 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 responsibilities to each other. Like a properly functioning human body, the members of the body of Christ have to work together, each serving their particular function for the benefit of the others. The brain does its function for the benefit of the body, the blood, the arm, and on and on and on. And scripture speaks in this way in many, many places. There's so many passages throughout both the old and New Testament that indicate that command. We are to serve one another, both in our spiritual needs and in our physical ones. In thinking about those physical and material needs, we have a lot of different instructions. In first John Seventeen, for example, we read that if anyone has the world's good and sees his brother in need, yet closes his 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 poorly clothed and lacking in daily food and one of you says to him or to them go in peace, be warmed and be filled. Without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself does if it does not have works, is dead. And so, in these very explicit ways, the New...

Testament tells us that, his brothers and 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 certain groups of people within the church. Widows, for example, within the church who are truly in need, are to be enrolled for material care. First Timothy Three says that we are to honor widows who are truly widows, and Paul will go on to explain that the church should enroll them, I'm to receive material care. This needful duty was in fact the reason that the martyr Stephen and six other men were chosen and acts chapter six to be devoted to this 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 Timothy Five, Paul uses similar langue, which of connecting honor and financial support. In first Timothy Seventeen through eighteen, Paul says, let the elders who rule be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in Preaching and teaching, for the scripture says you shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain, and the laborer deserves his wages. This is what's going on in the background. Then here is Paul, writes to the Philippians and sells them. You are caring for me, you are taking care of the things that I need. Indeed, he says, I have been well supplied, I'm well taken care of. Another Apostle, the apostle Peter, sums up our Lord's commands in this regard when he says in First Peter, for eight through ten, above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace. As each has received a gift, we are called to 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 passages that we find throughout the New Testament and many, many more along similar lines in the old. Sometimes they're called these one another passages, these ways in which we are called to care for one another, in many, many spiritual ways, which I haven't mentioned, but also in these physical ones. And it'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 a particular needs as he's there, as he's...

...going out and ministering, he has to 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 took care 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 that he doesn't mentioned the Thessalonians, is the Philippians gift that was supporting him while he was among the Thessalonians, partially taking care of his needs and the things that he required there so that the Gospel could go clearly to them. Without any concerns. So when we take all these things together, the point should be clear. When God makes us members of his church, he calls us to fulfill certain responsibilities to one another. We already use the gifts God has given us, whether that's time or talents or money. We are to use these 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 is a temptation which we have to be aware of, a temptation we have to be 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. But what we see in this passage is that the giving and the receiving that goes on in the body of Christ is to be thought of an exercised in not only an outward way but a spiritual and inward way as well. The temptation is very clear and we've all experienced and fallen into it. To think of our duties is merely the business of the church, the proper functioning of the body. Often times we take these things down to purely logistical or managerial terms or tasks. We do these things simply to get them done. The doors need to be unlocked, the hymnals need to be collected, people need to arrive early to set up and stay late to clean up. We have people that need to prepare for communion, collect offering, play the piano, operate lights and sound. We need people to give their money when they're doing well so that others can be supported in their time of need. All these things have to be accomplished and we can very easily get on a track of simply accomplishing them, checking the boxes and making sure everything's getting done decently and in good 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 about these kinds of things. Paul wants us, like the Philippians, to think of these tasks not merely as the operations of an earthly organization, but the spiritual 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 between one another in love. He says in verse fourteen that it was kind of you 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 various ways, 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 to it. We see that in is, as Paul continues. He says in you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the Gospel, which means in the 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 their benefits or the ways in which it affects and comes to him, affects the Philippians and comes to Paul. Notice what he says, not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. So when Paul, in a sense enjoys their generosity, it's true that he appreciates the generosity of the gift itself, but he also sees generosity in a spiritual way. He says, I appreciate or I'm thankful for your generosity. He wants 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 how he speaks in these he mixes these financial and spiritual terms. The work of the spirit in their lives, in their giving, is this fruit that he knows will increase to their credit. Paul again put takes this yet a step further when he says that he has received from epaphod epaphroditus that gives you sent and listen to how he describes them a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. Could Paul put this monetary gift in more spiritual terms than this, to put this in the same category as the Old Testament spiritual sacrifices and indeed even that sacrifice that Christ himself...

...made on the Cross. You see what Paul's doing here. He's not merely saying that money needs to be moved around, that people need to be cared for. Of all these things, he sees them in a very spiritual way, sharing in the trouble, sharing in the Gospel, signs of love and commitment to God, a benefit that is a cruing to them, a benefit to him as well, as we read and in Romans Chapter Fifteen, a spiritual sacrifice, and then, of course, 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 glory in Christ Jesus. All of these things on Paul Point to us. This fact, this point that are giving to one another, are meeting the needs of one another and fulfilling those responsibilities, is not merely the aspects of an outward material organization, but they are connected to an inward spirituality. To see things in a spiritual way more fully gets at the kind and qualities of our duties toward one another. We're not merely giving some one a ride or hosting a meal or moving money from one side of a ledger to another. In these outward actions, we are participating in the spiritual life of the body of Christ, fulfilling spiritual needs in his name. And so it goes without saying that we should desire to be this kind of church, that we should strive to be those who fulfill the material needs we owe to one another, and we should do so in a spiritual way and according to spiritual goals. But as we desire this, as we want and and hope and pray to be this 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 put this work that we are called to, these duties and responsibilities, in a proper category. Just because these things are spiritual doesn't mean that they are the gospel themselves. To put these works in their proper category, we have to say 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 in us. This is so important because it doesn't make sense if we try to think of these holy and spiritual works as...

...something that can be accomplished by our unholy and fleshly selves. If we say, okay, I understand what God is requiring us to do, this spiritual people. He is calling us to be 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 our inner resources? Or will we be that by being people that are empowered by the Holy Spirit in dwelt, refreshed, regenerated by the spirit of God working in and through us? It has to be the latter. In other words, these fruits of the Gospel are not produced by our fleshly selves. They are produced by the Gospel, by God's grace, working in US and continuing to work in US, sanctifying us according to his word. We rely on Christ, in other words, who established his church and promised that his establishing of the Church wouldn't fail. We rely on him our head to support and direct and and lead the body. We rely on the spirit who in dwells the body of Christ and is working in US and through us. When we think, for example, of our fragrant offering and sacrifices that are acceptable and pleasing to God. We can't think of those as those that are offered in Our Name and to our glory. We have to think of them in nate, offered in the name of Christ and to his glory, or, to use the words of scripture from Ephesians Five, too, we are called to walk in Love, as Christ love us, loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. You See, our ability to offer something that's pleasing to God, to offer up something that he accepts and delights in, only happens because it comes in this larger sacrifice, in being belonging to the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This is why, when we seek to do the things of God, the things described here at the end of Philippians four, we do so not in our own strength or according to 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 Paul begins and ends his letter this way. He says, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. This is the thing that is going to make us the people that we want to be, the people that God has called us to be, and so it is to the grace of God that we must always go. When we...

...hear these duties, when we hear these requirements and we see both the ways in which we want to fulfill them and the ways in which we haven't fulfilled them, our response aunt should be not to go deeper into ourselves, but to go further and rely more on the grace, on the grace, on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, for it is him that is with our spirit, that strengthens us and motivates us and changes US and renews us. This is why, when we seek to do the things of God, we do so with reliance on the grace of God and do them to the glory of God. If we try to do otherwise, striving to be a spiritual body through fleshly and self glorifying means, we will surely fail and we will give people the Gospel in a cup of the law. God forbid. Instead, we depend not on ourselves but in God working in us, supplying, as Paul says, all that we need. And when we live by grace, the glory will be all to God's and we will be glorified in him. May God grant to us the spirit to do this work, in US and through us. May We learn to partner together for the Gospel Spread, and to do so by the Gospel's power. Amen.

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