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Author:Rev. Klaas Jonker
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Congregation:Grace Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
 www.grace.canadianreformed.ca
 
Title:Paul calls us to the action of our confession
Text:Philippians 2:12 (View)
Occasion:Public Profession of faith
Topic:Obedience
 
Preached:2003-05-11
Added:2003-11-29
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 62:1,3
Ps 119:1,4
Prayer 1
Read: John 15:1-17; Philip.1:27 - 2:13
Hy 19:1-4
Sermon text: Philippians 2:12
Hy 19:5,6
Publ.prof. of faith
Hy 49:1,2
Prayer 2
Offerings
Ps 16:1
Blessing
Presentation of books
Hy 48:1,4
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Klaas Jonker, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and young people who in this service will make public profession of faith,

Here we are in the Lord's presence on this glorious Sunday morning. We may witness and experience anew the great mercies of our Lord. With you - young people - the congregation greatly rejoices that six and more years of catechism instruction has come to an end.

Today you stand up in Christ's congregation and commit yourself to a life worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Through the education at home and in church you have been blessed with having now a basic knowledge of your salvation in Christ. This blessed knowledge of salvation is the most important gift and tool to live life as it is meant to be lived: to the praise of God the Creator.

Today, publicly you say: We will work with the blessing of knowing our salvation in Christ.

Through your public vows today you give full recognition of the teachings of the Church; you humbly accept God's covenant promises; you sincerely commit yourself to serve God and fight against sin; and finally you honestly pledge to submit to the discipline of the Church.

In other words, you let everyone know that the knowledge of salvation is not only stored in your brain but it also has taken possession of your heart. You want to work with your faith.

That's precisely the call of our exalted Lord, which comes to us through what Paul wrote to the Philippians. I summarize the message of our text as follows:

PAUL CALLS US TO THE ACTION OF OUR CONFESSION

The apostle admonishes us

1. to live in obedience to the gospel

2. to work at one another's salvation

3. to love one another in meekness

Brothers & sisters, - and I hope that you will understand that in this service I especially address the young people; through them the sermon, of course is also addressed to everyone here present, - young people, at the last Catechism Class I asked your suggestions for this morning's sermon. You gave me several texts to preach on: from Proverbs, the Psalms, Romans 8, 1Peter 1 and 1Tim.6.

I welcomed your suggestions very much. However, on all those texts I had already preached. Nevertheless, I looked at your suggestions and I found a common theme in them.

"Your" texts emphasized that believers cannot take it easy in their lives. They must work very hard in and with their faith. When someone consciously has accepted Christ, he/she has not arrived yet but must put their faith into action.

Young people, I commend you in the choice of your Scripture references, you listed.

That choice shows that you are fully aware of the fact that today you are not at the end of the road of your faith activity, but at the very beginning.

Your list shows that this morning I don't have to tell you that by making your public prof. of faith you are not graduating from "faith-school" but that you are now starting to make your faith exercises on your own.

Considering your references, I thought, which text is expressing better the thought of working at our own faith than Philippians 2:12? I took my tools - several Bible translations and of course the original Greek text and read the beautiful letter, Paul wrote to the Philippians.

This is a very upbeat and joyful letter, although the apostle and the Philippians were not free from sufferings, disappointments, opposition, and shortcomings. Paul is even in prison because of the gospel. He, however, is confident that he will be spared for them so that the apostle can continue with all of them for their progress and joy in the faith.

He, especially encourages them to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. He points out that they must not have their eye on themselves but on one another. They must live like Christ: In obedience He worked at the salvation of others and became our exalted Lord in heaven whom every one will confess to the glory of God the Father.

In the vss. 14-18 Paul says that we must become blameless and pure by showing a humble spirit while we shine as stars in the nightlife of an evil world. The apostle does not beat around the bush. He is very honest by saying that such a life of acting our one's confession requires many sacrifices, even one's own life if necessary.

In this passage about acting faith out in living for the interests of others, Paul says: in the RSV or NIV translations: Therefore, my dear friends - my beloved brs.& srs in Philippi - as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your (own) salvation with fear & trembling.

I thought, that's a fitting text for the occasion of today. The young people are eager to apply their faith more and more to themselves; they want to grow towards the maturity of faith at the Day of Christ when full salvation is obtained.

The young people should continue to supplement their knowledge of faith. They should, for example, be serious in personal Bible study. They should spent less time for their own pleasures and more time for reading good Reformed literature, be busy with Church History, attending Bible Study evenings, and post-confession classes so that each one would enjoy and work at their own salvation.

I also had found a parallel text in 2 Peter, where Peter gives such an application of supplementing one's faith, making one's call and election sure. Each one must build for, safeguard, and work at his/her own salvation. For if you do these things, - the apostle says - you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Fine! Beautiful work! - to individually act out our confession for ourselves with the gifts and power God has worked within us.

But wait a minute! - is that the proper under- standing of our text? It is very scriptural that each one of us has the task to apply him/herself individually to know the way towards full salvation better and better. However, the great difficulty with placing the emphasis on our own salvation does not fit the context!

The focus of Paul's words is not on one's personal faith and well-being. Christ's concern is not for Himself, but for others and He sacrificed Himself completely. Paul's concern is not for himself either, but for the churches including the Philippians, and he is sacrificing himself for them.

That's precisely what obedience of the gospel is all about: to stand together, to work together, to think together, to serve one another, to pay attention to the concerns of one another, humbly to consider one another better than themselves.

Your love to the Lord, your love to the gospel must be matched with deep love for one another. When the apostle was present with them he had given the Philippians the instruction, to live in unity with the Lord, in love and unity with one another.

Paul, as it were, reminded the Philippians of what he had taught them in Catechism class. It is as if the apostle said, remember my words? I taught you the very important implication of

faith in the gospel: You are not your own anymore; do not live for self anymore, don't focus on your own benefits.

Remember young people that this also has been your catechism teaching: You are not your own, you are the Lord's. You now are ready and must be willing to live for the Lord and His people. The apostle calls them to this obedience now he is not with them. He seems to say: don't act like immature children who immediately turn to their own things as soon as the teacher leaves the classroom. Then it seems that obedience also leaves them.

Young people, as far as catechism instruction is concerned, your catechism teacher leaves you by yourself. Through your confession the basic teaching of the gospel is finished. You are not immature children anymore. Therefore, don't behave like them either. Keep the first requirement of your confessed faith: Confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

This then is the call of the gospel: Be obedient to Him. This is His command: love one another!

2. How? - this brings us to our 2nd point. Paul calls us to the action of our confession; he admonishes us to work at one another's salvation. As you can read on the liturgy sheet *, I follow a different translation in regard to the reflexive Greek pronoun: with others I do not read: "your own salvation" but "one another's salvation".

In Coloss.3:16 this word is translated in the same manner. In that passage we read: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another (not yourself) with all wisdom, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

In that text from Coloss., Paul is precisely teaching the same things as the text from Philippians. The apostle speaks and instructs from the gospel principle that confessors of Christ do not remain and are not mere individuals.

Believers, confessors of Christ belong to each other; they form a close unity, they are connected to each other. Christ Himself taught this in the parable of the True Vine - John 15. Being in Christ, conducting oneself according to one's confession, means bringing forth fruit: that means first and foremost: have concern for one another; built each other up; take care of one another.

Well, that's precisely Paul's teaching in Philip.2. Here he does not address the spiritual well-being of the individual believer, but the spiritual well-being of all the members of the congregation. In the last sentence, I used the word well-being. Our text speaks about salvation.

Now, the word salvation has different shades of meaning. Being forgiven and freed from the power of the devil (= justification); walking with Christ in a holy, devoted and new life (= sanctification); finally receiving full glory by entering God's kingdom (= glorification).

Translations like RSV and NIV take "salvation" in the ultimate sense of our restored life in the new heaven and the new earth. In order to reach that glory we must remain in Christ. We must continue to be obedient and listen to the Word, which declares us clean: that is blameless and innocent in Christ.

However, through Christ and his gospel we are not just turned back to God but we are also turned back to one another. This means that we must fulfill our ministry to one another since we need continued new strength, support and correction in our spiritual life.

We must still grow towards full maturity in Christ. We all must strive for perfection for ourselves, true, but also for one another! That's what Paul says: continue to work at one another's spiritual well-being, for one's spiritual health and salvation.

In Colossians 3 the apostle is more specific. There he says what work must be done at one another: to teach one another - to admonish one another - to worship and praise God with one anther.

So, congr., young people: what must you do when you don't have to go to Catechism class any more? Then the time has come that you actively take up your place within the communion of saints to work at each other. God's Word of this morning encourages you to put a lot of time in the faith activities of the church. Do you remember what the last topic at Catechism Class was? - It was: Have your priorities right!

Study the Bible together not just for your own benefit but first and foremost for the salvation of one another.

With one another you are celebrities, shining stars in a dark world. That's why your confession calls you to admonish those members who join the nightlife of this world, with its brawling parties and worldly amusements.

What songs do we sing together? What music do we make and enjoy when we are together? Do that on the tune and beat of your confession: to the praise and glory of God, our heavenly Father. You see, publicly you declare: I am not my own. Someone else has and will take care of me: He is our exalted Lord in heaven.

This in turn means, that you are not focussed on strengthening and building at your own life and salvation. You work at one another's salvation! In church we have our work cut out for one another.

3. Finally we get to know from the apostle how we must work at each other. That's our last point: - to love one another in meekness

Paul says that we must work at one another with fear and trembling. When we follow the translations, then we would connect "fear and trembling" with receiving salvation at Christ's return. In relation to Christ's judgment, your individual concern must be to be ready with great awe and anticipation.

But we keep having difficulty to get the precise meaning of "fearing" and "trembling" in view of facing Christ. That salvation should be looked forward to with great joy and excitement. We see again that the point of our text cannot mean to individually prepare ourselves for the coming salvation.

The apostle is instructing us how to put our faith into action in the here and now for the benefit of the other. When we are faithful to the Lord, we don't have to fear and tremble before. He is gracious and merciful.

What about when we are faithful to one another, and are facing one another? Are we then meeting gracious and merciful People?

Beloved, what happens when we work at each other's salvation and remind one another of our faith duties. Do we do that gently and compassionately? Do we show patience?

And what about the other member on the receiving end of our teaching, admonitions and corrections? I know myself: I am not an angel; I am still plagued with weaknesses and shortcoming, and so are all of us, so are you - young people.

We must work at one's another salvation. We do so as God's people, who confess that Christ is our Lord, but who also confess that we are still sinful people.

That was also still the case in Philippi. The apostle speaks about complaining people. Well, can we say - that's totally gone from our congregation - here we don't have complaining people; here we don't have people who are after their own interests anymore; here we don't have people who act out of frustration, who are after the vain things of the world, who have difficulty to keep their tempers in check...

Especially the sinful streak of dominance, or of trying to get the attention, and fighting for own honour and glory always endanger the living together as God's people.

Then people rob each other of the joy of life. That was the case in Philippi. That's still the case in Christ's congregation, also here in Winnipeg, the church of which you are members.

I think the point is abundantly clear: when we are working at one another we are not busy with angels, but with members with their own faults and traits. That must make us act with fear and trembling. This phrase must be connected to what Paul says about obedience.

When we are busy with one another then we must do our utmost to keep ourselves in check, that we don't fly of the handle, that we are not judgmental, that we are not turned off and so. We are living with one another and working at one another as branches of the Vine of Christ, connected to and loving one another, washing each other's feet. For doing this we all need to draw from Christ's strength.

That makes us not weak but it makes us meek. This biblical word means that we are aware that we can only live from Christ's grace and mercy. Then we don't take an attitude of: I know it all; I am the expert; I can tell you precisely what to do. Not at all! Confessors of Christ, people like you - young people who want to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ - you and we with you we behave to one another in submission to one another, in the love of true faith.

In Christ we are servants of one another, esteeming others higher than ourselves. We must do so in fear and trembling so that we don't rob each other of the joy of faith!

So we have seen this morning, that we are all in constant need of counselling, of being reminded of the will of God for our lives in this world as His people. We need to be corrected so that we may live in the joy of our salvation through Christ.

Accept this counsel:

Live in obedience to the gospel!

Work at one another's salvation!

Love one another in meekness!

Yes, remain in Christ the True Vine and bear fruit - fruit that will last! Then we will receive and enjoy salvation, now and forever.

Amen.

The following translation was offered:

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence but now much more in my absence - continue to work at one another's salvation with fear and trembling."




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Klaas Jonker, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. Klaas Jonker

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