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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:I Will Rejoice In the Gospel!
Text:Philippians 1:12-18a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-05-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: 2 Corinthians 5

Text: Philippians 1:12-18a

 

I WILL REJOICE IN THE GOSPEL!

  1. I will Rejoice in its Spread through Chains

  2. I will Rejoice in its Spread through Courageous Brothers

  3. I will Rejoice in its Spread through Corrupt Opponents

 

  1. Psalm 33: 1, 3, 5, 6

  2. Psalm 52: 1, 3, 6

  3. Psalm 8: 1, 2

  4. Hymn 81: 1-3

  5. Hymn 81: 4-7

 

Words to Listen For: ring, frightened, clinking, missionary, supreme

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. How is the gospel:

    1. A story

    2. A message

    3. A cure?

  2. What is significant about Paul’s greeting?

  3. Explain Paul’s relationship with facts.

  4. How did Paul’s imprisonment give the other evangelists courage instead of fear?

  5. What are you willing to do for the gospel to spread?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

What is the gospel?

If someone was to come up to you and ask, I’ve heard about this word… “gospel” … I’ve heard it in connection with you Christians...can you explain it to me? … What would you say?

This is an important question that we must be prepared to answer as Christians.  After all, THIS is the message that is central to the church.  The GOSPEL is what it is all about.  This is our identity.  This is our message.  This is our hope.  This is our salvation!  So...what/is/the gospel?

And your answer may change slightly over time, but let me be clear...the answer to this question is not just an opinion.  That’s not why it changes.  For the gospel is FACT.  Unmoving, unchanging, unwavering FACT, from the time that it was first stated in the Garden of Eden, until the day when it will be sung by that great multitude in heaven.  From creation to recreation, the gospel stays the same.

The gospel is, at once, a story, a message, and a cure.

The gospel is, first of all, a story.

The story of Jesus and His love.  The story of God having a love for a sinful and wretched people that defies all logic.

The story of the love that required the death of the Messiah...not because OUR WORTH was more than all the money or the diamonds in the world...but because OUR SIN had wracked up that much debt.  The story of a love that literally changed the world.

But the gospel is also a message.  It’s a message of freedom.  A message of victory.  It is the message that struggling sinners do not have to fear the wrath of God anymore, because His wrath has been poured out.  Every last drop.  The message of freedom for the captives, the message of victory over sin and suffering and death.

And the gospel is also a cure.  It is a cure for everything wrong in this world.  Everything that WE DID to this world when we rejected God as our God, and tried to make ourselves gods, just like Satan did.  When we decided that WE would be the ones to choose what is right and what is wrong.  Remaking the world in OUR IMAGE.  And what an image that turned out to be.  A broken and sinful world made this way by broken and sinful people.

But the gospel changes all that.  The gospel changes our natural inclination for hatred, and transforms it into love.  By nature, by our corrupt, sick, and dying sinful nature, we hate both God and our neighbour.  But the gospel...the gospel begins to transform that hatred into love so that we can truly follow the law of God.

This is the gospel.  It’s not just some words on a page.  It’s not just 12 doctrinal statements that we must confess.  It isn’t a means to an end.

The gospel, beloved, the gospel is the beginning of the road, it is the road itself, and it is the destination at the end of the road.

The story of the gospel of salvation will turn into the song of salvation.  That everlasting, never-ending song of praise that will ring out in the courts of glory forever.

The gospel is the best thing in all creation, and we should cry out with the Apostle Paul:

 

I WILL REJOICE IN THE GOSPEL!

  1. I will Rejoice in its Spread through Chains

  2. I will Rejoice in its Spread through Courageous Brothers

  3. I will Rejoice in its Spread through Corrupt Opponents

 

I will Rejoice in its Spread through Chains

We heard last week about Paul’s great love for the church at Philippi.  His love for them, and who they were when he met them, and his growing love for them as they grew in their faith and knowledge of the gospel.

And in Paul’s great love for them, in the joy that he felt over their partnership in the gospel with him, he wanted them to understand his priorities.  He wanted them to imitate him as he imitated Jesus Christ, and he was worried that the fact he was imprisoned would distract them from some very important other facts.

They were mourning, they were concerned that Paul was in chains.  But what does Paul write to them?

Before we look at our text, let me remind you how Paul started this letter.  After signing his name as the writer, and after addressing them as saints, Paul gives them a blessing - the same blessing that I proclaim over you all at the start of each morning service - Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

And these aren’t just words.  These aren’t just empty words, but instead, these words have power and significance.

May grace be yours

Grace.  That fundamental message of the gospel.  Grace, in the place of punishment.  Grace...being given so many blessings for the sake of Christ, where, for our sake, all we deserve is punishment.  But grace is a blessing instead of a curse.  That’s grace.

May peace be yours

The peace that passes all understanding.  Paul expounds on this in chapter 4.  That peace of God.  The feeling that everything will be made right one day.  The confident assurance that God has everything in His sovereign and loving hands.  We can stop tensing our bodies and stop holding our breath.  We can relax.  We can fold into God, because of His limitless power, because of His limitless love.

The Apostle Paul is a man who was a recipient of grace.  He was an apostle who started his relationship with Christ by persecuting the church.  And yet, through the all-powerful grace of his Saviour...he was granted the gift of being God’s apostle to the Gentiles.  Sent before kings and rulers.  A man who would, one day, die for his faith, condemned to death by Caesar.

And the Apostle Paul is, very clearly, a recipient of peace.  This peace is how he can be in chains, and still be filled with so much joy.

Paul’s circumstances are so much worse than our circumstances…

    But his attitude is so much better.

    His praise is so much louder.

    His love is so much stronger.

And how is this the case?

It is because Paul is the man who looks at all the facts.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.

Paul is instructing the confused and frightened Philippian church - Don’t get it wrong!  Just because I’m in chains DOES NOT MEAN that God isn’t working.  He is!  He is working!  Let me tell you the ways!

I want you to know, brothers 

Listen up.  This is important.  Pay close attention.  Hang on every word, Philippians.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.

It’s not about me, Paul says.  It’s not about me, but it’s about Christ.  It is about Jesus Christ and His gospel.  Paul doesn’t minimize the difficulty...his encouragement to the church is not that the prison isn’t quite so bad as they might think.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has been exaggerated.

The walls aren’t really that damp

I’m not beaten by every single soldier

The food is bad here, but at least I don’t have a lot of it to eat…

THIS isn’t Paul’s encouragement for the church, because...honestly...what a horrible encouragement that would be.

It’s bad...but it’s not THAT BAD.

And I fear this is how we attempt to encourage ourselves and those around us.

Well...it’s not forever.

Well...other places have it worse.

Well...it is what it is.

We all say these things...but how often are you really comforted by them?

We do not find comfort in minimizing the hard truths.

We find our ultimate comfort in focusing on the ultimate truth.  In focusing on the comforting and life-changing truth of the gospel.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.

You might think that my chains would prevent the gospel from being shared, but in actuality, it has opened so many doors for me!

Because of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, just like his imprisonment in Philippi, he had the chance to share the gospel.

In Philippi, the jailer and his family were saved, and here in Rome, Paul has been given the opportunity to preach to the entire imperial guard!  And even before this, the gospel spread as a result of his imprisonment!

If you look into the history of how Paul got here, in chains in Rome, you can look at Acts 22 through 28, and you will see how God worked in these most unexpected circumstances.  Paul had been given the amazing gift of preaching to the Roman governors, Felix, and then Festus.

He proclaimed the gospel to King Agrippa of Judea, until Agrippa was almost converted we read!  And who knows what the Holy Spirit did with Paul’s words in the days and years after the trial.

But in Rome itself, the Word spread among the imperial guard, even though Paul probably didn’t get the opportunity to preach directly to each one of the soldiers...since there were probably around 9000 of them.  But the Word spread, the message that there was a prisoner who was filled with joy.

A prisoner who was at peace in desperate circumstances.  A man who was imprisoned because he appealed to Caesar.  A prisoner who was in chains...for CHRIST.

I want you to know, brothers, that what 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.

Did you catch it?  The gospel spread beyond the imperial guard - throughout the whole imperial guard AND TO ALL THE REST.

And it’s not clear from this verse what Paul means, but turn with me a few pages forwards to Philippians 4.  The end of the letter.  Starting at verse 21

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

Paul’s story was spread all across Rome.  From the soldiers in prison to the slaves in the house of Caesar himself!  You couldn’t PAY for publicity like this!

Paul’s case had become the talk of the town.  And the first question anyone would ask when confronted with a man like Paul -  WHY?  WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?  HOW?  HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

And Paul would excitedly launch into the gospel message.

The divine love story.

The message of transformation.

The cure for the storms of life.  The cure for the death sentence of sin.

And soon, the sound of Paul’s chains clinking would become indistinguishable from the sound of the gospel.  The sound of Paul’s chains would become indistinguishable from the sound of the gospel. Paul’s chains, no matter how painful, no matter how unjust, served to advance the gospel.  And so he could rejoice in them.  Not rejoicing in their pain, not rejoicing in the injustice of it all, but rejoicing in the higher truth.  Rejoicing in the gospel truth.

And, it is truly awesome and wonderful, and altogether unsurprising, knowing our God, that the benefits of Paul’s imprisonment don’t stop here, but they continue, with faithful brothers becoming more and more courageous in their evangelism as a result of Paul’s imprisonment.  Our second point.

Paul is not the only preacher of the gospel at this time in church history, though, from Scripture, we might tend to get that idea.  That Paul single-handedly was evangelist to the furthest corners of the Roman world, and the rest of the Apostles just sat around Jerusalem.  Acts 1-8 was about Peter, but Acts 9, throughout the rest of the New Testament seems to be about Paul.

And honestly, the Apostle Paul would be horrified that we have this idea about him.

Because it’s not about HIM, it’s about JESUS CHRIST.  First and foremost.  It is about Jesus Christ...always.  Paul was just the messenger, just a weak clay pot.  Believers have been given this treasure of the gospel in jars of clay.  It’s not about the jar.

And there is more than just one jar out there.

Paul is not jealously hoarding his role as evangelist and Apostle, but rejoices that there are others to preach outside while he preaches inside.

I want you to know, brothers, that what 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.

Let’s examine this a little more closely.

On the outset, it seems that this is impossible.  How could Paul’s imprisonment for the sake of Christ give the other brothers boldness and courage?  Wouldn’t the fear of their own chains silence the gospel?

Well, this would seem to be the logical conclusion, but that is not what happened.

Because fear is a very interesting thing.

Though fear may seem to be powerful, all its power can be conquered in an instant.

Maybe the children among us can think of times that they have been scared.  Many of us, when we are young, are scared of the dark.  At night, maybe we wake up, and the clothing on the chair turns into a monster in our sleepy minds.  At that fear can feel so strong.  But if we get up, and turn on the light, very quickly that fear fades away - the monster is nothing more than a pile of clothing, and clothing can’t hurt us.  We breathe a sigh of relief, and, before we know it, we are sleeping again.

And this is exactly what would have happened with Paul’s coworkers.  Paul’s fellow evangelists.

With baited breath, they watched as he was put in prison.  There was fear.  Their heartbeat increased.  Their breath became shallow.  But when they saw how God provided for him, when they saw that the soil was fertile, and receptive to the seed of the gospel...Paul’s imprisonment encouraged them.  It spurred them on to greater things.

If this is the worst that Satan can throw at us…

If the consequence for preaching the gospel is continuing to preach the gospel…

WHY NOT PREACH IT MORE BOLDLY?

The roadblock that Satan put in our way...it wasn’t a roadblock at all, but a starting block.  You know...those things that runners have on the track?  They push off, and go!

THIS IS THE WORST SATAN CAN DO - MAKE US STRONGER!!

Paul’s imprisonment and the success of the gospel as a result showed Paul’s coworkers that there was nothing to fear.  The only thing to be afraid of was fear itself, and that fear was proven to be unfounded.

If they would be imprisoned with Paul, chained side by side with him...would it matter?  Would it ultimately matter?  No!  For the gospel is bigger than that!  The gospel is bigger than freedom or imprisonment!  The gospel is bigger than our freedom!  No matter how we are limited in the expression of our faith, God will always find a way!

  • God can work, just as powerfully through prison chains as through missionary journeys.

  • God can work, just as powerfully through sermons that someone finds online, as sermons preached in a church building.

Through freedom or through imprisonment, the gospel will go out.  Because the gospel is bigger than anything Satan and his horde of demons can throw at it.  It is bigger than any government or power that raises itself up against it.  In any contest, the gospel will always win!  Evil may be powerful, but the Gospel will always win!

So how can we NOT be courageous?  How can we not be motivated to share it?

No matter what is done, it will continue to spread.  The gospel cannot be stopped because God cannot be stopped.  It will spread over the whole earth and reach every ear before the end.  And this should encourage us.  For the worst that the Devil can do to us is to send us to be with God.

To live is Christ, and to die is gain.  Is there anything more motivating than this?

But it appears that not everyone who spread the gospel while Paul was imprisoned had those same good and pure motives.  In fact, there were opponents who spread the gospel from corrupt motives.  And yet...Paul still rejoiced.  Our final point.

The Apostle Paul rejoices at those who are sharing the gospel out of corrupt motives.

Some...preach Christ from envy and rivalry...they 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.

This is curious.  The corruption of the other preaches does not dim Paul’s joy.

Was the governor Festus right?  Did Paul’s great learning drive him out of his mind?  Or has his imprisonment skewed his priorities away from purity?  After all, is purity not of the utmost importance?

Well, as with many difficult questions, the answer is yes and no.

Let’s begin with the yes.

Pure preaching of the gospel is the first and foremost mark of the true church.  If a church is not preaching the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, it has lost its way.  It doesn’t matter if they donate millions of dollars to the underprivileged on Monday morning...if on Sunday morning, they preach a false Christ.  If they preach a false gospel.  If they reject Jesus Christ as Saviour, and still give money to worthy causes, they have stopped being a church and have become a charity.  And non-Christian charities have done an amazing amount of good for the world, but in no way are they churches, and it is offensive and damaging for them to pretend that they are!

When the church does not preach the pure gospel, it has stopped being the church.

And yet, look at what Paul is saying here: In every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Purity of the gospel is of supreme importance, and it would seem that the true gospel is being proclaimed.  Paul has harsh words elsewhere for those who corrupt the gospel.  Think of what he says in his letter to the Galatians: If anyone should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed!

Purity of the gospel is the most important, but purity of the preacher...is less important.

And I know that this sounds controversial.  I know that this might be difficult to wrap your minds around, but this is what Paul is teaching the Philippians here.  So let’s go through it and try to understand a bit more.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry

When we hear this, when we read this, our minds are immediately drawn to the end of the sentence: envy and rivalry!  That is not how it should be, these preachers are false and corrupt, someone needs to stop them!

But where does Paul’s emphasis lie?

Some indeed PREACH CHRIST!

And the rest fades away to a matter of secondary importance.

We see this is the case in his rejoicing: Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice!

Paul is not thankful that there are corrupt preachers.

Paul does not rejoice in the sins of his fellow evangelists.

But he rejoices that the GOSPEL IS SPREADING!

If the preacher is corrupt, he will have to answer for that before God on the day of judgement.  After all, as James says, Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach with be judged with greater strictness.

The fact that God has used you to bring others to a true faith does not cancel out your sins.  Doing good works by false motives cannot save your soul.  Doing good works from false motives does not count as a thank-offering before God.  But what it does do...these good works from false motives...what it DOES DO...is that it helps your neighbour.

And THIS is what Paul rejoices in.

The preacher may be corrupt, the preacher may have to repent, earnestly, on his knees...but the preacher isn’t what it’s all about!  The preacher’s job is to step back, to step behind the pulpit, to step back behind the cross of Christ and hold it out for the listener.  To portray Christ for the one who seeks Him.

The goal of the gospel’s advance overrides EVERYTHING ELSE in Paul’s life.

And so it should be for us as well.

What are you willing to do for the spread of the gospel?

Paul was willing to be considered out of his mind - we heard that in our reading, didn’t we?  2 Corinthians 5

If we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

I’ll ask you again, what are you willing to do for the spread of the gospel?

Is it so precious, so wonderful, so powerful in your mind that you will do whatever it takes to get it out there?

Would you be willing to suffer injustice, with your constitutional freedoms taken away for the gospel to spread?

If God worked through our closed doors, bringing about a revival in Cloverdale, would it be worthwhile?

Would you be willing to give everything up?  To leave your former life behind, only to be falsely accused?  Mocked and beaten?  Tortured and then executed as a criminal?

Because that’s what Paul was willing to do for the gospel.

And that is what our Saviour Jesus Christ DID to accomplish the GOAL of the Gospel.

Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, left His glorious life in Heaven, rightly worshipped and adored by all creation, and came to this earth to be born humbly and laid in a manger.  Even though He was God, He was not recognized by the earth He created, but was called evil and wicked.  His opponents plotted to take His life, falsely accusing Him of blasphemy and rebellion.  Even though He was innocent, He was condemned to death by a corrupt earthly judge.  He was mocked, beaten, and nailed to a cross.  As He breathed His last, He declared triumphantly: IT IS FINISHED!  And the gospel was accomplished.

Through His death, we were brought life.

Through His punishment, we were forgiven.

And on that third day, when He rose again from the dead, we too are resurrected to a new life.  Our sins have been put to death with Christ, and our souls are raised up with Him.

THIS is the gospel!  And I will rejoice in it as long as I live!

AMEN.




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

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