Standing Firm in Christ's Love
Standing Strong in Christ’s Love, 8.23.20
A warm welcome to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you are new here this morning, all me to extend a special welcome to you. Here are Community Bible Church our mission is to know Christ and to make him know. That’s our heartbeat. My name is Chance Sumner. I serve here as Senior Pastor. I serve alongside Pastor Jesse. Pastor Jesse was just up here singing and leading us in worship. At the end of the service, Pastor Jesse will be in the foyer. Pastor Jesse would love to introduce himself to you and see how we as a church serve you.
If you have a Bible this morning, will you take it and open it open to the book of Philippians. We will cover one verse this morning. That’s it. Just one verse. Turn with me to Phil 4:1.
Before we read the passage together, I want us to look at where this passage fits in the overall structure of Philippians. In the ESV, Phil 4:1, our passage this morning, is the last verse in the section that began at 3:12. Look at 3:12. In the ESV, there is the subheading “Straining Toward the Goal” above 3:12. Do you see that? And then after 4:1 there is another subheading. That subheading reads, “Exhortation, Encouragement, and Prayer.” What this means is that according to the editors of the ESV, they see 4:1 as the final verse in this section on perseverance. In this verse, 4:1, we’ve come to the finish line of our section on perseverance.
What is the last instruction Paul gives in the section that we are concluding this morning? That’s the question we will tackle this morning. And just a reminder about our need for perseverance. The Christian is a struggle, dear friend. It is a battle. I was talking with a saint yesterday, and he mentioned to me that some Christians aren’t running the race, they’re crawling on the path to redemption. That is true. This journey of following Christ can be so hard, so difficult. I know that so many of you are dealing with difficulties and burdens and sorrows and hurts. I know that. I’ve seen these difficulties in my life, I see them in the lives of my loved ones, and I see them in the lives of the precious saints of this church. We need the Lord’s strength in this. We need to hear from him what is it that is supposed to motivate us in living for him. And God has not left us in the dark about how we are to live in light of life’s difficulties.
Let’s go ahead and read Phil 4:1. Paul writes,
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
What we are going to see from the passage, the way I am going to interpret it this morning is this: it is Christ’s love that motivates our perseverance. We stand strong, we stand firm in Christ’s love for us. That’s the big idea. I will explain this big idea by using three points. Three points for you this morning. They will build on each other. Each point will assume the previous one.
We begin by observing the affection that Paul evidences here in 4:1 for the Philippians. The main idea in 4:1 is the commandment that Paul gives. He concludes this section on perseverance by saying, “Stand firm in the Lord.” That’s the main idea. We will get to that portion of this passage in our third point. I want us to first see the manner in which Paul presents this command to the Philippians. Looking at the passage, Paul applies five distinct terms of endearment to the Philippians prior to giving them this command to stand firm. The five terms are this—my brothers, whom I love, whom I long for, my joy, and my crown.
The first description that Paul uses to express his love for the Philippians is “my brothers.” We need to first discuss the question of whether Paul is only talking to the men of the congregation or the men and the women. At first glance, it might appear that Paul is talking to only the men, for he uses the term “brothers.” And this is the term that he uses in Greek as well. There is a Greek word for “sisters” that Paul could have used along with brothers to include women and the Greek text is missing that word. Nevertheless, this exclusion of the Greek word “sisters” is not an indication that Paul is only talking to men. On the contrary, Paul’s use of “brothers” includes both men and women. Look at Phil 4:2, the very next verse after our verse, 4:1. Paul mentions two women in 4:2. Paul’s address in 4:1 cannot be separated from 4:2. Paul’s address in 4:1 includes those women who he addresses in 4:2. The “my brothers” in 4:1 includes women, as well. Paul usage of “brothers” here is similar to our use of “mankind.” Mankind is though to include both men and women. That is how Paul is using “brothers” in 4:1.
This term “brothers” is part of the larger theological idea of the church as a family. communicates a family affection. Over and over again, the Bible uses this terminology to describe the relations that Christians have with one another. Christians share an intimate, close, personal relationship with each other as brothers and sisters do. Paul here is using this language of family relations to communicate his love for the Philippians.
Whom I love
Next is the term “whom I love.” In Greek this phrase that we have in English is actually a single Greek word. The Greek word can be translated into English as, “Beloved.” This is how it is translated at the end of 4:1. Look at the end of 4:1 with me. Paul says there at the end, “my beloved.” That is the same Greek word that occurs for “whom I love.” Same word.
The idea is simple. Paul loves these people. Paul loves them. Paul doesn’t just tolerate them. Often times we think that merely tolerating people is showing them love. That is not the case with Paul. Paul’s feelings for the Philippians goes beyond just tolerating them. Also, he doesn’t just minister to them out of a sense of duty. He doesn’t say, “You know, Philippians, the only reason why I am writing this letter to you is because Jesus has made me do it.” That would be very cold. Paul’s feelings are very different. He doesn’t just tolerate them, he doesn’t just minister to them out of duty, he loves. He has genuine affection for them in his heart.
Whom I long for
Because Paul loves them, he also longs to be with them. Next is the term “whom I love.” As it was with the previous word, “whom I love,” so it is with this phrase, “whom I long for.” In Greek this is a single word. The Greek word means this,
Pertaining to being earnestly desired, longed for
The idea here is simple to understand. Paul wants to be with them. As I’ve mentioned before, Paul is writing this letter from prison. This is one of the “Prison Epistles” that Paul writes. He is not with them. But because of his love for them he wants to be with them. You might think of a husband who is on an extended business trip who so desperately wants to return to his wife and children. The husband longs to return to his family. That’s a similar feeling that Paul is expressing her. He longs for them.
My Joy and My Crown
Paul speaks of the Philippians as his family members, as those whom he loves, as those whom he longs to see, and next, he speaks of them as “his joy and his” Notice what the passage state. It says, “my joy and my crown” What’s this mean?
A good way to understand what Paul means by “my joy and my crown” is according to the phrase that we might use sometimes of “pride and joy.” Our “pride and joy” is what brings us the most joy, the most satisfaction. It’s what makes us happy in life. What makes Paul most happy is the Christian witness evident in the Philippians. Paul not only loves the Philippians but they also bring him great joy. That’s the idea.
Paul loves the Philippians plain and simple. He loves them. Paul does not come to them waving the stick of apostolic authority to smack them around and bring them under submission. Let it be clear that he does have a stick of apostolic authority which he does use from time to time. We see this in Philippians with how Paul speaks of false teachers. He does sometimes use his stick of apostolic authority, but not here, not with the Philippians. His posture is love, kindness, and affection. His heart for them overflows as he tells them to keep enduring in the Christian faith.
Now we move to our second point. It is this: “Christ’s Love.” First point was Paul’s love. Second point is Christ’s love.
As we move from this first point to our second point, I am going to make a pivot that I want you to fully understand. Our first point was, “Paul’s Love.” That comes through very clearly because of all of the terms of endearment he places upon the Philippians. Paul in different ways communicates to the Philippians his love for them. Amen? Amen.
What I want you to see this morning is that Phil 4:1, although Paul talks about his own affections for the Philippians, 4:1 is not really about Paul. What Paul does here is that he points us to Christ. Paul’s importance is to point us to Christ. And with Paul’s affections here I want to get us to Christ’s affections. And I want us to see how Paul’s show us Christ’s affection.
The way I want us to see this is by asking the question, “Why does Paul feels this way towards the Philippians?” Why? What is the theological basis of Paul’s tremendous affections for the Philippians?
Affections of Christ
Turn with me to Phil 1:9. We have to see 1:9 to understand 4:1. Phil 1:9 tells us why Paul feels the way he does in Phil 4:1. Paul writes this in Phil 1:9,
For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
This is the question I want us to ask of this passage and 4:1. Based upon what Paul teaches in 1:9, why does Paul feel the way he does in 4:1? In 4:1 Paul shows his yearning for the Philippians. And this yearning, Paul says in 1:9, is a manifestation of “the affection of Christ Jesus.” This is a massively important phrase. To understand what it means, we must hone in on the word “of.” What does Paul mean by “the affections of Jesus Christ?” This is what it means. One commentator puts it this way. When Paul says he longs for the Philippians with the affection of Jesus Christ he means that he longs for them with
the love Christ has for you, which is also at work in me for you.
So what Paul is saying here is that he longs for the Philippians with the very same love that Christ has for them. Paul is an extension of Christ. Paul has in his heart the very same love that Christ has for the Philippians. The love that Paul expresses represents Christ’s own love for the Philippians.
So bringing all of this back to Phil 4:1. What exactly am I saying. What I am saying is that the terms of endearment that Paul applies to the Philippians are ultimately terms of endearment that Christ applies to the Philippians. Paul’s love for the Philippians represents Christ’s love for the Philipians.
Our passage, Phil 4:1, isn’t so much about Paul’s love for the Philippians as it is about Christ’s love for the Philippians. Yes, Paul does love the Philippians but the reason why he loves the Philippians is that Christ’s own love for the Philippians is working in and through Paul. Paul’s feelings of love and endearment are a window to Christ’s love and endearment. Paul’s love is based upon Christ’s love. We need to see that Phil 4:1 points us away from Paul and to Christ.
The Love of Christ
Now, dear friend, there are so many passages that speak specifically of Christ’s love. So many. I want to explore one to get a fuller picture of the love that Paul’s love shows us. Let’s turn to Matt 11:28. I want us to see what Christ’s heart, what Christ’s love looks like using Christ’s own words. So we saw Paul’s love for the Philippians expressed in Phil 4:1. We saw that. We read that. We then saw that Christ’s power flows through Paul. The good that Paul does he does because of Christ’s energy flowing through him. One way that energy flows through Paul is in the manifestation of “the affections of Jesus Christ.” Paul’s expression of love towards the Philippians is actually an expression of Christ’s love for them. Now, in this passage, Matt 11:28, we are going to hear from Jesus himself about his heart, his love for the Philippians, for us. The passage reads,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
This is a truly tremendous passage. What we see here is Christ’s heart, Christ’s heart. The journey of sanctification, of running the Christian life is one that is wearying. We become weighed down, burdened. Just knows that. He mentions that here. He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden.” In the race of perseverance, we labor, and we become heavy laden. Weighed down. Jesus knows that. His heart is for people like this. Jesus says, “I will give you rest.” Jesus provides us what we need. And how is it that he can do this for us? What is the basis of all of it? Jesus says this, “For I am gentle and lowly in heart.” Did you know that this is the only passage in all the Bible where Jesus talks about his heart? That’s the reason why Jesus can show us such love and mercy. Why? Because his heart is like this. His heart, his love, his grace is for tired, weary, burdened, guilt-ridden people. Paul knew this love. Paul was transformed by this love. Paul, because he was transformed by this love, was able to give a similar love to the Philippians.
To summarize again what I am saying in this point. In Phil 4:1 we see Paul’s heart for the Philippians. Theologically, though, v. 4:1 is actually an expression of Christ’s heart, Christ’s love for the Philippians. To get a better picture of Christ’s love, his heart we went to Matt 11:28–30. There Jesus tells us that his heart is for weary, burdened sinners. Sinners just like you and me on the path of sanctification and perseverance. His heart is people who fail along the path. Why is he so loving? How can he be this way? Because, as he says, “he is gentle and lowly in heart.” It is his nature to embrace you, weary pilgrim, along the way of sanctification.
Stand Firm in Christ’s Love
Wow. A tremendous Savior we serve. Let’s turn back to Phil 4:1 for our last point this morning. Let’s read the passage on more time together,
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
For this third and final point we are honing in on the exhortation that Paul gives in this passage. And the exhortation is,
Stand firm thus in the Lord
Let’s break this part of the verse down. First the “thus.”
I take this “thus” as Paul is bringing his argument on perseverance to a conclusion. What he started in 3:12, he’s bringing to a conclusion. After he praises them with all of these terms of endearment, Paul says, “Okay, this is what I want you to do. In light of the hope we have in Christ, in light of his love, his grace, and his mercy, this is what I want you to do.” This commandment in 4:1 is a concluding commandment for the section.
Paul’s concluding command is to “stand firm.” This command, “stand firm,” means this.
to be firmly committed in conviction or belief
I want us to see that this is a different command than the ones given in Phil 3:13–14. Look with me there. In those passages, Paul talks about perseverance as running a race. Verse 14 says,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
That’s a metaphor of running. Keep going, type of idea. That’s not what Paul says in 4:1. Paul says in 4:1 don’t move, be strong, be immovable. These are different metaphors for perseverance.
In the Christian life, sometimes the most important thing you have to do is to get out of bed. You have to move, you have to make a step, you have to keep trying, keep going. Other times, you have to be fortified and strong so that you don’t get knocked down, beat up, get the wind knocked out of you. This idea, “stand firm,” is referring to the latter idea. Don’t get knocked down. Don’t get pushed down.
Think of this like a battering ram versus a really strong door. The battering ram is sin, death, discouragement, and the devil. The door is you. This battering ram is going to slam you in this life. You have to be strong. You have to stand there and take it, being convicted in your mind that God is in control. Don’t falter. Don’t fail. Stay strong. Stay tough in your convictions.
In the Lord
And there’s this little prepositional phrase that is really important. It ties everything I am saying together. Looking at the text. Paul does not just say, “Stand firm.” He doesn’t just say that. He adds this at the end:
Stand firm . . . in the Lord
That little prepositional phrase brings it all together. And bringing the second point to bear on how we interpret this phrase. I interpret like this: Stand firm in the Lord’s love. Or, to put it differently, our strength of standing firm comes from Christ’s love.
Let me explain this point using an illustration. Let’s say that you are a Christian mother who loves Christ. You love the Lord with all of your heart. And one of your greatest desires is for your children to love the Lord. You’ve prayed for decades for them to love Christ. And yet, maybe one of them, maybe two of them, don’t know the Lord. Placing this into biblical categories, you have a prodigal child. You’ve been through so much with your prodigal. All you want in life before you die is for your child to love Christ, to know him. And yet they don’t. Weekly you have to experience the difficulty of this. You feel this battering ram of discouragement constantly. It constantly hits you. Makes you want to give up, throw your hands up. You get hit over and over. Week after week, month after month, year after year. It’s hard. It’s discouraging. Like really discouraging. Dear friends, where do we draw our strength from in situations like this? Where do we go to find the strength to continue to stand? What this passage is teaching and what I am saying this morning is this: Jesus’s love is your strength. His heart for you, dear mother, is one of understanding, compassion, love, grace, and acceptance. As you are beaten with this battering ram of discouragement, Christ beckons you to come to him. To find your strength in his love for you. He wants you to be renewed in his love for you. His heart for you. His heart for you is “gentle and humble.” In him you will find rest, you will find strength, you will find the ability to stay strong. That is what standing firm in Christ’s love looks like for the mother of a prodigal. Jesus’s love. It’s all we need.
To end this morning’s sermon with a specific point of application. Let’s say you’re asking, “Pastor, what can I do this week to stand firm in the love of Christ? What can I do specifically to do this, pastor?” Such a great question. I am glad that you asked. What I want you to do is I want you to get this book. I mentioned it maybe three weeks ago. The title of it is Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. It’s by Dane Ortlund. Get this book. Buy this book. Read this book. We have some copies out on our book stand in the foyer for you to pick up. Get it. Read it. It is a tremendous book. This is a tremendous way, dear saint, for you to stand firm in Christ’s love. This book will help you see how tremendous, how great, and how faithful Christ is to us. Get it, dear friend, and read it. Let’s close with prayer.
May the Father keep you in Christ’s love this week by the power of the Spirit; may the Father strengthen, encourage, and challenge you to rely more and more on the love of Christ for his people. In the power of the Spirit. All God’s people say, “Amen.”