The Gifts of the Father
The Gifts of the Father
One year ago last week, I preached my first sermon here at CBC. It was candidating sermon. Can you believe that? Wow. That was over a year ago. That means that you’ve had to listen to me preach for almost a year. You must have a lot of patience. You’re beginning to learn how my wife feels. Almost as much patience as my wife. Since moving here, I have felt tremendously satisfied in pastoring here at CBC. Serving as your pastor is one of the greatest joys I have in life. For you to call me pastor is an extreme privilege. I love being your pastor. It is my calling and it brings me great joy. My deepest desire for you is that God would use my efforts to bring about a deeper love for Jesus Christ in your life. I yearn that for you. I desperately want you to see how good, how precious, how marvelous Jesus Christ is. It’s all about him.
I thank you tremendously for your love and concern for me and my family. For your prayers, for your gifts, for the meals. This church has been so kind to us. Thank you, dear church family.
We’re making our way through Philippians. Praise the Lord! This is our last week in Chapter 1. We started Philippians at the end of September. We’re making progress, church body. Let’s go ahead and open to Phil 1:28. For this morning’s sermon, we will cover the last part of v. 28 to the end of 30. The passage reads,
This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Paul mentions three gifts that God the Father gives to his people in this passage. These three gifts will form the three points of my sermon this morning. Three gifts; three points. I will end each point with application. Pretty simple.
The first gift which Paul mentions that the Father gives in this passage is salvation. This point arises from v. 28. To read it again,
This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
This is a tricky sentence to interpret. What makes it trick is the occurrence of the “This” right at the beginning of the sentence and the “that” at the end of the sentence. We’ll tackle the “This” first and then the “that.”
Sometimes when you run into a “this,” or “that,” “these” or “those,” in Scripture, there is difficulty in interpreting the passage. This is not just a difficulty that we find in Scripture; it’s a difficult we found outside of Scripture, too. If I tell you, without any context, “Can you take care of this for me?” you’re going to be confused. That same problem of confusion is evident in Scripture as well. And in our passage, at the end of 1:28, we have in the ESV two instances of these types of words.
When Paul says, “This is a clear sign to them of their destruction,” it’s hard to know what the “this” is referring to. Some take what Paul is saying here is that the Philippians strength, unity, and courage in the face of opposition is a sign to those who oppose the gospel in Philippi that they will be ultimately judged by God. I’m not sure. That could be true.
Correctly interpreting this statement, though, is not hugely consequential for our understanding of the passage. We might just conclude that in there is some sign to the Philippian opponents that they will be judged. I’m content with that interpretation.
We run into some of the same difficult with the “that” which occurs at the end of the sentence. Paul writes, “but of your salvation, and that from God.” Paul, what is this “that” referring to? That’s the question we need to answer.
Some commentators take it as referring to all of what Paul has discussed in the section of Scripture that we have read. That is, the “this” refers to the Philippians unity, the opposition that they experience, the judgment that awaits those who oppose the Philippians, and the salvation that belongs to the Philippians. Paul would be saying that all these things have been established by God. That God is sovereign in what circumstances that the Philippians find themselves in. There are good reasons for interpreting the “that” in this way.
My interpretation this morning will be a bit simpler than that. I want us to take the take the “that” when Paul says “and that is from God” as referring to “salvation.” The “that” probably refers to more than the notion “salvation” but it doesn’t refer to less than that. This simple idea is that God gives salvation. Salvation originates in God, is distributed by God, and is applied by God. To be more specific, the Father decrees salvation, the Son acquires salvation, and the Spirit applies salvation. Salvation is all about God.
This idea of salvation from God is understood theologically by the term grace. Grace is the idea that God alone is the one responsible for our salvation. If there is one idea that this world needs to hear, that the nations need to hear, that you need to here in this life, it’s this one. God is merciful. He is loving. He is good. Because he is these things, he saves us from our sins. Solely. Completely. Totally. What we offer to God is our sin. What he offers to us is eternal salvation. It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? It’s not, though. It’s true. This idea is worth sacrificing your whole life for.
Grace is what separates Christianity form every false religion.
All religions maintain that in someway mankind needs salvation from something. All religions seek a way of salvation. All human beings long for happiness because the human heart is created for God. All false religions seek redemption through human action. However the human problem is conceived in these false religion, they all maintain that human beings are the ones who must satisfy the demands of their deity and fulfill the laws of their deity. All religions and philosophies other than Christianity are about man saving
himself. The biblical viewpoint is radically different. Salvation is solely a gift from God. Unique to the Christian religion is the reality of Jesus Christ and the redemption he brings as fully God’s initiative.
Amazing grace, dear church. How sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.
The way I want to apply this notion of grace this morning is this. We all have the tendency towards minimizing our own faults and maximizing others. We all tend towards thinking worse of others than we think of ourselves. We all tend to demand patience from others but extend little patience when others need it. We ask for God’s grace but too often fail to give it to others.
The more we know grace, the more we see our faults and the kindness of God to us. The more we see our faults and God’s kindness, the more we will be able to extend God’s grace to others. When we truly understand grace, we can extend it to others. This can be applied in several different arenas—in the church, in the workplace, in friendships, in marriages, in parent-child relationships, in the world. It applies everywhere.
Because you have been forgiven, dear Christian, be patient with others. Be patient with their faults, their shortcomings, and their sins. You, too, have faults, shortcomings, and sins. God has shown you grace, though, and is patient towards. Show others this patience, as God has shown it to you. Be patient with others.
Not only does God give us salvation, Paul specifies that God gives us faith as well. Paul is specific in this passage. God gives salvation. This is my second point this morning. The second gift that God gives is faith.
(This week’s FP&P compliments this point of God giving faith so be sure your check that out in your church bulletin). I get this point from what Paul states in v. 29,
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake
To understand what Paul is saying here we must first seek to understand what Paul means by this word “granted.” The Greek verb here for this English word “granted” is actually the verb form of grace. Let me say that again: The Greek verb here for this English word “granted” is actually the verb form of grace. This is how it is defined:
to give freely as a favor, give graciously
As you will notice, there is no subject of this verb mention. Who is doing the granting? It’s God. That is implied based upon context.
The gift that Paul specifies first is faith. Now, Paul expresses this idea, but he does it in a different way. He says that, as the passage reads, that God has granted that “you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” The inclusion of “not only” is what throws us off. What Paul is saying is something like what I might say: “I am not only preaching in this service but also in the next service.” When I include “not only” I’m saying that I preached in both services. Another way to put this is, “I am in preaching in two services this morning.” For Paul to say that “not only was faith given to the Philippians, but suffering for Christ, too” he is saying that God gave, he graced them with both gifts—faith and suffering.
To see in real time what this granting of faith looked like in the Philippians church, turn with me to Acts 16:11. What we have here is Luke’s recording, the author of Acts, of the genesis of the church in Philippi. Here we have an example of God’s granting of faith in story form. I will read through v. 15. The passage reads,
So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
The part of this passage that I want us to take specific look at is v. 14. Here’s my question to you as you read this passage. Why is it that Lydia “pays attention” to Paul’s message and is consequently baptized? Why? What reason does the passage give for that? The answer? “The Lord opened her heart.” Lydia believed because God gave her the gift of faith. That’s how Paul says it in Phil 1:29. Luke and Paul are talking about the same reality: Lydia believed because God gave her faith, he opened her heart.
What’s this mean for me, Pastor? What’s it mean that God grants faith, not just to Lydia and the Philippians, but to me? This is what it means.
It means that the most basic, foundational, and ultimate reason why you believe is not because of yourself—your own ingenuity, goodness, and works. No. The main reason why you believe is because God has granted you that gift of faith. You believe because God has granted to you belief. That’s why. You are a Christian because God has blessed you with belief. Wow. You are saved by grace alone.
We respond to this idea—that our belief is based upon God’s gift of faith—with humility. We already read in Eph 2:8–9 during the pastoral prayer. The passage reads,
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The faith you have is a result of God’s working in you. It is not based upon you. When we see this, when we feel this in our hearts, we fall before the Lord with a humble attitude. Be humble, dear Christian. Don’t boast. Don’t gloat. Don’t navel-gaze. Don’t focus upon self. In this age of social media, it’s very easy to let everyone know how awesome you are. Don’t do that. Focus upon Christ. Be infatuated with him, not yourself. Focus upon his work, his reign, his truth. All that you have is of grace—including faith. Be humble.
Suffering for Christ
Now we move to our last point this morning, the last gift that God gives in this passage. What is the last gift, pastor? Write this, dear friend: “Suffering for Christ.”
In v. 29, faith is granted by God the Father to the Philippians, as well as suffering for Christ. Read the passage through v. 30 with me,
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
The Philippians were engaged with some type of conflict. This conflict was based upon their identity as Christians. Paul talks to them about maintain their unity through this struggle against those who opposed their work. The opposition to their work within Philippi rose to the level of persecution. This persecution is what Paul refers to when he states “suffer for his sake.” The Philippians are suffering because of their association with the name of Jesus Christ. They are suffering on Christ’s behalf, because they bear his name. They are suffering as his representatives in Philippi.
This same situation was the one that Paul himself found himself in, as he specifies in v. 30. Paul’s whole life was one of persecution for the name of Christ. Throughout his entire Christian life, he suffered for the sake of the gospel. The Philippians are joining with him in this suffering for the sake of Christ.
To suffer for Christ’s sake is a blessing. It is a tremendous blessing. Turn with me to Acts 5:39 to explore this idea. I’ll read through 42. The context of this passage is that the apostles are experiencing Jewish opposition due to their work in the gospel ministry. We’ll start in the middle of v. 39.
So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
Look at the response of the apostles, dear friend. This is another-worldly response. They rejoiced because “they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” of Jesus Christ.
This type of response by the apostles goes against our natural sentiments of what is valuable. We naturally crave comfort, safety, health, and pleasure. Suffering is antithetical to comfort, safety, health, and pleasure. Suffering is the opposite of those ideals. This idea of suffering for Christ naturally raises this question, “Why would someone ever want to do that?”
What an important question. And in answering the question, we get to the heart of the gospel. The reason why someone would want to suffer for Christ is because Christ is worthy of our suffering. Suffering for Christ is worth enduring because Jesus is worthy of everything. Jesus is of such value that he is worth giving your own life for. And if he’s worth dying for, dear friend, he’s worth living for. He’s worth our entire lives. He’s worth leaving everything for in this life.
My application for this last point is very simple. It’s this: follow Jesus. Follow Jesus, dear friend. Wherever he leads. If he leads you into suffering for his name, follow him. If he leads you elsewhere, follow him. He’s worthy. Forsake everything, even life itself, to follow him.