The Church at Philippi (2022)
Sunday, March 1995; June 28, 2009; July 16, 2022
Preached by: Carolyn Sissom
March 1995: The Lord spoke to me, “Carolyn I want a church like the one at Philippi.”
It has been 37-years since I heard that commission. On the day I stand before him, that will be the measuring stick of the fruit of the ministry entrusted to me by the Lord Jesus. The Lord waits for the precious fruit of the earth. The rebellious will mock the fruit of the Spirit charging those who preach on the “fruit” as “fruit checkers.” I am not the “fruit police,” but without the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit fall on shallow ground.
1 Co. 4:1: Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. It is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small things that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
I will briefly contrast the Church at Corinth with the Church at Philippi. The Church at Corinth is much like the carnal-compromised church of the 21st century as well as the paganism of the social culture of the kosmos (world without Christ). Paul’s letters to the Corinthians reveal the problems, pressures and struggles of a church called out of a pagan society. At the time Paul arrived in Corinth, the city was depraved. Going beyond the licentiousness of other trading cities and ports, it lent its own name as the symbol of debauchery and corruption. The monstrosity of sexual perversion in the name of religion overshadowed the life of the city. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, they fell behind in no gifts of the Spirit, but they fell short with the fruit of righteousness.
Acts, Chapter 18 is the story of Paul establishing the church in Corinth with the assistance of Aquila, Priscilla. When Silas and Timothy came to Paul from Macedonia, they brought a gift of money from the church at Philippi.
Phil. 4:14-17: You have done well to share in my distress. You Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. Even in Thessalonica, you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.
The Church in Corinth had many problems to overcome and one was their lack in giving.
Paul, a tentmaker, by trade supported himself for reasons given in 2 Cor. 11: 9-11: When I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one; for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. In everything, I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no one shall stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia (Greece).
On the other hand, the Philippian church was almost perfect, yet Paul asked for even greater maturity. He observed for them that increased self-denial and deeper humility would earn them a greater weight of glory.
Phil 1:9-11: I pray that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God…(27) Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
The obedience of Paul to the Macedonian vision (Acts. 16:9-12) provided not only a notable landmark in his ministry, but a turning point of apostolic history.
Departing from Roman Asia, and entering Macedonia (Greece) with the gospel of Christ, he planted in Philippi the first church in that province. On two later occasions Paul revisited Philippi (Acts 20: 2, 6) and the letter to the Philippians bears witness to his happy bond with the Philippians Christians. History records that Paul visited Philippi four times; once after his last imprisonment in Rome in 63 A.D.
Philippi was strategically placed on the Egnatian Way, the great Roman road running some five hundred miles from the Adriatic Sea. One of those roads used by God for the messengers of the gospel. Named after Philip, father of Alexander the Great, the city was re-founded at 42 B.C. by Antony and Octavian (later the emperor Augustus) as a Roman colony.
The call: Acts 16:9: A vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” After he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore. loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; And from there to Philippi, which is the chief city, abiding certain days. On the Sabbath, we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was being made; and we sat down and spoke unto the women which resorted there.
This down-by-the-riverside praying of these women seeking the Lord moved the heart of God to visit Paul in a vision and bring the Apostle with his ministry team to their city. This down-by-the-riverside praying brought a Move-of-God to Philippi and the measure of the Lord’s church that He still uses as the measurement of the church of the 21st century.
At Philippi, he suffered hard things, yet he always prayed with joy every time he remembered them. He was treated badly in Philippi by his enemies and false friends. He did not hold bitterness against his true friends in the church.
James 1:2: Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.
In the beginning, this church was very small, yet that did not discourage him. When the Lord speaks to you, it won’t matter what the nay-sayers have to say, discouragement holds no power over the spoken Word of the Lord. Acts 16:40 speaks of the brethren meeting at the home of Lydia. In Philippians 1:1, the church had both bishops and deacons.
The theme of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the joy of Christian grace and experiences in all of life and death. As ministers of the gospel, we not only minister how to live, but we should be able to minister how to face death.
Phil. 2: 1-2: If there be any consolation in Christ, any comfort of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, any bowels and mercies, fulfill my joy that you be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
Paul was proud of the Philippians. Their dedication thrilled him, but he would have his continued stay on earth result in their further progress in the faith. Complete unity works through humility. This would be higher ground. It would add to the apostle’s joy if they could reach it.
This unity does not mean that we agree on every issue or that certain people have to have their “way.” This is the unity of respect and honor toward one another.
Phil. 2:3: Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
He mentions joy 14-times. In particular, he commends them in 1:25 for their joy in the Faith. Being confident in this, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith.
The more faith we have, the more joy, and the more faith and joy, the more we are furthered in our Christian cause. Joy will erase negativity and the pull of sin. When we are filled with the joy of the Lord, the pull of the lusts of the world has no hold on us.
The key word is rejoicing. Christians are to rejoice in fellowship with one another with love, abounding in knowledge and depth of insight, in afflictions of the gospel, in the ministry to the saints, in faithfulness of ministers, in the Lord in unity, and always in all things.
Saints refers to the whole body of Christians as the holy people of God set apart for Him in Christ.
In the letter, Paul lists 35 conditions of assurance for the church.
1:6: Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Confident here is the Greek word peitho – translated 22 times as trust, 10 times as obey, 7 times as confidence, 9 times as assure, believe, agree, yield, and make one’s friend each time. This confidence is based on these 35-conditions of assurance.
1:7: I know it is right for me to have this confidence in you because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you are all partakers of my grace.
Paul wrote this from his prison cell in Rome about 62 A.D. The church had again sent him a gift of money designated to help spread the Gospel. This triggered an out-burst of affection. After ten years of their faithfulness, he is now certain that their Gospel vision will persist until the Day of Christ. He sensed that the Philippians’ grace of giving would abide until the Lord returned.
Phil. 1: 11: Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
These fruits of righteousness depend on Faith. This is the fruit the Lord is waiting for. We are made righteous that we may become righteous. But this fruit is through Jesus Christ. In Him alone we are righteous, and by Him alone can life be beautiful. All this is to the glory and praise of God.
Phil. 1:12-14: Brethren it is important that you understand that the things which happened to me has advanced the gospel. So that in my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much bolder to speak the word without fear.
I pray the church of the 21st century be giving this grace of confidence. Certainly not by imprisonment; but by faith in God in the midst of the present tribulations. I cannot listen to complaining, nay-sayers, woe-is-me, Satan is after me, Christianity. Do not give Satan place, power or credit for your circumstances. Most of our circumstances are due to our own bad choices, then asking the LORD to bless our choices.
Phil 2: 14-16: Do all things without murmurings and disputing’s; that you may be blameless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain.
Paul only sees the providence of God in his present trial of faith. The guards were chained to Paul. Each day, one of Nero’s elite bodyguards had the experience of being harnessed to this sold-out Man-of God. They were exposed to the Gospel and to the anointing of Christ within his mortal body. The prison became a pulpit. Word spread like wildfire. After three years, the natural rotation of Nero’s soldiers carried the story all over the empire. Paul’s boldness in bonds so thrilled the Roman Christians, many were challenged to declare Christ more openly.
Phil. 1: 15-17: Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one preaches Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel.
It is a grievous thing for the Body of Christ to be in competition with one another to try to get the upper hand or to out-do one another. I was weary when I came to Texas with the competition amongst women. I asked the Lord, “what about the men preachers?” He replied, “They are worse.” I am careful to never sow seeds of competition. Nor will I participate in competitive spirits or competitive speaking. Do not compare ministers or singers around me; nor should we compare ourselves with others.
When I am preaching from the pulpit entrusted to me by the Lord, I don’t hold back; or if I am invited to preach, I will give all I have; but I will never try to one-up another ministry. I pray there is no spirit of competition in this fellowship. The Bishops and Deacons exist for the Saints, not the saints for them. Paul was in chains in prison preaching the gospel. No one wanted to compete with him for that pulpit. As a result, he was able to preach unhindered by those preaching the gospel for the wrong motives. He was set for the defense of the gospel, not for the defense of his ministry.
1:18: What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
1:19-21: For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
This was written at a time, humanly speaking, when the outcome of the apostle’s trial was suspenseful and uncertain. He had lived in the shadow of execution (death row) for 3 years, but now the Philippians’ gift appeared as evidence that God had further work for him. However, should death be his lot, he wanted to die joyously exhibiting the Savior’s indwelling power! To glorify Jesus in a radiant, triumphant death, would add the final jewel to Paul’s treasure laid up in Christ. For Paul death has no fear, but only gladness. On the other hand, their joy, their good, lies in his remaining for their help. His joy or their joy? This is the issue and to state it is to know the answer. He will remain.
1:22-26: But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor; yet what I shall choose I know not. For I am in a strait between the two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless. to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith. That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.
Their gift brought Paul overwhelming joy. He rejoiced that their gospel vision had not dimmed. Now he would return that joy by coming to them so that they might behold the answer to their prayers in person. His first deliverance from the Philippian jail 10-years before gave this church a supernatural beginning. His second deliverance was now to bring them a supernatural bond in the faith.
1:27-28: Only let your conversation (conduct) be as it becomes the gospel of Christ; that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one Spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel: and in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
Fearlessness: this is not to be confused with dying grace which comes in the final moments of life, but fearless determination to press the reality of Christ in the face of opposition. It is a strength that does not come overnight, but rather through purposing to be a more vigorous witness for Jesus today than we were yesterday. After 10-years, he expected the Philippians to display such fearlessness. Having been so intimately involved with Paul in the cause of Christ. To retreat now in the face of any antichrist spirit was unthinkable and should be for us as well.
1: 29 -30: For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; having the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
The Philippian church seems to have been relatively free of enemies, particularly the Judaizers. But that freedom is about to end as Paul’s enemies can be expected to follow him from Rome. Also, the persecutions under Nero (A.D.64) would be under way. Satan could not be expected to ignore this “good work” indefinitely. Thus, Paul prepares them for vicious opposition.