Shelby G. Floyd
This lesson is from the book of Philippians. It is definitely one of my favorite books in the Bible. It is upbeat and optimistic. This is Paul’s hymn of joy just as 1 Corinthians 13 is his hymn of love.
Analyzing the book of Philippians we find that Chapter One is the single mind, Chapter Two is the submissive mind, Chapter Three is the spiritual mind and Chapter Four is the secure mind. When we look at it from a different point of view: Chapter One, the Christian’s purpose is to live for Christ; Chapter Two, the Christian’s pattern is to have the mind of Christ; Chapter Three, the Christian’s prize is to receive the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; and Chapter Four, the Christian’s provision is to have all things through Christ.
But, when one looks at it from still another point of view: Philippians One, Christ our life; Chapter Two, Christ our example; Chapter Three, Christ our hope; and Chapter Four, Christ our source of strength and supply. I personally heard the outstanding preacher Guy N. Woods, preach a series on Philippians when I was a young preacher and I will never forget the lessons he proclaimed.
The text for this sermon is Philippians 1:19-26.
19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.
THE THINGS WHICH HAPPEN TO US
In Philippians 1:12 Paul says, “12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” The first thing I want to mention is “The things which happen unto us.” Have you noticed that your life can be going along smoothly and wonderfully and suddenly something happens to turn you around on your heels? You are dealt a blow and you do not know how you will survive. This happens to all of us at some time in our lives.
Solomon said, “Everything happens by time and chance.” Have you ever had an automobile accident that really was not your fault? You were just going along, minding your business, obeying the speed limits and doing everything right. Suddenly somebody slams into your backside. After you have had time to think about it you say, “Why didn’t I leave just a minute earlier or a minute later? If I had left just a minute later, this would not have happened to me.” That illustrates the point. Things are going to happen to us because of time and chance. Sometimes they will be good; sometimes they will be bad. Thankfully things that happen to us are good most of the time.
Paul says, “Brethren I want you to know. I want you to understand about the things that happened unto me.” Paul could have gone into quite a dissertation about things that had happened unto him. He went on three evangelistic journeys to establish the church all over Asia, Europe and Palestine. He preached God’s word, doing good to everyone with whom he came in contact. Then somebody trumped up a false charge saying he had brought a Gentile, an Egyptian, into the Jewish temple. He was arrested and taken up to Caesarea. There he awaited trial for two years. Finally when the time came he said, “I appeal to Caesar. I exercise my right as a Roman citizen. I appeal to Caesar!’’ And the man said, ‘‘You have appealed to Caesar, unto Caesar you shall go.”
Paul boarded a ship and the record in Acts 27 and 28 is of his voyage to Rome. It is a microscopic story of our voyage through life. He started sailing along when something happened. A storm caused a shipwreck. He was in danger of losing his life, but finally he came to Rome.
In Rome he was chained to a soldier. Caesar had 10,000 soldiers who were his special guard. This was the Praetorian Guard, similar to the special guard that surrounded Saddam Hussein. These were the elite soldiers who guarded Caesar. Paul was chained to one soldier for six hours, then to another soldier for the next six hours. He was chained to at least four soldiers during a period of twenty-four hours.
Paul says, “Brethren I want you to know.” The Greek word means “I want you to understand brethren that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.” The word “furtherance” in the original language conveys the idea of the Army Corps of Engineers who go before an army. They cut down trees and clear a path for the army to march to pursue the enemy.
The Seabees do the same thing we are talking about here. They prepare a way for the army to march toward the enemy. They say, “If it is possible we can do it right away. If it is impossible, it will take a little longer.”
Have you noticed that when negative things happen in your life you think they will ruin you? If we have Paul’s attitude, these things can actually fall out for the furtherance of the gospel, the progress of the gospel. How did this happen for Paul? How did being arrested, appealing to Caesar and going to Rome do this? Paul expressed at least twice, “I must go to Spain” and then, “I must go to Rome.” He wanted to go to the Imperial City. Paul wanted to go to the city of Seven Hills and preach Christ to those pagan people. He probably had no idea God would take him to Rome in the way that he did, by arrest and an appeal to Caesar.
When he got to Rome, he was chained to the soldiers. Do you think Paul wasted his time while these soldiers were chained to him for six hours? He told them about Christ and he told them why he was in chains. He told them it was because of Christ and that he had not committed any crime or broken any law. Paul preached Christ resulting in the gospel being made known throughout the palace, “So that my bonds are manifest in all the palace and in all other places” (Philippians 1:13). Some translations have, “In all the Praetorian Guard and all other places.” While he was chained to these soldiers, Paul had an opportunity to preach to them. He was chained to them, but they were also chained to him. A captive audience! They could not go anywhere, and unless they stuffed cotton in their ears they had to listen to him. He preached Christ to them and he said, “This is how the things that have happened unto me have fallen out for the furtherance of the gospel.” He said, “It is manifest now in all of Caesar’s Praetorian Guard and in all other places that I am in chains for Christ.”
Another thing came about because of these things that happened unto him. Paul said,
“And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” If there is a crisis and one or more people stand up and behave as men, it encourages others to take a stand. In warfare when facing the enemy if the squad leader or the sergeant takes the lead and shows bravery, boldness and courage, then others catch that spirit. So Paul showed courage and boldness in the face of trial, arrest and suffering for Jesus Christ.
He said as a result many brethren, not all, caught that spirit. There will never be a time when 100 percent of God’s people are doing their duty, doing what they ought to be doing. But one thing is certain if we will do our duty, if we will stand up and be counted like men, others will be encouraged and catch that spirit and preach God’s word with boldness. It is catching. Courage, boldness and enthusiasm are catching as well as cowardice, timidity and instability.
We can learn another lesson from this. In the New Testament, Christ and his church did not rely upon professional preachers to do all the preaching and converting in the world. An older preacher said that back in Tennessee before full time preachers the church grew rapidly. Everyone was doing his job. He said when the church hired full time preachers the people said, “We hired a preacher. He will do our work for us.” This is the wrong attitude. It is not the New Testament spirit and it is not taught in the New Testament. Paul did not say, “I am doing all the preaching here at Rome.” He said, “Many brethren, by seeing how bold I am in my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” This harmonizes with what Luke says in Act 8: 4, “They therefore that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.” The church will grow like it has never grown before when the brethren take up God’s word and set up Bible studies, teach classes, talk to their neighbors, families and everybody they contact, just like Paul and others in his day did.
The first point of the lesson is that things will happen to us. “The things that happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.” Paul is saying things that happen to us, whether they are good or bad, are divine woodcutters going ahead of us and preparing the way for the gospel’s acceptance by the people. The things that happen to us are the divine Army Corps of Engineers going before the Army of the Lord preparing the way for us to preach and teach the gospel to those who are lost.
SPEAK THE WORD WITH THE RIGHT MOTIVE
The second point in the lesson is found in verses 15-18. We can do the right thing from the wrong motive, or we can do the wrong thing from the right motive. Neither is any good. We have often seen people do the right thing from the wrong motive. We rejoice that people do right things, but if their motive is not right, those people will not be right with God. Let me give an illustration. Jesus had twelve apostles. He said, “Did I not choose you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” There was a devil in the heart of Judas. The other eleven did not have a devil in their heart—they had Christ in their hearts. At one time Jesus came into the presence of Judas. The devil was operating in the heart of Judas when he walked over to Jesus and embraced and kissed him. From the beginning of time, the physical act of a kiss was symbolic of friendship, love and affection. Judas did the right thing toward his master. He gave him a kiss. But his motive was not right. He did it to identify Jesus so he could be arrested and put to death. This showed how black his heart was. Satan was controlling it. We can do right things, but if we do them from the wrong motives, Satan has hold of us.
Remember what Paul says in verse 14: “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Are they speaking the word without fear from the right motive or the wrong motive? He says in verses 15-18. “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife, and some also of good will.” On the right side people are preaching Christ out of good will, but on the left side some are preaching Christ out of envy and strife.
The next two statements are parallelisms. He says in verse 16, “The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds.” There were some members in the church at Rome who did not like Paul. They hated Paul. They were envious of Paul. They wanted to destroy the influence of Paul. He was coming up for trial before Caesar, with chains on his hands. These brethren thought, “This is our opportunity. Paul cannot get out to do very much or defend himself. We are going to preach Christ, but we are going to cut Paul down because of our envy. We are going to try to cause him to suffer even more than he has. We are going to stir up strife and contention. We will get that Paul! We do not like him!”
On the other hand there were those who preached Christ from good will. In verse 17 he says, “But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel.”
Do you see that all were doing the right thing, but some were preaching of good will and love knowing that Paul was set for the defense of the gospel? On the other side, some were preaching Christ out of envy and strife, trying to stir up contention and suffering for Paul. He says in verse 18, “What then? Not withstanding every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” On the one hand you have people preaching out of good will, love and truth knowing that Paul was set for the defense of the gospel. On the other hand you have people preaching out of envy, strife, contention and pretense.
We all need to do some soul searching. Whatever we do in the church whether it is teaching a class of little children or teenagers, cleaning the building, or whatever work, we must constantly search our hearts. We must ask if we are doing it from the right motive. “Am I doing this because I love Christ and love the people of Christ? Am I doing this because I love truth?” If we do not love truth, “God will send strong delusions that we might believe a lie and be damned.” “Am I doing this out of envy and strife? Am I doing the right thing by stirring up contention among people of God?” Paul said, “I do rejoice for all who are doing the right thing, that Christ is being preached and taught to the people.” But if we are not doing the right thing from the right motive, he is not rejoicing. The motive is very important.
We have looked at the fact that things will happen to us, and if we accept them in the right way they will fall out for the furtherance, the progress, the advancement of the army of God. We have looked at fact number two, we can do wrong things from the right motive or we can do right things from the wrong motive. But we should do the right thing from the right motive!
Some Roman brethren were preaching Christ out of envy and strife. There is a little bit of difference between envy and jealousy. If you are jealous, you fear that somebody will take away from you something that you possess. Envy is just the opposite. If you envy a person, that person has something you want. It could be esteem, wealth, power, position, or any one of several things.
These people envied Paul. Did they have a right to envy him? No. He was just doing his thing. He was living for Christ. He was minding his own business. How many times have we seen people in the church who are working hard, going about their business not bothering anybody when somebody starts stirring up something against them out of envy, strife and contention. This is not good. It should not happen. It should not be tolerated by any one of us.
CHRIST SHOULD BE MAGNIFIED
That brings us to the third point. In verse 20 Paul said that no matter what happened to him when he went up for trial before Caesar, he would pray for boldness and courage to stand up and speak for himself and for Jesus Christ. He says, “I want Christ to be magnified in my body, whether I live or die.” I love that statement.
A telescope can bring things that are far away near and make them appear larger. A microscope can do the same thing. It can take things that are very small and make them appear larger. So, a telescope brings things that are far away and makes them near. A microscope takes little things and makes them large. You might say, “Why did Christ need to be magnified or made larger?” Does Christ need for man to enlarge his view to the human race? Yes. Christ is not small and Christ is not far away, but to the world he is. Somebody in the world who is not a Christian may say, “Christ does not relate to me. I do not understand how Christ relates to my life here on this earth. He is far away.” The teachings of Christ are so small in their view that they really have no application or power to regulate their lives.
We can magnify Christ either by life or by death. How? Paul says in verse 21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Let us substitute a blank there. For me to live is wealth, to die is to leave it all behind. For me to live, is power and position and to die is to lose it all. For me to live is pleasure. When I get old and die, I will not enjoy that pleasure any longer.
Fill in the blanks. What is your life? What does your life revolve around? In every system whether it is the solar system, whether it is political, whether it is economic, social or educational, there must be a center around which life gravitates. In the solar system everything gravitates around the sun. It is the center of that system and everything has to relate to its movements and its purpose. In our political system, everything gravitates and revolves around Washington. That is the center of our political system. In the Christian system, Jesus Christ is the center and everything gravitates around him. Paul was not talking idle talk when he said, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Someone said Paul was a Christ-intoxicated man. I do not like the word “intoxicated,” but I think it does convey the idea. He was filled with Jesus Christ.
Let me give you just a few examples in Chapter One, the chapter from which our lesson is taken. Christ is mentioned approximately fifty times in the book of Philippians. Would you not say Christ was on Paul’s mind quite a bit to mention him fifty times in four chapters? In Chapter One, the very chapter in which he says, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” we find Christ mentioned eighteen times. Here is what he says. Paul was a servant of Christ in verse one. Grace and peace come from Christ, verse two. He talks about the day of Christ, verses six and ten. He longed with the Philippians for the mercies of Christ, verse eight. He talks about the fruits of righteousness that are in Christ, verse eleven. He says his chains or his bonds are in Christ in verse thirteen. He talks about his brothers and his sisters in Christ, verse fourteen. He says that Christ is a priest, verses fifteen through eighteen. He talks about the spirit of Christ in verse nineteen. He says Christ is to be magnified in our bodies, verse twenty. He says to live is Christ in verse twenty-one. He wanted to go and be with Christ, verses twenty-two through twenty-four. He rejoices in Christ, verse twenty-six. His conversation or his manner of life is to be after the gospel of Christ, verse twenty-seven. He believes in Christ and suffers for Christ, verse twenty-nine.
It begins to make more sense when Paul says, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He says, “I am in a dilemma. I want to go and be with Christ. This is one prong of the dilemma. That is far better. But to remain for you Philippians is more needful.” We cannot have a right view about death unless we have a right view about life. People who have a false view of life also will have a false view of death. Conversely, unless we have the right view, the Christian view of death, we cannot have the right view of life.
What is the correct philosophy of life and death? “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” We do not go directly when we die to be with the Lord in Heaven. According to the teaching of the Bible, all spirits go to a resting place or a Hadean world, the invisible world called Hades. There we will await the second coming of the Lord, the resurrection and the judgment. God’s people, when they die, go to be in a closer relationship with the Lord, whatever that is. We may not know all its aspects, but it will be a closer relationship than we have now. Paul says it is far better than to be back here on the earth. Why? It becomes a victory. We are released from suffering and from bondage. We are released from all the heartache and tears of this life. We go to be with the Lord in a closer relationship. Paul said that this is far better.
Paul said, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ; which is far better. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” Then he draws the conclusion that his trial will end by his being acquitted and released rather than being put to death. He can then come back and be with them. He can work even many more days and years with the Philippians for the furtherance, the progress, the advancement of their joy and their faith in Jesus Christ.
What is your life? “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain, that Christ may be magnified in my body whether it be by life or by death.” Paul says to the Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). We are to live by faith. That is how to live for Christ. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” So, whether we live or whether we die, it will be Christ and gain.
Number one, things will happen to us and sometimes they will not be good. If we have the right attitude about whatever happens to us, God can take even the negative things and work them out for good for the advancement of his cause, as he did in the life of Paul.
Number two; we must do the right thing from the right motive, not from the wrong motive. Our hearts must be pure and sincere and not full of pretense, envy, jealousy, strife and division.
Number three, our lives must center and gravitate around Jesus Christ. He is the center of the Christian system and therefore the most important aspect of that system. To him we owe our allegiance, our loyalty, our love and our faith. If we give him that, whether we live or whether we die, it will be gain with Christ.
*Are you living for Christ? If not, will you make the choice and commitment to do so today?
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon February 18, 1996 at the South Central Church of Christ, 265 East Southport Road, Indianapolis, Indiana. Copyright © 2002, 2012, 2019 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142