Thursday, April 07, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Not Only to Believe, But to Suffer: Phil. 1.29-30

We’ve been working through Paul’s letter to the Philippians and in verse 27, Paul’s big point is that we live a life that fits the gospel. And from 1:27 to 2:18, Paul exhorts you to live that life. It’s the central part of this letter.

We could call this section “a quest for godliness.” Paul has taught us some important things about that growth in grace. When Paul says in Philippians 1:28, “I don’t want you to be frightened in anything by your opponents,” he is connecting that with what he gets ready to say in verses 29-30. Verses 29-30 are designed to provide the encouragement, so that you can do what he said in verse 28. In the following verses we are encouraged because every time God says “Don’t be afraid…frightened…discouraged,” He is reminding us that He knows that you struggle with being frightened sometimes. And God wants to comfort His people and give them reasons why, despite the fact that they do have reasons that they could be discouraged, they have greater reasons why they should not be discouraged.

Paul is stunningly teaching that faith in Christ and suffering for Christ are gifts from God. Now, we’re going to look at suffering for Christ next week, and simply introduce that subject today that will get you interested in the truth that suffering for Christ is a gift from God.

Today, we’re going to focus on the first part of what Paul intends to be an encouragement to the Philippians and to us: that is, that faith is a gift from God.

I. Faith is a gift.
Paul teaches here explicitly, expressly, unambiguously, utterly clearly that faith is God’s gift to believers. The Bible everywhere it addresses the issue of the source of faith tells us that God gives the gift of faith.

Not only do we have the passage that says, “To you it has been [what?] granted to [what?] believe.” Yes, God has given you the gift of faith. This is not the only time that Paul says this, consider to Ephesians 2:8 for example.

In Ephesians 2:8 also Paul says that salvation, including our faith (which is the instrument whereby we receive all the other manifold mercy and grace of God) is a gift to us from God. That’s why in Galatians 5:22, Paul will list faith as a fruit of the Spirit’s work in the believer. The Apostle John says the same thing in I John 5:1.

Now many people stumble on this truth, this gospel paradox that man must believe – a person must believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved – and that believing on Jesus Christ is a gift from God. Though some stumble on that, remember that our final authority is not our own understanding, it is the word of God; and this truth is crystal clear in the word of God.

II. Faith is a responsibility – we are commanded to believe.
Now that leads me into the second thing: The Bible, tells us three very important things about faith. The Bible teaches us that faith is a responsibility. You are responsible to believe. Secondly, the Bible teaches that faith is necessary. It’s indispensable. And, thirdly, the Bible teaches that faith is a gift.

The Bible teaches that faith is a responsibility. Jesus was talking to His disciples the night of His betrayal, the night before His crucifixion, in John 14 He’s exhorting them to believe in God, believe in Him, because faith is a responsibility.
And faith is necessary. We must believe or perish. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”

But the Bible also teaches that faith is a gift of God. God must grant us the gift of trust. That’s what Paul is saying: God has granted you to believe. (Philippians 1:29).

III. Well, so what?
There are three ways that that truth helps me get out of the bed in the morning: Knowing the truth that faith is a gift leads us to assurance, dependence, and responsibility.

Knowing that faith is a gift is an enormous gospel encouragement, and it gives us assurance. When you realize that long before you had faith in Christ that God had set His love on you, and your very first impulses of trust in Him were simply the answer of your soul to the prior work of the Holy Spirit in your heart, it changes everything.

And it is only when your salvation – all of it – is resting on the strong shoulders of the living God that you will ever walk through this world with encouragement and comfort and assurance, because I can question the quality and the soundness of my faith all day long, and so if my salvation only at that one point rests on me, then I have no hope.

Knowing that faith is a gift leads to dependence. It means that whatever we’re doing, we know that we have to depend upon the Lord.

As we work for Christ we must do it in utter dependence upon God, and what a freedom that is to know that ultimately God is responsible for the return. I can’t make anybody come to Christ, but the Holy Spirit always gets His man. And it’s my joy to watch the Spirit do that! I’m to be faithful, yes; I’m to go to the ends of the earth, yes; but it’s God who reaps the harvest.

And, finally, knowing that faith is a gift leads us to responsibility. That is a tiny little picture of the whole of the Christian life, which is always utterly dependent upon God and His grace in the gospel, but is always, as Paul says here, working out our salvation with fear and trembling; striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. There is dependence upon God, and there’s grace-enabled effort and responsibility on our part.

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