Calvary Road Baptist Church

“CHRISTIAN SERVITUDE”

Philippians 1.1

This begins a series of messages from Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. He apparently wrote Philippians during his imprisonment in the city of Rome. Though I brought a number of messages some months back about Paul’s time in the city of Philippi, let me try to draw things together so you will have an idea of what Paul felt toward this wonderful group of people he wrote to.

With regard to the founding of the church, you may remember, from those messages about Lydia, the demon possessed damsel, and the Philippian jailor, in Acts chapter 16, that Paul had a wonderfully fruitful ministry while there. However, it does not appear he remained in that city for very long before moving on. Because of the uproar that resulted from casting the demon out of the young damsel and Paul and Silas’ subsequent beating and imprisonment, even though they were officially found not guilty of all charges leveled against them, it was clear that the city fathers wanted them gone. After all, they had inadvertently beaten a Roman citizen and wanted him to move on before he changed his mind and had them prosecuted. Therefore, they left, apparently leaving Luke and Timothy behind to continue with the work of building up the new congregation. As if they had not had it rough in Philippi, Paul and Silas’ next stop was Thessalonica. In that city, they were able to bring a good number of folks to Christ who had been attending the synagogue in that town and plant another church. However, once again, they ran into a spiritual buzz saw and had to leave town after about three weeks. Thus, two churches were planted in Macedonia in a relatively short period; God permitting events to develop in such a way that Paul could not long remain at either church.

With regard to the faithfulness of the church in Philippi, we really have two sources of information. In this letter to the Philippians, we will see throughout references made by Paul to their continued willingness to give to his ministry when they were able. However, it is in Second Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 that we are given the most information about the steadfastness of the Philippians and others in Macedonia. In those two chapters Paul, writing to the Corinthian church about their participation in the special love offering to purchase food for starving Jewish Christians in and around Jerusalem, makes mention of the Macedonian congregations, which would certainly include the church at Philippi. How Paul praised those folks for their faithfulness to the Lord. Though he had not intended to ask the Macedonian churches for anything, because he was aware of how poor they were, they pleaded to be allowed to participate once they learned he was taking up the collection. Turn to Second Corinthians 8.1-6, to see how Paul uses the faithfulness of the Macedonians, which included this Philippian congregation, to prod the wealthy church in Corinth to do what they could to give:

1      Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

2      How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

3      For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;

4      Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

5      And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.

6      Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.

Amazing. Now, I would like you to turn to Philippians 1.1, and read the initial statement Paul made to those people he so obviously loved and around whom he was so comfortable. Before we read, let me mention that Paul does not refer here to being an apostle. Only to the Thessalonians, that other Macedonian church, does Paul in like manner not mention his apostleship. Even in his letters to Timothy and Titus, his co-laborers in the ministry, Paul referred to being an apostle. What we have here is Paul being more personable than was his custom with other churches he wrote to: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.”

Think about this opening sentence in terms of leadership. When Paul deals with a church that has been faithful and submissive to his spiritual guidance, when he is dealing with a people whose commitment to Christ is unquestionable, he gives no indication of asserting his position or calling attention to his authority. It is only with churches unfamiliar to him, or churches that have been unresponsive to his leadership and that he is strongly rebuking and correcting, that he needs to assert his apostleship. Consider what this suggests. It suggests that you who live, work, and function with someone in a position of authority over you would do well to recognize that you greatly influence how that person’s authority is wielded toward you. Whether you work for someone, or if you are a wife, or a child, or whatever, to a great extent you determine the way a leader in your life will treat you.

An illustration: In First Corinthians, we find Paul strongly rebuking a willful and disobedient congregation. Notice the way he provides an option for that congregation of how they would be dealt with by that one who had great spiritual authority over them, in First Corinthians 4.18-21:

18     Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

19     But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.

20     For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

21     What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

Did Paul know how to get tough with rebellious Christians? He sure did. However, when he was dealing with people like the Philippians, he became so easy going, friendly, and tender, because he could. Consider the person who wields authority in your life. Do you give that person the liberty to treat you tenderly, kindly, and gently, because he knows your heart is to follow and not to take advantage of his kindness? I hope so.

Let me now talk to you for just a moment about the freedom the believer enjoys as a Christian. Choosing not to describe himself as an apostle in this letter, Paul does choose to describe both himself and Timothy as “the servants of Jesus Christ.” I hope to show you that the believer who is a “servant” really does enjoy the “freedom of being a Christian,” particularly when it is understood that the Greek word found in this verse, douloV, refers not to a paid servant, a hired worker, but to a slave who is owned by a master.[1] The slave of Jesus Christ occupies a unique position. The bonds of servitude are honorable and sweet, to borrow another’s words.[2] Therefore, the believer, the Christian, the slave of Christ, will be encouraged this evening to carry into this message three realizations: First, the Master is responsible for His slave’s needs. Food, housing, clothing, and all else is the slave owner’s concern, Christian, not yours. That is why, in Philippians 4.19, Paul can assure his readers, “But my God shall supply all your need . . . .” Second, the Master is responsible for His slave’s duties. A slave does not choose his own tasks to complete, or his own sphere to labor in, or his own responsibilities to perform. You see, it is a Christian’s wisdom and privilege to stand before his Master, as those in Second Samuel 15.15, who said, “Thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint.” So disposed are real Christians who have learned wisdom. Finally, the Master is responsible for His slave’s resources. “Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges?” Paul asks in First Corinthians 9.7. Just as everything the soldier needs to fight the war is provided for him, so everything the servant of Jesus Christ needs to serve is also provided for him. With all these things being the responsibility of the Master, it becomes quite clear that the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ really has only one task before him; to serve. Do you serve? In what ministry? In what way do you serve?

The text of my message is limited to the opening phrase of Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ.” Remember what the Lord Jesus Christ said to those men who followed Him to the synagogue in Capernaum, the day after he had fed the 5000? Knowing perfectly well that they searched for Him only because of the bread He had provided for them, hoping that He would consent to become their gravy train, the Lord Jesus Christ said these words in John 6.26: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” Can you see, in the Lord Jesus Christ’s response to those followers, that He knew those men had no interest in worshipping Him, had no interest in serving Him, had no interest in exalting Him in any way? Those men sought after the Savior only for what they could get out of Him. In other words, they wanted the Lord Jesus Christ to serve their ends instead of having any interest at all in serving Him. If that does not describe the essence of modern American Christianity, I do not know what does.

The majority of Christians in our country, and the overwhelming majority of so-called pastors in America today, are not Christians at all, have no interest in becoming Christians, and only traffic in their anemic brand of false Christianity because it is profitable for them to do so. They are unfamiliar with the attitude of sacrifice displayed by King David, who said in response to a man named Ornan’s offer to give him his threshing floor, “I will not take that which is thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost.”[3] David knew that real worship, real sacrifice, real service, costs dearly. Modern American Christianity is, by and large, an evil counterfeit religion. It deceives people who are lost into thinking they are saved. It is wicked, ungodly, and does not worship nor serve the Lord Jesus Christ at all. It is a different religion than Bible Christianity. How do I know? Listen to this: The Lord Jesus Christ said that no man can serve two masters, because he will hate the one and love the other. Not only is that true, but you can tell whether someone is saved or lost by whom that person serves. Romans 6.16: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Whom you serve shows your real master.

With that in mind, we will explore the descriptions of Biblical Christianity and modern American Christianity in light of Paul’s description of himself as a servant:

First, BIBLE CHRISTIANITY DESCRIBED IN TERMS OF EIGHT WORDS

First, the word condemnation. Condemnation is a tragic fact of life. In John 3.18, the Lord Jesus Christ informed Nicodemus “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Bible Christianity recognizes the condemnation of every soul without Christ. Why else would the Savior command us to preach the gospel to every creature? Why else would men and women through the centuries give their lives to get the gospel to those who are lost, but because the condemnation to Hellfire of those who do not know Jesus Christ is a fact?

Second, the word conviction. Man is utterly depraved by sin. Because of the depravity brought on by sin, sinners do not seek after God, Romans 3.11. Because of the depravity brought on by sin, sinners have not the capacity to come after God, Romans 5.6. Indeed, because of the sinner’s separation from God, he is rightly acknowledged to be dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2.1. All of this means the lost person will not be saved apart from the conviction of the Holy Spirit of God, whereby He persuades and convinces the sinner of his desperate need of the salvation that is provided only through faith in Jesus Christ. How does the Holy Spirit seek to convict sinners of their need of Christ? Through the foolishness of preaching, hot preaching against sin and sinfulness, and the need to flee to Jesus Christ for salvation. Of course, real Christians do what we can to minimize the distractions that are so troublesome to the lost. Why so? So the focus of the lost will be on gospel preaching. Paul wrote, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe,” First Corinthians 1.21.

Third, conversion. There are many, many people who use the word “saved,” and who, indeed, think they are saved. However, only Bible Christianity truly holds to the doctrine of conversion. Conversion, you see, is not the result of praying a sinner’s prayer and then continuing as you lived before. Psalm 19.7 declares that “the Law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.” What does it mean to be converted? In the New Testament, the word is epistrefw, which means to turn completely around.[4] Bible Christianity expects saved people to be completely turned around in their new life in Christ. Not sinless, mind you. Just turned around. Second Corinthians 5.17 perfectly describes true conversion: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” When one is saved, when one is converted, he becomes a different person, a new person. He will never again be the way he was before.

Fourth, consecration after conversion. No man attains sinless perfection this side of heaven. Anyone who claims to have achieved sinlessness has shown himself to be lost. “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us,” First John 1.10. Since no Christian is sinlessly perfect, it is therefore necessary for every believer to grow spiritually. This process of spiritual growth and maturing over time is called sanctification. The part you play as a believer in your own spiritual growth and sanctification is called consecration. Consecration is hard work. It requires attendance at church, it requires prayer, it requires Bible study, and it requires a high level of personal commitment. Bible Christianity recognizes that not all is fun and entertainment in the Christian life. Not all is happiness and amusement. People who are really saved know they need to grow spiritually, to get to know God better. To accomplish that they consecrate themselves, they dedicate themselves to put it another way, to that end. They work at it.

Fifth, convictions. I refer here not to the ministry of the Holy Spirit to persuade sinners of their need to be saved, but to the fact that Bible Christians develop convictions. There are certain things we hold to be true and we will not budge on. There are certain stands that we will take or die defending. Why do you think there are Christian martyrs? Why do you think some who lived before us died in the Coliseum, being thrown to the lions? Why did Paul, Peter, James, and the others die? In a word, convictions. Convictions would not allow the three Hebrews to worship the image, but to step into Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace instead. Convictions would not allow Daniel to pray to idols, but to step into the lion’s den instead. What you will die for shows your convictions.

Sixth, commitment. This is a dirty word to most modern American Christians. However, in the Word of God the concept of commitment is connected to every one of God’s saints, the concept of faithfulness. Commitment has to do with faith in God, with faith producing faithfulness. Commitment has to do with making a decision and not backing down. Commitment has to do with follow-through. Does your life give evidence of commitment? Christian commitment is rightly commitment to Christ through your church.

Seventh, compromise. Compromise in the spiritual realm is dirty word to many truly spiritual Bible Christians. Compromise refers to abandoning a position, yielding ground to the enemy, not holding forth the truth faithfully.[5] Compromise is something that many dedicated Christians cringe at the thought of and have no personal use for. What if Elijah had compromised on Mount Carmel?[6] What if Paul had compromised as Simon Peter did?[7] There is too much compromise by professing Christians.

Finally, there is convenience. Is Bible Christianity a relationship with Christ based on convenience? When Simon Peter went to jail for preaching the gospel, was that a convenient thing for him?[8] Was it convenient for Daniel to refuse the portion of the king’s meat?[9] Was it convenient for Paul to suffer the beatings, the torture, the imprisonment, the ridicule, and the heartache?[10] My friend, think about it. When has it ever been convenient for the child of God to serve the Master? Was witnessing and refusing to deny Christ to avoid execution convenient for Saleema? Everything about worship, service, and ministry is completely and totally inconvenient. However, the servant inconveniences himself for the convenience of the Master. Amen?

Next, MODERN AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY DESCRIBED USING THE SAME WORDS

First, the word condemnation. The modern American Christian does not like the idea of condemnation. He hates what some people call negative preaching. He favors positive sermons, that uplift and encourage people. He would rather the sinner remain in darkness concerning his sin. He would rather hear good things about himself than to hear that he has fallen short of the glory of God. Even if he believes in Hell, he thinks church is certainly not the place to talk about such a thing very often.

Next, conviction. Conviction is thought to be a horrible thing by the modern American Christian. He abhors the idea of feeling uncomfortable in church. Never mind that might be the Holy Spirit convincing him of his own sinfulness in the sight of God. Never mind that it might be the Holy Spirit convincing him of judgment to come. As soon as possible, he thinks, discomfort must be relieved. He may leave and never come back, preferring to attend a nice church where only good things are said about sinful people and where everyone’s self-esteem is built up as they merrily dance their way to Hell. He would not know what genuine conviction is. He has never been in mortal fear for his soul. He has never agreed that God should cast him into Hell for all his wicked rebellion against Him. Not one time has he taken the side of the Just and the True against his own sinful self. Not one time has he seen God as holy and himself as unholy in His sight.

Third, conversion. The modern American Christian does not really believe in conversion at all. He believes in a decision. Not a life-changing response to the Savior’s directive to trust Him and be saved. Oh, no. His decision is actually to turn over a new leaf. His decision is actually to believe the right things. His decision is actually to become a church member. Conversion? The salvation of his sinful soul? Being washed in the blood of Jesus Christ through faith? Reconciliation with God, from whom he is now separated by his wickedness and his sin? That is not high on his list of priorities, if it has ever come to his mind. Somehow and in some way, he has convinced himself he will be okay. “Maybe I’m not saved the way you say, pastor, but I’ll take my chances my way.”

Fourth, consecration. Consecration, as in personal devotion to Christ? As in a personal prayer life? As in personal Bible reading and Bible study? Consecration, as in hungering and thirsting after righteousness? Consecration, as in the inner and quiet desire to be holy because God is holy? Consecration, as in making sure you extract every ounce of benefit from your church, from your pastor, from your fellow church members? Consecration in this fashion never crosses this person’s mind, does it? No. What this one is interested in is lifting up his hands in a sweet song and feeling good about himself.

Fifth, convictions. What will the modern American Christian die for? He will certainly die for his country, but would he deny the Savior if someone held a gun to his head? Would he deny the Savior if someone offered him a job and wanted to pay him under the table to avoid taxes? Would he deny the Savior by selling drugs? How about selling liquor? How about selling beer and wine? Does the modern American Christian have any convictions about modesty, or are there appropriate places to take your clothes off in front of the opposite sex, like the beach? Does such a fellow have any convictions? Or will he work at a nightclub on Saturday night and then sing in church on Sunday morning, like Pat and Debbie Boone used to do? Saved people acquire convictions, but the modern American Christian would be hard pressed to tell you what convictions he will die for.

Sixth, commitment. How far will a person go and how hard will someone try to serve God? What is your level of commitment? Will you go so far as to actually attend the midweek service? Will you go so far as to go, gulp, to evangelism? Will you make the ultimate sacrifice and tithe? Of course not. Not the modern American Christian. Commitment, to that kind of Christian, is showing up for church on Sunday morning. The idea of being faithful to the Sunday evening service and Wednesday night is foreign to him. After all, he wants to go to heaven, but he does not want to go to extremes. Commitment is fine, so long as the services at church are enjoyable, so long as his wife does not object, so long as her husband does not make coming to church the slightest bit difficult. Choosing Christ over friends, family, and loved ones? Get serious. Risk your spouse leaving you for Jesus’ sake? Come on.

Seventh, compromise. Compromise is not a dirty word to the modern American Christian. Those kinds routinely go to churches whose pastors deny the doctrine of salvation. They do it because such men pastor so many of the churches in Los Angeles County. They attend such churches without checking the preacher out, so long as the music is entertaining or the youth group is really active. Why, they would even attend a concert whose performers are not believers, whose music is ungodly, and who have the audacity to call what they do a ministry even though they charge big money before they will minister to you. What other areas of the Christian life will they compromise on? Marry an unsaved person? Date an unsaved person? Fornicate with a “saved” person? But only for love, right? Of course, they will compromise. They are modern American Christians. Compromise is their middle name.

Which brings me to convenience. To them, Christianity is first and foremost a matter of convenience. Attendance, service, giving, and everything else must, first of all, be easy. If the church relocated one more mile farther away, this kind of Christian would no longer attend. As it is, he does not come to church faithfully, because Sunday is his day of rest. And he will not attend Sunday nights, because he has things going on, activities, hobbies, 60 Minutes. Hello, he has a life. Evangelism? You have got to be kidding.

I CLOSE WITH THESE CONTRASTING APPROACHES TO CHRISTIANITY EXPLAINED

The obvious differences between what I term Bible Christianity and modern American Christianity are mere symptoms of a deeper difference. The deeper difference than just the superficial differences between these two approaches to Christianity, among other differences, has to do with a difference of who is seen to be serving Whom. Down through history, every man who has served the Lord Jesus Christ, and every man who has served God, has lived the same basic style of life. His views of condemnation, conviction, conversion, consecration, convictions, commitment, compromise, and convenience have been basically the same.

Having come to Jesus Christ by faith, he sees himself a servant of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, that mere professor of religion, who does not genuinely know Jesus Christ, who has not really come to Him by faith (though he oftentimes thinks he has), sees the Lord Jesus Christ not as one to be served, but as one who serves. Being repulsed by condemnation, modern American Christians have avoided conviction and have convinced themselves that they are saved by some means other than involving any real conviction of sins. As a result, many are not truly converted and their views about consecration, convictions, commitment to Christ, compromise, and what they view as their right to live a convenient life, are at odds with the Word of God.

So many modern American Christians are not Christians at all. Rather, they are deluded sinners who are in great need of the salvation Jesus provides. The modern American version of Christianity bears little more than a superficial resemblance to the Christianity of the Apostle Paul and his colleague Timotheus, who rightly saw themselves as servants of Jesus Christ, and were ever thankful for the privilege.



[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 259-260.

[2] Guy H. King, Joy Way: An Expositional Study of Philippians, (Fort Washington, Pennsylvania: Christian Literature Crusade, 1973), page 13.

[3] 1 Chronicles 21.24

[4] Bauer, page 382.

[5] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 374.

[6] 1 Kings 18

[7] Galatians 2.11-21

[8] Acts 12.1-19

[9] Daniel 1.8-16

[10] 2 Corinthians 11.23-27



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org