Abiding in the Benediction
May 12, 2019 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: Philippians
Topic: Christian Life Basics Passage: Philippians 4:23
ABIDING IN THE BENEDICTION
An Exposition of Philippians 4:23
By Pastor Brian Wilbur
Date: May 12, 2019
Series: Philippians: Gospel Partnership on Mission in the World
Note: Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
On January 28, 2018 we took our first step in what has become a 45-sermon journey with Paul in his ministry to the Philippians. Fifteen-and-a-half months later, with a few breaks along the way, we come now to the 45th and final sermon from the Philippians Series.
In this final sermon, we will hear Paul speaking forth a benediction to his beloved friends in Philippi, and we will attempt to learn from this benediction and also to remember some of the foundational lessons that we have learned from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.
THE SCRIPTURAL TEXT
Holy Scripture says, through the apostle Paul:
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” (Philippians 4:23)
THE MEANING AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BENEDICTION
What Is A Benediction?
Paul consistently concludes his letters with a benediction. A ‘benediction’ is a ‘word of blessing’ or a ‘word of grace’. A benediction is a ‘spoken or written blessing’ that is meant to convey encouragement and grace to the recipient.
In this sense, a benediction is a wonderful example of the kind of speech that Paul calls us to have upon our lips at all times: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29) Of course, Paul’s entire letter to the Philippians is meant to “give grace” to the Philippians, but the benediction is a fitting summation of the letter’s entire purpose: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
The First Word and the Last Word
I think we would all agree that the last thing we say to someone has special importance. Other people are apt to remember the last thing you say to them in a particular conversation or in a particular correspondence. Was it a harsh statement? Was it abrupt? Was it empty of meaning, a throwaway statement perhaps? Was it awkward or a bit forced? Or was it full of grace flowing from your friend’s heart to yours?
The last thing that we say to someone has special importance, but so does the first thing we say. The first thing we say to someone sets the tone. Several months ago I was reading a book in which the author called attention to the fact that Paul often begins and ends his letters with references to the Lord’s grace and peace. In terms of Philippians, after having identified himself and Timothy as the authors of the letter and the Philippians as the recipients of the letter, Paul begins with a benediction: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:2) This opening benediction is a signal to the Philippians that Paul is writing to them and ministering to them within the transforming framework of God’s grace and peace.
When the time came to conclude the letter, Paul’s basic mindset had not changed. So once again he highlights the grace that makes all the difference: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
There is theology in the very fact that these benedictions introduce and conclude the letter. The theology is this: for Christians, God’s grace is always ‘the first word’ and always ‘the last word’. All of Paul’s instruction to the Philippians is situated within the framework of God’s grace. Indeed, our entire existence as Christians takes place within the life-giving stream of God’s grace.
In fact, early in Philippians Paul indicates that the Christian life, from start to finish, runs on the fuel of grace. For he said in Philippians 1:6,
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
To say that the Christian life runs on the fuel of grace means that the Christian life depends on the powerful working of God. If you take away the gracious work of God, then you take away the very possibility of being a Christian and of living a truly Christian life. It is the grace of Christ from A to Z. The hymn-writer put it this way:
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
“‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
“Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.”
God graciously finds us, opens our eyes, and rescues us out of our sin. God graciously awakens us to the peril of our sin, and He graciously delivers us from that peril and sets us free. God graciously brings us through the sufferings of this present age, and in due course He graciously brings us home to glory. Take away the grace, and there is no escape from our wretched condition. Take away the grace, and there is no perseverance through the difficulties. Take away the grace, and there is no getting home. Take away the grace, and we should be honest enough to retire this sanctuary, shut her doors, and confess that all hope is lost.
‘Tis grace, and grace only, that has brought us safe thus far, and ‘tis only grace that will lead us home. In other words, “he who began a good work in [us]” is our faithful God and Father, and He will not abandon the work of His hands, but will bring His good work in us “to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
If you’ve ever been presented with the thought that after grace saves us, it is up to us to live the Christian life in our own strength – or after grace gets us into the race in the first place, it is up to us to run and finish the race in our own strength – you should totally reject these faulty ideas. It is God’s grace on display in the atonement of Christ; it is God’s grace on display in the conversion of a sinner; it is God’s grace on display in the transformation that produces a life of obedience; it is God’s grace on display in the strength to finish the final leg of the race; and it will be God’s grace on display when we rise again in glory.
Brothers and Sisters: What we do here is totally dependent on the grace of Christ, and where the grace of Christ truly goes, transformation happens. So let us always live, and only live, in the sweet spot of God’s grace.
The Grace of Christ for the Church of Christ
Since God’s grace gets the first word and the last word in this letter, it should come as no surprise that everything else – from Philippians 1:3 to 4:22 – is full of grace. But before we recall some of the foundational lessons from this letter, let’s fasten onto the truth of Philippians 4:23.
Paul says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” If you’ve been in attendance for the majority of sermons from the Philippians Series, you will probably not be surprised by what I am about to say, namely, that this benediction – like other parts of the letter – highlights the importance of our life together as a congregation. The “your” in “your spirit” is the plural form of your, meaning you all. And “spirit” is in the singular form. Paul didn’t say, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirits,” as if he meant to bless each Christian individually. While the benediction has implications for us as individuals, nevertheless we must understand that Philippians 4:23 is a blessing spoken to a local church family congregationally.
As Christians, and especially as Christians who are part of the same local church family, we are in this Christian life together. God calls us to have a shared inner life, a shared spiritual life, indeed a shared spirit. If South Paris Baptist Church consists of 120 individuals, then we are dealing with 120 individual minds. But what is God’s call upon us? “[With] one mind [we are to strive] side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). We are to have “the same mind” and be “of one mind” (Philippians 2:2). If South Paris Baptist Church consists of 120 individuals, then we are dealing with 120 individual capacities to love and think and feel. But what is God’s call upon us? We are to “[have] the same love” and “[be] in full accord” (Philippians 2:2), and we are “to agree in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).
What all this means is that our 120 minds are supposed to be caught up together in a unified, common mind. Our 120 capacities to love and think and feel are supposed to be caught up together in a unified, common love and in a unified, common purpose, and in a unified, common value system. Our 120 inner lives are supposed to be caught up together in a unified, common spiritual life. Do you understand?
This benediction – “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” – is a ‘word of grace’ to the Philippian congregation and a ‘word of grace’ to every other congregation, including South Paris Baptist Church. As a church family, as a local congregation, as a body of believers, we need grace. Indeed, we need grace at the deep level of our spirit, at the deep level of our mind, at the deep level of our capacity to love. We need the grace of Christ to accompany, strengthen, and transform our collective mind, heart, and soul, so that as a unified community we worship our God and honor Him by the way that we live. Do you think South Paris Baptist Church has already attained a perfectly unified spiritual life in which we are living as a perfectly conjoined and perfectly coordinated body? Well, if we have not attained this yet (and we haven’t!), then we have clear need for the grace of Jesus to be with our spirit, so that we grow together in the things of God.
Does this have implications for your individual spirit, mind, and heart? Of course. As an individual you will either participate or not participate in the collective “one mind” that our Lord calls us to have. As an individual believer, your individual spirit, mind, and heart must increasingly harmonize with the collective spirit, mind, and heart of the congregation. In fact, the collective spirit, mind, and heart of the congregation doesn’t exist apart from the harmonization of the spirits, minds, and hearts of the congregants who make up the congregation. So yes, each one of us stands in great need of the Lord’s grace to accompany, strengthen, and transform our individual mind, heart, and soul. Each of you: depend on the grace of Christ!
But don’t miss the emphasis. This benediction isn’t spoken so that you as an individual Christian can go off and do your own successful rendition of the Christian life apart from the church family. Instead, the benediction is spoken so that we as an assembly of believers stay unified, and grow together as a congregation, and love each other well, and partner shoulder to shoulder to advance the gospel, and worship God with one voice. The benediction of Philippians 4:23 refers to the grace of Christ for the Church of Christ.
I say to you, South Paris Baptist Church, that without the powerful presence of Christ’s grace, we will get off track. We will either be divided among ourselves, or we will drift together in the wrong direction. Without the grace of Christ, we will be preoccupied with secondary or peripheral issues, which are the very issues that can cause division or drifting. Without Christ’s grace standing in our midst, we will retreat to our own personal agendas, or we will lose our courage in the face of suffering, or we will start to be impressed by our own efforts and accomplishments. Without Christ’s grace steadying our ship, our ship will not be steady: circumstances will unsettle us, false teachings will allure us, powerful personalities will undermine us, and true peace will escape us. The entirety of the Church’s life and mission is dependent on God’s strengthening and sustaining grace, given freely to God’s people, through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those who trust Christ lean on the grace that is promised to us in this benediction, and we grow together in Christ. But those who do not trust Christ remain afar off in their hearts, they do not experience the grace that they so desperately need, and off they go in their own ruinous direction.
I urge you all: be a truly Christian man or truly Christian woman who abides in the grace that is here promised to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. To do that, you must first and foremost cling to Jesus from whom the grace comes; and, at the same time, you must dwell in the Church to whom the grace is promised. I did not say that the Church is the mediator of grace. But the Church is the God-ordained context in which so much of Christ’s grace is meant to be received and enjoyed. For it is not alone, but together that the fullness Christ’s grace is experienced. Depend on Christ, and dwell with Christ’s people. Lean on Christ, and live in fellowship with Christ’s Church. Hear this benediction as a word of grace to the church family: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
What is Grace?
When we say “[grace] to you” (Philippians 1:2) or “grace… be with your spirit” (Philippians 4:23), we ought to pause and ask the question: what is grace? Or more pointedly: what is “[the] grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”?
Grace is undeserved favor and kindness. The grace of Christ is the undeserved favor and kindness of God. This divine favor and kindness is mediated by Christ, is given through Christ. When you hear the phrase ‘the grace of God’ or ‘the grace of Christ’, you should think of it in terms of God’s free and sovereign action to show favor and kindness to people who don’t deserve it and cannot demand it. Grace denotes ‘gift’ and, to clarify the sense, ‘gift’ means ‘free gift’.
If God gives you justice, He is giving you what you deserve. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), Paul says in Romans 6, meaning that just as honest work earns the wages of a financial paycheck from your employer, so sin earns the wages of spiritual and eternal death from the Righteous Judge. If God condemns you for your sin, He is giving you what you deserve. He is giving you justice.
But if God gives you grace, He is giving you what you do not deserve. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Fasten onto that word gift, free gift, grace, favor, kindness – all of it, undeserved. And though it is undeserved, God freely and gladly bestows His gracious salvation on sinners like us.
Sometimes when we think about grace, we think of it in terms of God graciously saving us in the first place. We think of it in terms of the grace of regeneration, or the grace of conversion, or the grace of reconciliation, or the grace of sins forgiven, or the grace or justification. It is very true, of course, that all of these things are free gifts that flow from God’s grace. But when God graciously rescues people from their sin and brings them into His forever family, that is just the beginning of God’s grace toward us.
The believers in Philippi were already regenerated, already converted, already reconciled to God, already forgiven of their sins, already justified in God’s sight – they had already experienced this decisive grace in their lives. But Paul says to these already graced saints: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” And: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” The already graced saints continue to live and grow on the basis of more grace. And it is this ‘more grace’, this ‘ongoing grace’, this ‘never-ending grace’, that Paul has in mind in the benediction of Philippians 4:23.
For those of us who are true Christian believers, we don’t need the grace of initial conversion, because we’ve already received it. But we stand in desperate need of God’s grace to comfort, encourage, and strengthen us. We are in great need of God’s grace to keep us going and keep us growing. We are in profound need of God’s grace to transform us and propel us forward on the path of faithful obedience and fruitful ministry. We are totally dependent on God’s grace to knit our hearts together in love as a church family and enable us to shine brightly for Christ in our dark world. And we are in critical need of God’s grace to press forward and eventually finish the race and arrive safely and soundly in our eternal home. It is this present, ongoing, never-ending grace for the continued growth and fruitfulness of the Church, that is in view in Philippians 4:23.
Christ is the Mediator of Grace
This grace is God’s grace, of course, and this divine grace only comes through Christ: this grace is “[the] grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” God the Father is the source of all grace, and this grace flows to God’s people through the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, who made peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20). Those who would receive God’s grace must receive it from Christ, as so many Scriptural passages make clear. Consider:
- “[The] free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, italics added)
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3, italics added)
- “[The] fruit of righteousness… comes through Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:11, italics added)
- The righteous standing that God confers upon repentant sinners is a righteous standing that “comes through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:9, italics added).
- “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7, italics added)
- “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19, italics added)
All the excellencies and enrichments and endowments of God’s grace are given to God’s people through the Lord Jesus Christ. Every divine blessing that the Triune God gives us to is given to us from the Father, through the Son, and by means of the Holy Spirit who applies the grace to us. The emphasis of the benediction in Philippians 4:23 is that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the Mediator of divine grace to His Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ is graciously present with His people. And having great love for His people, He supplies grace for every need. He supplies grace to sustain and strengthen us as we follow Him on the path that leads to final glory. If His grace were absent, we would stumble and fall. But with His grace powerfully present, we have comfort and courage to keep our feet to the path as we strive together after the high calling that He Himself has placed upon us.
ABIDING IN THE GRACE OF PHILIPPIANS
As we consider “[the] grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” powerfully present in our midst, let us remember some of the gracious instruction that Paul gave to the Philippians throughout this letter.
1) Always Depend on God’s Gracious Work
First, always depend on God’s gracious work in our life. I already referenced Philippians 1:6 in which Paul assures us that God will “bring… to completion” the “good work” that He has begun in His people. In Philippians 1:19 Paul relied on “the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” in order to persevere through suffering. In Philippians 2:13 Paul taught us that our obedience is the result of God’s work in us: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul instructed us to take all of our worries and concerns to our sovereign God, whose peace “will guard [our] hearts and [our minds]” as we trust in Him. In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul told us that God strengthened him in every situation so that he could be content in every situation. And in Philippians 4:19, Paul promised that the God who had been faithful to Him would also be faithful to us: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
The lesson is clear: always depend on God’s gracious work, gracious help, gracious protection, and gracious supply. The perennial temptation is to forget God or turn God into an afterthought; the all-too-common temptation is to only remember God after we have exhausted other options. For us who are Christians, however, we know better: we know that God is our only option at every stage – whether we are in the beginning, middle, or end. Now saying that ‘God is our only option’ shouldn’t sound like a truth from theoretical physics (with no insult to the few who rightly love it, but I trust you understand my point), because this is a truth with warmth in it: this God who is our only option is our heavenly Father who is the source of all that is good and right and pure, who has bestowed His everlasting love upon us, who did not spare His only Son but gave Him up for us all, and who delights to fill our cup with abundant grace. Friends, don’t be a practical atheist who lives as if God isn’t there. Instead, as “[the] grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [is] with your spirit,” depend on the Father’s faithful care at every turn.
2) Always Trust and Treasure the Lord Jesus Christ
Second, always trust and treasure the Lord Jesus Christ as our all-sufficient, all-satisfying Savior. Human beings like to live in the illusion that it is possible to be ‘good enough’ without God’s help, and thus to be ‘good enough for God’ as we earn our way into His kindness. But as Paul makes clear in Philippians 3:3-8, ‘good enough’ is not a viable option for anyone. “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3) Remember that the resumé that won’t cut it is your resumé, your track record, your heritage, your successes, your morality, your religiosity – none of it measures up, none of it ‘gets you in’. Instead, we “glory in Christ Jesus,” we trust in Christ Jesus, we put confidence in Christ Jesus. He is the Righteous One, the Obedient Son, the Sinless Savior, the Perfect Sacrifice, the High King whose excellence fills heaven and earth with everlasting light. Do not be impressed by your own efforts, and do not trust the work of your own hands! You cannot save yourself, and your goodness is not nearly the good you imagine it to be, and what you bring to the table won’t buy you access to eternal life. For eternal life cannot be bought, it can only be received as a free gift. This free gift – this free gift of a right relationship with God in which a sinner is now able to stand clothed in righteousness before the Holy One – is given to those who are impressed by Jesus Christ and trust the work of His hands:
“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–” (Philippians 3:8-9).
If we have Christ, then we have everything that truly matters now and forever. But if you have come to service this morning and you don’t have Christ, you are in a perilous condition, and a payout of judgment awaits. Stop thinking that you’ll be able to manage this on your own, stop thinking that a sprinkling of good deeds will compensate for an entire life void of worship, stop thinking that you’ll get lucky. ‘Luck’ is not a thing. Justice is a thing, given to those outside of Christ; and grace is a thing, given to those in Christ. Therefore, trust in Christ and treasure Him as the all-sufficient, all-satisfying Savior.
3) Always Be Conformed to the Pattern of Christ’s Life
Third, always remember that God calls us to be transformed after the pattern of Christ’s life. The good work that God does in His people involves far more than initial conversion. Conversion is, in fact, the beginning of a transformed life. We are pardoned and purified; we are forgiven and filled with the Spirit; we are set free from the power of sin and empowered to live a holy life.
As we saw in Philippians 1:27–2:11, the gospel not only saves us into God’s family, it also shows us how to live as members of God’s family. Christ showed us the downward path: He “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7) – the Son of God became a true Man – and as the one and only God-Man He endured suffering as a humble and obedient servant, and He offered up His life in supreme devotion to His Father and, at the same time, He laid down His life with sacrificial love for His people. This downward path is the path to glory, because God has crowned the Crucified One who walked the downward path: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” (Philippians 2:9)
In Philippians 2:1-5, Paul calls us to live with the same mindset that Jesus had: we ought to lay down our devotion to self-comfort, self-honor, and self-advancement, and instead throw ourselves into humble and obedient service. We ought to honor one another (v. 3), we ought to look out for each other’s interests (v. 4), and like Timothy we ought to “be genuinely concerned for” the well-being of our brothers and sisters in Christ (Philippians 2:20). We ought to embrace the path of suffering in order to advance the gospel; we ought to embrace the path of service in order to build up the Church; we ought to embrace the path of costly love in order to lift up our fellow Christians. It is this downward path of sacrifice and suffering that leads to final glory: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10)
The call upon our present life is to “[become] like him in his death,” to gladly pour out our lives in supreme devotion to the glory of God and in sacrificial love for the Church. And the promise that stands over this suffering life is resurrection and glory: for those who follow Christ on the pathway to glory will, in due course, partake of that glory. Our “Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21). If the grace of Jesus is with you now in suffering, then the grace of Jesus will be with you then in glory. Let us lean upon His grace and be transformed into a Christ-like Church, that is, into a body of disciples that faithfully reflects the character of our Lord. And as “[the] grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [is] with your spirit,” do not be passive about your spiritual growth, but “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
4) Always Think Congregationally About The Christian Life
Fourth, always think congregationally about the Christian life, because God calls us to follow Jesus together as a congregation. A Christian mindset is a church-loving mindset. We have visited and revisited this truth many times, but bad habits die hard – and American individualism dies hard among Christians in America. What the Philippian congregation was called upon to be and do, they were called to be and do as “the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi” (Philippians 1:1). As God’s holy people, we participate in the fellowship of the gospel: we have fellowship with the living God and fellowship with one another, and we are partners with one another in the mission of the gospel (Philippians 1:3-7; 1:27–2:1; 3:10).
Increasing in our love for one another is an indispensable part of our preparation for unashamed glory on the last day (Philippians 1:9-11). We “[stand] firm” and do battle for the gospel together (Philippians 1:27). The more seasoned saints among us set an example for the younger ones (Philippians 3:17). And where there are souring disagreements, we are entreated “to agree in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2), because it is God’s will that we be a same-minded and single-minded congregation that reflects the mind of Christ. And if we are reflecting the mind of Christ then we will be showing great care for the dear saints whom Christ loves and we will be laboring together to advance Christ’s kingdom. As we saw in the previous sermon, this church-loving mindset flies beyond the borders of our own congregation and connects with our fellow Christians all over the world: “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus…. All the saints greet you” (Philippians 4:21-22)
5) Always Pursue the Advance of the Gospel
Fifth, always pursue the advance of the gospel. A Christian mindset is a ‘great commission’ mindset in which we want the message of the gospel to go forth to more and more people in more and more places. We want sinners to hear the gospel and be soundly converted, and we want sound converts to be established and built up in the Lord, and we want churches near and far to be healthy and holy and fruitful. Paul labored to advance the gospel throughout the world, and the Philippians partnered with him in the task – they prayed for him, and they financially supported him. We should do likewise as we partner with our missionaries in various parts of the world.
Advancing gospel mission, however, isn’t just about getting people into God’s kingdom; it is also about growing converts and congregations into maturity. As Paul told the Philippians: “I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.” (Philippians 1:25) And one of the reasons we want converts and congregations to be strong in the Lord is so that they will be effective at displaying and advancing the gospel in their own local region. Paul expected the Philippian congregation to hold true to the gospel in the face of opposition (Philippians 1:27-30), and Paul also expected the members of the Philippian congregation to “shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). In all this, we see that God calls us both ‘up’ into spiritual maturity and ‘out’ into gospel mission. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” isn’t promised to us in order to make us comfortable in mediocrity, but as a spur to growth and mission. If we would be a people who pursue the advance of the gospel, then we must be a people who are advancing in the gospel. Let it be so!
6) Always Give Glory to God!
Finally, always give glory to God! The ultimate goal of all that we have pondered in this sermon and every other sermon, is the praise of God’s glory. Paul’s ambition was for Christ to always “be honored in [his] body, by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) We worship Jesus as the “highly exalted” King who achieved salvation for His people (Philippians 2:6-11). Our transformed lives are the fruit of God’s grace; therefore our transformed lives are “to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11). Though we have many needs and face many vulnerabilities in this suffering age, the living God protects “[our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus” and provides for our ordinary needs as He sees fit. Therefore: “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:20)
It is not fitting that people saved and sanctified by grace, forget the grace and start thinking they’ve achieved quite a bit on their own. What is fitting is that people saved and sanctified by grace, remember ‘tis only grace that has brought them thus far – to God be glory! And ‘tis only grace that will bring them home – to God be glory! Indeed, grace is having its proper effect when grace-receivers are glad to glory in the grace-giver.
‘Benediction’ – God’s grace to us – is the source of every blessing. ‘Doxology’ – to God be glory – is the goal of every blessing. Therefore let us receive His grace with joy, and then with joy let us return praise and thanksgiving to our gracious God. Always give glory to God!
IT ALL DEPENDS ON CHRIST’S GRACE FROM START TO FINISH
After having written 103 verses (Philippians 1:1–4:22), Paul must bring the letter to an end. What hope does Paul have that his letter will make a difference in the lives of the Philippian congregation? What hopes does Paul have that the Philippians will grasp the truth of which he has spoken? What hope does Paul have that these brothers and sisters will actually grow in faith and obedience and fruitfulness? What hope does Paul have that Epaphroditus and Euodia and Syntyche and Clement and all the unnamed Christians in this church family will increase in their love for one another and in the clarity of their witness to the world? What hope does Paul have that the saints in Philippi will join him in a life devoted to the glory and praise of God? Only this: that “[the] grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” is with His people, and that the God who once began a good work among them will graciously continue that work until the end.
Take away the grace, and it all comes to nothing. But with the grace, we remain rooted in Christ and, like an orchard growing for the harvest, we are ripened for the glory to come.
Perhaps the gracious benediction of Philippians 4:23, joined with some of the important lessons from earlier in the letter, make this wonderful hymn just a little more meaningful.
“All the way [our] Savior leads us; What have [we] to ask beside?
Can [we] doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been [our] guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort, Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For [we] know what-e’er befall [us], Jesus doeth all things well;
For [we] know what-e’er befall [us], Jesus doeth all things well.
“All the way our Savior leads [us]; Cheers each winding path [we] tread,
Gives [us] grace for ev’ry trial, Feeds [us] with the living bread;
Though [our] weary steps may falter, And [our] soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before [us], Lo! a spring of joy [we] see;
Gushing from the Rock before [us], Lo! a spring of joy [we] see.
“All the way our Savior leads [us]; Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to [us] is promised / In [our] Father’s house above;
When [our] spirit, clothed immortal, Wings its flight to realms of day,
This [our] song through endless ages: Jesus led [us] all the way;
This [our] song through endless ages: Jesus led [us] all the way.”
Did you hear those words? Tender mercy, heavenly peace, divinest comfort, grace for every trial, a spring of joy, and the promise of perfect rest. Brothers and Sisters: “All the way,” from the beginning of the Christian life to the end, it is the gracious work of our Savior Jesus Christ.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
 Michael J. Gorman, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (The Gospel and Our Culture Series (GOCS)). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015. Kindle Version.
 John Newton, “Amazing Grace.”
 Fanny Crosby, “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.” I changed the first person singular pronouns to first person plural pronouns in order to reflect the emphasis in Philippians on living the Christian life together as a church family. To be clear, I do not object to the hymn being sung with the singular pronouns as a way for the individual believer to express his or her confidence in the Savior. However, in light of this particular sermon and sermon series, the use of plural pronouns is more fitting.
More in Philippians
May 5, 2019Greeting Every Saint
April 28, 2019To Our Great God Belongs Eternal Glory
March 31, 2019Living in the Goodness of God's Provision