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Friday, July 27, 2012

Unity and Spiritual Progress

You can listen to the audio or watch the video of the message from that service on the Bethany Place website

I’ve been thinking hard about the connection between unity and spiritual progress. Throughout the book of Philippians Paul takes pains to challenge his hearers to intentionally work at their unity. If the relational well being of one believer to another was not a big deal I don’t think the scriptures would talk so much about it. However, those challenges are frequently present in the biblical text. 

In the the book of Philippians in chapter one Paul speaks about his deep affection for the people and he challenges them to continuously grows in their love for each other 
Philippians 1:7–9 (ESV) It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
Chapter 2 contains these familiar words
Philippians 2:2–4 (ESV) complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Again in chapter 4 Paul persists in challenging the Philippians to give full diligence to dealing with relational challenges among them. 
Philippians 4:2–3 (ESV) I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Given this emphasis, i’ve titled the sermon series on Philippians that I’m beginning Sunday, Unity Under Fire. Paul was in prison so he was under pressure. He was clearly delighted with the Philippians but concerned that they keep aiming at unity so that their good progress would not be derailed. 

Here is my outline and questions for Sunday’s message at Bethany Place. 

Ready, Set, Go
Unity and Spiritual Progress
Philippians 2:12-18
Unity Under Fire: Part 1

1. Intentionally work hard
Philippians 2:12–13 (ESV) 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

2. Adopt the proper attitude
Philippians 2:14–16 (ESV)14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

3. Follow leaders willing to suffer
Philippians 2:16–18 (ESV) 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Questions for further discussion
  • How do you think the phrase, “for it is God who works in you,” helps explain Paul challenging the Philippians to “work out their salvation?”
  • What are some of the implications of the phrase, “for it is God who works in you?”  
  • How do you understand the difference between your responsibility to pursue spiritual progress and God’s role in causing it to come about?
  • How seriously do you think Paul means, “do all things without grumbling or disputing?” How would your life be different if you did not complain about anything ever?


  1. I can't wait to follow from afar. Unity and peacemaking is near and dear to my heart.