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Joy in Christ’s Exaltation | Philippians 1:12-18



Main Point: we must have our greatest joy be in Christ’s exaltation


So it has been my “task” today to bring the word to you, bringing Philippians 1:12-18 and I love it. You know, I am a Bible geeky kind of guy so i love seeing things come together and the Holy Spirit shows us something new and great… so I hope to share what God has been teaching me the last month from these verses.


Pastor Ryan last week brought us the intro to the book ,and how Paul is saying to these believers in Philippi that there is joy in the Gospel and that they are dear to him and that they are partners in the Gospel with him even while he is in jail.


Today, our text starting in vs. 12 started by saying “now I want you to know….” meaning that Paul is taking on a new thought but one that is kind of “piggy-backing” off of the last thought which is that Paul wants these brothers and sisters to have JOY in the Gospel. What is interesting is that this first phrase after “Now I want you to know” goes into a problematic sentence “…what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel”. What I mean by “problematic sentence” is that you would not think Paul is going have JOY here; because let’s be honest: JAIL does not warrant JOY.


And before we get into why he has joy I want to comment on why he is writing to the Philippians like this. We have to have a common understanding of what the church is like, and what it is about. Paul is writing to the Philippians which if we look in the book of Acts was a group of believers that Paul spent a while with after starting the church there in Philippi. And that is where we have to understand the nature of Christ’s church. Paul probably not knowing all of the people probably that he is even writing to, believed they were partners in the Gospel because they were the corporate body of Christ. I like how an article I read a few weeks ago put it: “The church is not LIKE a family, the Church IS a family”. We see this truth through out the New Testament that we are brothers and sisters connected together into a new covenant family. We have to understand that truth: that we are connected like no other people on this planet, that our family encompasses this planet and because of that I look to each of you as fellow partners and laborers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we must feel the weight of that as a church.


Conversely to looking at the church like a family, If I “individualize” these verses that we will discuss and not make each of you my partner and my sister and brother in this Gospel then I will LACK in my exaltation of Jesus and I will lack in treasuring Him above everything and specifically in treasuring His Gospel. And that is our point of today’s text which is that WE must have our greatest joy be in Christ’s exaltation. And right now I want to really emphasize WE because shame on us as a church if I make this about my “personal” Gospel journey. When I do that I lose so much of what God has for me and for how I can exalt Him. We might be “Personally saved” as individuals in the name of Jesus Christ, but after that it is not merely personal…. We must encourage each other, love each other, repent with each other, call each other out, and here because we need to get into the text WE must exalt Christ with each other.


SO, here we go, let’s do this TOGETHER; let’s see the treasure of God’s word.



So, we see in these first 3 verses that:

  • Point #1-Despite our circumstances the Gospel remains powerful(12-14).
  • Ok, like I said before, Paul is not in a “good” situation. Being in jail is NEVER A GOOD THING; yet here Paul starts out assuring the Philippian believers that “what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel”. This reveals that the Gospel is immensely powerful, despite our circumstances. We see this because, it appears, what Paul is saying is that going to jail and suffering has been better for the furtherance of the Gospel. If the Gospel’s power were to be labeled as “powerful” the way the world sees “power” and “success” then Paul MIGHT be saying something like “don’t come and preach the gospel here because if you do you go to jail; please go somewhere else where it is easier and people won’t persecute us”. If this Gospel that Paul was preaching was not from God and was weak then suffering and imprisonment would make no sense. The power of the Gospel explodes out of these words. These words from Paul are not merely important for this beginning chapter, but they are important for how we read the rest of the book, and I think that these verses here are a type of “preface” for the rest of the book because Paul, being in prison, knows that whether he is in need, in abundance, ship wrecked, whether threatened with death, getting there next week, or whatever else (4:12-13), Paul cries out here that the good news of Jesus Christ has gone forward and because the Gospel remains true, the Gospel will prevail, and will have immense power, and in that he has abundant joy. If you think about, as we go through this letter Paul is just the most frustrating guy to his enemies: I WANNA KILL PAUL! “To live is Christ and to die is gain”, 1:21. WELL FINE, I HOPE YOU LOSE EVERYTHING! “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ”, found in chapter 3:7. And then if there was any doubt that Paul wasn’t displaying this other-wordly joy he says in chapter 4, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.” I mean come on Paul, WHATEVER SITUATION? And I think, going back to our text today, that because Paul has his joy and his life grounded and found in something outside of himself and this messed up world, specifically found in his life with Jesus, that Paul can have this “weird” joy.
    • But let’s keep going and see what power there is in the Gospel, Paul reveals 3 things that have just erupted out of him being in jail, which gives him joy:
      • The Gospel is advanced in general;
      • The Gospel is known to the imperial guard
      • Brothers have gained confidence and fearlessness
    • Going back to what I had said in the beginning that this Christian life and the Gospel cannot be individualized but MUST be corporate. Because IF Paul just individualized the Gospel for himself and just said “MINE” and believed that his walk with Jesus was merely personal then he wouldn’t care if the gospel was “advanced” he would merely want the gospel to be his, not the imperial guards nor would he delight in his partners in the Gospel going forward with the Gospel. This should really challenge us in our comfortable American lives… Honestly we all need to think about it and ask “is my Christianity to comfortable?” and I know for me, my life can be too comfortable. Now I am not saying that we need to all give up everything we have and go and be hermits or live in the jungle, but what we need to remember is that the Gospel that we claim to love cannot look small or weak, because the world today, I fear, looks at us and our Gospel and just tips their hat and says “that’s nice”. I don’t want a “nice” Christiainity, but one that people from the outside look and think “that’s something I have never seen before”.
    • Paul indeed believes in the power of the great commission, grounding his commission in the knowledge that Jesus’ Gospel is powerful and it going forward and out to the ends of the world is the highest goal; not his fame, his power, or his success. He knows the Gospel will be successful, because it has the power to save and that power is not weak.
    • Most of us here would never say or even think that we believe that the Gospel is weak; of course we think the Gospel is powerful. But do you believe that the Gospel is supernaturally powerful and other-worldly? What I mean is that if Paul merely knew that the Gospel was powerful and God would do some amazing things then he perhaps would not have the same attitude here. Picture water for a second; as rain, we know it will do amazing things, when we drink it, we know we get life and refreshment. But then you think of the ocean, hurricanes, glaciers, etc. and we will fully understand the power of water and that it is not tame but is a force to be reckoned with… Water and it’s power though, pales in comparison with the power of the Gospel, if we look at it in the same way Paul does here in Philippians. Do you pray for God to supernaturally use you at your work place to display the power of the Gospel? Do you have grace with your children to display a gracious God and His Gospel, or even ask for forgiveness when it’s needed in your marriage? We don’t have to go to jail to show the power of the Gospel, we merely have to live daily under the reality that we don’t have a weak Jesus, but a mighty king who lives and lives in us
  • Now Paul takes up this first section with his encouragement to the brothers about the Gospel and its power, in the next large portion of this text Paul describes 2 different preachers: envious preachers and good preachers. What we expect from Paul is for him to condemn these enviou preachers, but what he wants us to know is that…
  • (and this is our 2nd point): Despite any opposition Christ remains the point (15-17)
    • Now truly Paul was facing both opposition and help while in jail, but in spite of the opposition he faced he couldn’t care less as long as Christ remained the main thing. This is why he makes it clear in verse 15 the ones who preach from envy and rivalry do “preach Christ”, then verse 16 he highlights his support knowing that they know he was put in prison for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and finally in verse 17 he repeats nearly the same words about the selfish teachers that they “proclaim Christ”. So it appears that Paul is saying that though their Motives are incorrect, their Message is true; meaning that they are getting the Gospel right, albeit they have incorrect heart motives in preaching the Gospel.
      • Paul here is not condoning these selfish preachers, but praising God that they are at least getting the Gospel right. Many people, because we are so individualized, think that there are churches that “do it wrong” because they have lots of flashy lights or other things that seem to “water down” what the church is supposed to be focused on. I tell you as an alumni of Calvary Bible College it was drilled into me that the “seeker-friendly” or “seeker-sensitive” model was of Satan. Then I interned at a self-proclaiming “seeker-friendly” church and I tell you that their Gospel is the same as ours. Do I like the way we do ministry here at Raintree better? Oh yea! But will I partner with that church so that people in Kansas City know Jesus? YES! Will I praise God that they are somewhow reaching people with the Gospel? YES! It’s because we like to be in control as individuals that we forget that God is in control, and that Jesus is the head of this body known as the church. What Paul is not trying to do is cause a division in the church, but he is trying to keep Jesus as our focus. If Jesus is proclaimed then Jesus is exalted and that should cause us immense joy, even when we face people with incorrect motives
        • Now Paul will shame these leaders in a slight of hand way later in chapter 2 saying “do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves”. So you know, Paul, because you know he does not shy away from conflict, is not only telling the believers a Gospel truth, but is also taking a jab at those SELFISH and ENVIOUS teachers, yet he does so in a way that does not detract from the message of making Jesus the point.
      • Now Paul here does not bat an eye of fear, anger, or frustration at these selfish teachers; why? It is because Paul is not resting in his own ability to preach the Gospel, as if it were him who did anything, but rather is resting in Christ as the one who is working. Our minds might recall other scripture here, remembering that in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 Paul writes, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth”. Paul is resting in the truth that the Gospel is powerful, Christ is king, and God is in control and will make His name great AND make His Gospel known.
      • Now we might not find ourselves being opposed by “envious” teachers or be thrown in jail or persecuted, because let’s be honest we are not persecuted here in America if you look at the persecution the church is facing in the rest of the world. But we can feel two different forms of opposition: fear and comfort. Fear is what most of us might feel when we hear the word “evangelism”. We know that we have a co-worker or a family member that is against religion and because of our fear of reputation or our fear of conflict we choose never to say anything about Jesus. Now does evangelism need to be done through relationship and tact? Yes; but we shouldn’t let that stop us from proclaiming Jesus in the name of “well, it’s not the right time” after its been the 20th The other opposition we might have from within is that of comfort. This goes back to us thinking that the Gospel is “nice” instead of powerful. Will I even start the conversation at Thanksgiving with my uncle who needs Jesus, or is it just easier to sit and watch football and eat chips? Of course the easier path is football and chips but don’t let that comfort move us away from ever proclaiming Christ. Because at the end of the day, in the way you act, what you say, how you react to things, will people be able to see where your joy lies? Does it lie in American comfort or Christ’s exaltation?
      • Then, as a kind of cherry on top, Paul adds a statement in the next verse that I find hilarious: “WHAT DOES IT MATTER” or “WHAT THEN” and you might have other phrases. Which tells us our third point in the text:
    • Despite what we think, our joy rests in making much of Christ (18)
      • This first phrase here “What does it matter” will be an echo, not of Paul giving up or him having self-pity (“oohh, what does it matter”), but of his constant attitude in the whole book of Philippians that Christ is EVERYTHING, and if Christ is not exalted, then life has been utterly wasted. Like I said before, these verses are a sort of “preface,” for we see this in Philippians 1:21, which we will be looking at next week, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” and Philippians 3:7, “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ”. It is not that we find a defeated Paul in these texts but that Paul is crying out “CHRIST IS ENOUGH!” Despite what we think, our joy rests in making much of Christ. What I mean by “despite what we think” I mean that “in case you thought you were something special and great” and that in your greatness and success and how that makes you feel “good”, if that is your joy then you have counter-feit joy; BUT if your joy rests in making CHRIST GRAND, then your joy will be so full that when you have lies being told around you, or your world is falling apart, you can look to your great God and say YES! And cry out to people, LOOK! Isn’t He magnificent; He is powerful and in control and He OWNS ME, and I am HIS CHILD.
      • I want to use the example of a child right now. Most children will say “my parents are my hero”, that’s universally what most children will say. They will get excited to spend time with their parents and think that their father is a giant who swoops them into the air like a super-hero; or that their mother is the ultimate comforter who can heal all wounds, both physically and emotionally. Now, are these true? Is dad a giant super-hero or is mom a trained medic and counselor? No, but to those children they are, and no one else can be those things. Little children make their parents look and sound like a big deal. The question for us is will we make much of the actual great physician, the prince of peace, the King of the Universe. Will our tongues sing of songs of His greatness and will our testimonies and stories tell of His power and grace? Or will we be like a defiant teenager who goes off to college and wants nothing to do with Him, but only acts like it when we visit for the holidays? That makes nothing of Jesus, when He is everything.Mommies and Daddies are perceived to be heroes, but they are not; but with God, we should both give the image of God’s greatness AND display the reality of God’s greatness
      • It is telling of Paul’s relationship with Christ that he will say, depending on your translation, twice, “Rejoice”. In the same way that Christ’s exaltation gives Paul the right perspective on preaching the Gospel, it also gives him the right attitude of joy. Why? Because if Paul was in jail because of himself, a false gospel, or anything else except for the king of the universe than there would be no point in joy, there would be only sadness and frustration that this is not the way things should be, I thought this whole Jesus thing was going to be good for me not land me in jail! But because Christ is the point, Paul can have joy again and again and again.
      • Do you think that Jesus is only for you? That the Gospel was for you? Do you have more joy in Jesus’ glory or in you having a get our hell free card? This is sometimes the mistake we have, that we think that Jesus couldn’t stand the idea of us going to hell and needed us in heaven so He came and paid the price for us to come to heaven with Him. Now that might not sound all too wrong, but it is wrong. IF we think that the perfect Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was bored, lonely, or was “needing something more” then maybe you don’t understand God. The Gospel is not about making man get out of hell, but about God rescuing a people to glorify Himself. The Gospel is not man-centered, the Gospel is Christ-centered. This is what Paul’s life is centered on: Christ.
      • That is what our challenge is today, that:
    • Conclusion: No matter our life’s circumstances; take joy in Christ’s exaltation
      • We will get to the text everyone knows eventually of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”…. What a verse that is totally ripped out of context. It is here in chapter 1 that Paul sets up this idea that will give the reason for him saying what he says in chapter 4, that there is nothing in this life, even my ability to preach the Gospel more than others, that will give greater joy than a life that is satisfied and delighted in Christ the king, and therefore Paul knows that in chapter 4 that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” means that my life has meaning, my life can have contentment in the bad times and the good times, because nothing matters except the resurrected Christ who gives me resurrected life. Let Paul’s words of “what does it matter” or “I continue to rejoice” echo in your minds as we read the book of Philippians. I want to think that our church and the church as a whole can take this attitude and take that attitude into how we approach the great commission, not as individuals but as a body, as a family. That the idea of those who speak with different theological convictions can be our partners in the Gospel, OR that people with different beliefs, life styles, orientations, etc. are in need of the Gospel and because that is true we must make our God BEAUTIFUL to them in the way we talk to them, engage with them, etc. And I might like to think that we make Jesus look beautiful the same way He engaged sinners and met them in their homes, in their walks of life, and in their suffering. Do I believe that the Gospel is a Gospel for all, or just me? And will I let my theological or political convictions stop me from that? We must make the Gospel seen as powerful, make Christ the point of our lives, and take great joy in Christ. Besides just engaging people who are different than us or partnering with Christians who are different than us I must ask, does my life exemplify these? Does the way I talk to my wife share a Gospel of joy? Cause it should. Does the way I treat my next door neighbor share that Christ is GREAT. Do my coworkers see a beautiful Jesus, or do they see a Jesus that is relegated to Sunday? Do I show a Life with Christ that tells the world that despite anything life throws at me, no matter what people throw at me, my joy is found in making much of Christ? Let Paul’s cries of Christ be our cries in this world that is growing more hostile toward the message of Jesus. Let us show that world a more beautiful Jesus than they thought they might find.

To finish, I want to tell a story about my best friend Stephen Reynolds. This man was amazing, his story was amazing. Raised in a Christian home, dad is a pastor of a church here in KC, and eventually left for college and found himself interested in sex, drugs, and partying. And so God got ahold of Stephen and he repented and decided to go to Calvary Bible College where he and I met my freshman year. He was energetic, friendly, and hungry for Christ and His word. Fast-forward we had a group of friends who held each other accountable and we grew in leaps and bounds, helping each other and spurring each other on. And Stephen found himself dating a girl at our college named Katie, and soon after they started dating Katie got sick. Katie was so sick that she would have to sleep for atleast 15 hours a day sometimes, had migraines, could not be active, couldn’t drive, and could potentially die. She told Stephen my friend, we shouldn’t date it would be better for you if you were not dating me. And he told her no, that she was stuck with him and that no matter what happened he would be with her. Stephen acted out of his love for Jesus and the Gospel and took more joy in Christ than in wondering how this relationship would be good for him. He was ready to show Christ’s love for the church in marrying Katie, though she may be bed-ridden the rest of her life. How the story ends is not how you think, Stephen died about a year later, and Katie’s life would never be the same. She had great sorrow, asking so many questions. But, Stephen did not leave her with a meaningless legacy; 2 stories and I am done: The First is one that Katie tells us in her book saying that once they were driving and Katie was not doing so well and was kind of down from her circumstances and she says that Stephen just sat, drove, and listened and the only words he responded with were the chorus of “count your many blessings, count them one by one; count your many blessings see what God has done” and he did this twice taking Katie and Him to the truth of God’s blessings because Stephen knew the power of the Gospel and how great Jesus is and where his joy was. The last story is in the last few months of his life Katie and Stephen had a mantra that they said when times where tough with Katie’s health, they would say “God is good, all the time”. That could be a pithy statement that someone could say, but if the point of this life is Christ’s exaltation and that brings abundant joy even in the bad, then that statement brings life. Where will the truth of Christ’s glory take you and will you rest in the power of Christ’s Gospel and His glory, no matter the circumstances?