The Bible is the only book that clearly explains man’s greatest dilemma, which is sin. Sin is described primarily as alienation from God, it began in the Garden where Adam and Eve our first parents made fig leaves and hid from Him. Sin became so great on earth during the first Millennium and a half that God brought total destruction through a worldwide flood. (Genesis 6-9)
Every generation repeats the process of evil on earth, which is why man cannot learn from history – he must learn from God through the Gospel. Soon after the catastrophe that destroyed all but 8 souls, man in his arrogance and pride began to build a tower to heaven to overthrow God’s rule. God in loving justice divided man by nation and language, which became further consequences and evidence of sin on earth.
Paul in his letter to the Philippians sets forth four priorities for every follower of Christ: 1) Defend the Gospel, 2) Display the Gospel, 3) Desire Christ, and 4) Depend on Christ. It is the establishment of these priorities by the grace of God in our hearts that partially undo the effects of the fall in our lives.
DEFEND THE GOSPEL
Paul had a one track mind concerning the priority the Gospel had in his life and ministry. As he wrote to the Philippians it was the Gospel that was the means of God’s grace “…in the defense and confirmation of the gospel all of you became partners in God’s grace.” (1:7) The circumstances in his life even though it was prison meant further opportunity to preach the Gospel, “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, which my situation has actually turned out to advance the gospel. (1:12) Furthermore, the reason for his location was also to defend the Gospel, “I am placed here for the defense of the gospel. 1:16
We can understand early in his letter that Paul interchanges the Gospel with Christ, and so Paul could say, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.” (1:21) Paul was consumed with the Gospel truth, which truth is Christ. His every exhortation in some way involves the Gospel, “…conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…” (1:21) The end result of defending the Gospel is a display of godly unity, because there is only one Gospel to defend.
DISPLAY THE GOSPEL
Paul told the Philippians, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…” and that manner was unity in the gospel. “I should hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, by contending side by side for the faith of the gospel.” (1:27) By the sovereign decree of God, it is the Gospel that transforms lives because the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and Christ is the center and circumference of the Gospel. Paul’s joy would be complete if the Gospel was at the center of the Philippians’ lives. “…complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” (2:2-3)
At Babel sin reared its ugly face, selfish ambition took the place of humility, and harmony was turned into worldwide wars. The only answer for man’s sins is found at the foot of the cross where Christ died to free man from sins of pride, and to replace them with harmony and a united effort for God not against Him. It is the love of Christ at Calvary that makes such living possible, which can only be found on earth in the Church. We are told by the Apostle John that we love Him because He first loved us, and as a result of His love toward us we are drawn to desire Him.
In a world where nationality, education, financial independence, appearance, and positions of power are looked on with envy, Paul would say, ‘I count all that as manure.’ “But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung!” (3:7-8)
The priority of life for Paul was intimacy with the person of Christ, “My aim is to know him…” (3:10) The Gospel is Christ and evangelizing is introducing people to Him. The doctrines which so many people want to abandon for “unity” are the very vehicles to true unity; doctrine rightly understood reveals Christ for who He is in righteousness, justice, love, forgiveness, honor, glory, kindness, wrath, and a host of other qualities and attributes. To desire the world and all it offers more than we desire Christ is idolatry, and idols in ancient times were made by man’s hands, conceived in their own minds, and for the purpose of meeting their earthly needs. The alternative as set forth by Paul is to depend upon Christ.
DEPEND UPON CHRIST
To know Christ is to trust Christ; from Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God…” (Elohim: the strong Faithful Ones) is revealed as faithful, loyal, and trustworthy. “And my God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (4:19) The New Testament reveals Christ as Lord and Sovereign of the universe, and to accept that fact about Jesus Christ is to submit to His authority and consent to His rule over our lives. Such acceptance results in a trust that no matter what the circumstance, in poverty or riches God has our highest good in view both in time and eternity.
The priority of the Christian is to defend, display, desire, and depend on Christ for His glory and pleasure.