“Rejoice Together in Those Who Serve Christ”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.16-18
Philippians 2. If you have watched the news over the past few years or have followed the persecuted church, you would have come across the name Saeed [Sah-eed] Abedini [ahb-ah-deen-e]. Saeed was born and raised Muslim in Iran. When he was 20, a radical Muslim group recruited him and he trained to become a suicide bomber. The deeper he went into the training, the more depressed he became. He converted to Christ in 2000.
He met and then married his Christian wife Naghmeh in Tehran in an underground service. They moved to Idaho in 2005.
In 2012 at the age of 32, Saeed left his home in Idaho for a short trip to Iran to work on an orphanage as well participate in the secret house churches there and was arrested. He agreed to the authorities to give up his house church activities, but continued to work on the government-sanctioned orphanage.
In July 2012, Saeed was forcefully removed from a bus in Iran and arrested. He was later charged with undermining the national security of Iran for his house church activities and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
He suffered intense pain while imprisoned, being beaten by guards and prisoners alike. He somehow acquired a cell phone, that had to be hidden from the guards, where he accessed movies through his wife’s amazon account and viewed pornography, his wife alleges.
However, Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh worked tirelessly to get him released from prison, campaigning for him, even appearing before Congress. Her efforts caught the attention of several Christian organizations and as well news outlets around the world.
During a brief period, she stopped campaigning for his release and in two emails she talked about their troubled marriage and said she had faced physical, emotional, and psychological abuse and sexual abuse from his addiction to pornography. Somehow, the abuse worsened during his imprisonment. They did speak over skype and phone.
Eventually through some events I won’t go into, Saeed was released and returned to his family in Idaho. Within 5 days after his release from prison … remember he’d been in prison for over 3 years…within 5 days after returning, his wife files for legal separation and a temporary restraining order stating, “I want us to go through counseling, which must first deal with the abuse. Then we can deal with the changes my husband and I must both make moving forward in the process of healing our marriage.”
Keep in mind back in 2007, Saeed was sentenced to a year of probation for misdemeanor domestic assault, along with a suspended sentence of 90 days in jail.
Despite the pleas of Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, Saeed in October of this past year filed for divorce from his wife. Now, we don’t know everything that happened and we could have some facts wrong as Franklin Graham has said, but we do know enough to be able to say…this is not how you respond during persecution.
Franklin Graham and Saeed continue to work together for the release of imprisoned pastors around the world.
Now, Christ would desire all those persecuted pastors to persevere in persecution, no question. And regarding Saeed’s wife, it seems that she did what a sensible wife would do: advocate for his release, and who could blame her…
But at the same time, I wonder if Christians were petitioning for Paul’s release from jail. He’s writing the letter to the Philippians from prison. Did Christians petition for Paul’s release from jail? Probably not, because it would mean their lives as well! But we do know one thing: Paul didn’t advocate that the Philippians try to get him out of prison…and if he had access to illegal cell phones in prison, he wouldn’t have used them…among all the other things. Paul wanted Christ’s followers to do something else: to rejoice in his own perseverance for Christ under persecution as he was rejoicing in theirs.
Verse 16…we’re to…
Philippians 2:16–18 16 [hold] fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.
Paul’s perspective on persecution was one of joy, if you can believe it…and he urged his readers to rejoice with him in his own perseverance for Christ even when persecuted.
They were of one mind and heart. For Paul, the large distance between them…Paul in prison in Rome and the believers over in Philippi, that large distance didn’t matter. They were Christians together, they were persecuted together, they are to rejoice together!
And they are rewarded together. In verse 16, if they hold fast to the gospel and don’t deny Christ, that’ll give Paul a reason to glory that his service really matters for eternity; it’s not empty. If they keep serving Christ, Paul gets rewarded for that on the day of Christ. You see, their reward is dependent on the other; they are rewarded together.
Rewarded for what?
For their service to Christ together. Paul didn’t view his service as his and his alone, by himself. He serves with the Philippians. He says in verse 17 that [right hand pouring on…] his possible execution is […left hand] simply part of the larger sacrifice of service of the Philippians. His life poured out as an offering on their sacrificial service. His life and theirs combine to form 1 complete service. They serve Christ together.
But you know that at this time their service together means they are also suffering… they suffer together! Paul, you remember, had founded the church in Philippi. He was their leader, their apostle. In verse 17 … Paul may pour out his life as an offering … but if it is, it is poured out upon their sacrificial service. Paul may be executed; the Philippians are also persecuted…See, they suffer together!
And that leads us to Paul’s main point….if they are to be rewarded, they will be rewarded together…if they serve Christ, they serve Christ together, if they suffer for Christ, they suffer together…and all of that is all part of a larger sacrifice for Christ … in this then they should also rejoice together.
TRANS: So I’d like to preach that we “Rejoice Together in Those Who Serve Christ.” Rejoice together in those who serve Christ!
First, a Christian and his pastor are rewarded together.
A Christian and his minister are rewarded together (v.16b)
The Christian minister doesn’t get rewarded all by himself; his reward depends in part on the fruit among those he serves.
Philippians 2:16 16 hold fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.
They are to hold fast to the word of life so that Paul can rejoice in the day of Christ. Paul will rejoice on the day of Christ when they persevere in the faith and don’t quit following Christ, even if persecuted. And it will be true for them as Jesus said…
Matthew 5:10–12 10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
If they are persecuted and hold fast to the gospel, they will be rewarded. Paul will be rewarded in the day of Christ if they do, too…all his work won’t be for nothing!
But if they quit following Christ, Paul would be running in vain/toiling in vain. His work would be pointless on the day of Christ. His reward depends in part on their faithfulness to Christ.
EXP/ILL: Running is an athletic words. A runner doesn’t run in order to lose. He wants to get the prize! No runner wants to run for no purpose…they don’t want to run if there is no prize. Why train hard for a race if there is no declared winner?
Paul wants to win! He wants the prize! But to get the prize from Christ, the Philippians must also persevere. They must not buckle under persecution; they must stay strong and cling to Christ. If they do Paul gets rewarded.
ILL: Toiling is what farmers do. A farmer labors over his field. A farmer puts blood sweat and tears into his fields. He’s tempted to worry and be anxious over those fields for one reason or another. He talks to other farmers about how their fields are doing. Farmers help other farmers… toil.
But if that toil all for nothing, why do it? If the toiling is all in vain and empty and you don’t get the harvest at the end and the reward of a good crop, you feel like it’s a waste of time.
The apostle Paul is no different. Paul planted the church of Philippi. He planted he watered… Blood sweat and tears went into that field in Philippi. And he is looking for the harvest… A harvest of souls that stay true to Christ that Paul can bring to the Lord of the harvest and say “Look, here’s the fruit of your grace in me!”
Some years, you farmers have probably considered talking to your crop to get them to grow! Well, Paul is talking to his and says, “Look, grow! Cling to Christ, I want a full harvest!”
I have labored with all of my heart for you people… My labor in vain? Is this empty? And the Philippians reply, “No! our blessed apostle… We want to bring forth a full harvest for you on the day of Christ…. “Ok” says the apostle… “then hold fast to that word of life and shine as lights in the world… But you will take away the harvest from this field if you do not have holiness, if you don’t grow, and bring forth fruit and maybe even be used of God to plant other seeds of faith that others might come to Christ
APP: Your growth matters. If you are a member of this church your growth is important to the rest of this body. You are not allowed not to grow! If you think you are only harming yourself by not growing, you’re wrong! You are harming the body of Christ and your limiting the harvest, if you aren’t growing!
There is no such thing as a private sin. When you sin whether we know about it or not… Whether your marriage suffers or whether you’re failing in the raising of your children… This is not private, this will publicly harm the cause of Christ for perhaps generations to come.
But if you are faithful and you grow … And you say, “You know what, even if I don’t want to, I am going to cling to the gospel for the sake of Christ and for the sake of his people, and maybe even for the sake my pastor, which is Paul’s point here… and for the sake of others who might come to Christ, and I’m going to grow in Christ, period.”
That’s what we need to have; that tenacity.
APP: So, as your pastor, work with me! I’m not a genius, but if I counsel you to do something that’s wise from the word of God, take that counsel. If another believer is speaking into your life from the mind of Christ, do that too. It’s God’s design…we are working together for the cause of Christ…
TRANS: So let’s look forward to being rewarded together as we secondly, serve Christ together.
A Christian and his minister serve Christ together (v.17a)
Philippians 2:17 17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.
Like I said in the introduction, Paul and the Philippians serve Christ together. Paul didn’t view his service as separate from their service. He serves with the Philippians. We’ll see in verse 17 that his possible execution is simply part of the larger sacrifice of service of the Philippians. His life poured out as an offering on their sacrificial service. His life and theirs combine to form 1 large service. They serve Christ together.
Our understanding of this verse hinges on the drink offering… “even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice” What is a drink offering? This is rich, so follow this.
A drink offering is a sacrificial offering of wine poured out either at the foot of the altar or on the burnt offering itself.
When they offer their burnt offerings when they get the promised land, the Israelites were commanded in Num 15 that with each lamb they should bring 1/4 of a hin of wine. A hin is about 1 gallon. So they are to bring 1/4 gallon, or 1 quart of wine. That’s for a lamb. Remember, these animals are their farm animals.
For a ram, it’ 1/3 of a hin or gallon, or 1.3 quarts of wine. And for a bull offering, it’s a half gallon, 2 quarts of wine. The larger the animal, the larger the amount of wine poured out on the burnt offering. It was poured out on the offering.
Now, the burnt offering is the most frequent form of sacrifice, going all the way back to the book of Genesis with Abel, Noah, and Abraham.
It appears that the burnt offering is a voluntary offering… Of someone’s choice. The person making the offering would lay his hand on the head of the animal that was accepted as an atonement and then he would kill it. The priest would sprinkle the blood around the altar. The animal would be skinned and the rest cut into pieces. Then the entire offering was burned on the altar.
The burnt offering was the only offering that was entirely burned. That is why they call it the whole burnt offering. And it was a gradual burning so that it would last from morning to evening from one daily sacrifice to the next. Fire on that altar should never go out, a continual burnt offering.
What would happen is when the dead animal is being wholly burned on the altar, at some point they would pour out the drink offering of wine on it, to kind of top it off, or to complete the sacrifice.
Because it is called a whole burnt offering and performed continually, plus that it is pictured as giving pleasure to the LORD…a soothing aroma to the Lord… many interpreters understand this to symbolize the offerer’s “whole” and “continual” consecration to God, which is pleasing to the Lord. His dedication to God.
And that goes quite well with Ro. 12:1 which says… Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [as] a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” sounds like dedicating yourself to God.
And that understanding also fits our context in Philippians since Paul is talking about holding fast to the gospel, never letting go, we could say … dedicating yourself to the Lord, that kind of language.
So where’s the drink offering come in?
The Philippians and their sacrificial service … As it says in verse 17, “the sacrifice and service of your faith”… Their sacrificial service to Christ which is their faith…ok, so the Philippians in their sacrificial service… Which would include their prayers, their witnessing, and their financial gift to the apostle Paul, all of their life service to Christ … All of their service is the burnt offering.
Every part of them is offered to God, it’s a whole burnt offering. “They are to be a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God, which is their worshipful service.” That’s the symbolic whole burnt offering.
And Paul’s service is pictured as the drink offering… He says, “even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith I rejoice.”
Paul pictures his service, his making disciples, his prayers, his letter writing, all of his service even in prison and his possible execution for his testimony for Christ … He pictures all of that as the drink offering that’s poured out to complete their sacrificial service for Christ.
Paul pictures the [left hand] Philippian’s entire service to Christ as the burnt offering and Paul pictures his entire service to Christ as the drink offering, as the thing that just kind of tops off their sacrifice, and completes it.
And the point is they are serving together, and Paul views his own service even as secondary to their service, just simply completing their sacrifice to Christ.
APP: Now, that’s the way it is to be in faithful churches today. I ought to view my service as secondary to yours, simply completing your service. I’m not the main show around here, you are! You need to dedicate yourself wholly and continually to the word of life and if you do, me being the drink offering will simply complete your service to Christ. And indeed it says in Ephesians 4:11-12 … That he gave pastors and teachers to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry which builds up the body of Christ.
I am here as your pastor and your teacher to equip you so that you do the work of the ministry. And if you do the work of the ministry that will be what builds up the body of Christ.
So you can see why Paul viewed his ministry as secondary…he’s simply winning people to Christ and equipping them to do the rest of the ministry.
That means that you don’t view the pastor as … “Hey, we pay him, isn’t that his job?” Or “we pay the pastor’s salary, so he should listen to us.” No, if it’s going to get done, you’ll need to do it!
TRANS: A pastor and his congregation are rewarded together, they serve together, and now briefly they suffer together.
A Christian and his minister suffer for Christ together (v.17a)
Paul’s language of sacrifice and being poured out as a drink offering on their sacrifice… You can hear a note of suffering in that language. Paul could be executed, and poured out as the drink offering, his wine-coloured blood being spilled. The Philippians sacrifice in their service to Christ. There is suffering.
We serve together; we suffer together.
“We’re to mourn with those who mourn…,” the Scripture says. One member of Christ’s body suffers, we suffer with him…we suffer with her.
ILL: The local church is like a human body. We are called the body of Christ. If your nose is sick, or if you have a sore throat, you look after your body. If you have injured your finger at work, you call in other parts of your body to look after your finger. The different parts of your body work together to care for your body.
It’s the same way it is with the church. If there is suffering in the church, we are suffering together. Someone is mourning…mourning over some loss, or mourning over some sin, we mourn together. Someone is persecuted for their service to Christ, we suffer with them. You need to tell us then if you are going through a hard time!
A body of Christ that is well and healthy will call upon other members of the church to restore another spiritually sick member of that church to spiritual health.
APP: This means that we confront Christians who are in sin; we send meals to those who need it; we rejoice with others who celebrate victory over sin or who have some kind providence from God in their life, a new job, etc. And we pray with those in deep need, we care for those in prison for Christ, we counsel those who need victory. We spend our blood, sweat, and tears to get people where they need to be.
TRANS: We are rewarded together, serve together, suffer together, and finally a pastor and his people are to rejoice together.
A Christian and his minister must rejoice together (v.17b-18)
Philippians 2:17–18 17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.
Paul joyfully served
Paul says even if our suffering comes to that point where I am poured out as a drink offering on your sacrificial service… Even if it comes to that point where we both are persecuted and die for Christ, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.
Paul joyfully served! Even if he’s executed for Christ he rejoices. For Paul, martyrdom was a cause for rejoicing…
Just like the apostles rejoiced…. when they were persecuted they were “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus” Acts 5:41.
But in our passage Paul is not rejoicing in just a martyrs death, as if he has some death wish, but he is rejoicing because he knows the effect of his death… That it would a completing effect upon their sacrificial service…in the eyes of Christ.
They sacrificially serve Christ in the midst of persecution..what a glory that is! Paul is their leader, he sacrifices as well…and perhaps will pay the ultimate price, which he will do.
What a crowning that would be if their leader lays down his life … his ultimate sacrifice would make their own offering perfectly acceptable, a sweet smelling aroma to the Lord!
Paul is rejoicing for them that they are sacrificing, that they are staying true, holding fast to the word, even though they are persecuted.
the Philippians joyfully served.
But the Philippians are also rejoicing in their own service. Paul says of the them in verse 17 that he shares his joy with them. They are rejoicing… They are rejoicing that in all of their service to Christ their standing firm.
The Philippians are glad that they themselves are sacrificing in persecution for the sake of Christ; Paul is sharing his joy with them, that is they too are rejoicing…
Paul appeals to them that they rejoice in his service, too.
Now, here’s the point: Just like Paul rejoices in their sacrificial service, which they rejoice in too, Paul is requesting that they rejoice in his sacrificial service as well. We all know that it’s tempting to view those in jail for Christ with great sympathy…Paul instead is asking for joy; his imprisonment and possible execution is simply part of his service.
We can actually rejoice with those Christians who are being persecuted, because…
Matthew 5:11–12 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Rejoice with me, Paul is saying…I’m persecuted, Jesus’ promises are real, I will be rewarded, the sufferings I’m going through aren’t worthy to be compared to the glory to be revealed…rejoice with me, Paul says…I’m willing to be that additional drink offering that completes your sacrifice…don’t feel bad for me, rejoice with me!
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.16-18
We don’t serve Christ separately; we’re in this together. If I’m successful in the sight of Christ, it’s because I serve with you and you follow Christ.
There is nothing wrong with petitioning a tyrannical government to release a Christian; in fact, that’s perhaps part of assisting a part of the body that suffers. But at the same time, there is rejoicing.
We need to trust in God, rest in Him, and give Christ all that we’ve got.
This is captured in the story of Jim Elliot, as one author recounts the story…While a student at Wheaton College, Jim Elliot struggled and prayed over what God would have him do with his life. His passionate and self-sacrificial search for God’s will eventually brought him and four of his friends to the rain forest of Ecuador, on a white strip of sand next to the Curaray River. It was there that Jim and his companions were preparing to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Auca Indians, a violent tribe that until then had absolutely no contact with the outside world.
For several days before their mission, Jim and his friends had flown over the jungle in their small plane, dropping gifts to the Aucas: cooking utensils, tools, cloth, and copies of a gospel tract. Finally, on January 6, 1956, signs of hope appeared. Without warning 3 Auca Indians stepped out of the jungle and accepted Jim’s hand. He led them across the river to meet the other 4 missionaries. There were 2 Auca women and 1 man, whom they called “George.”
On Sunday afternoon, following a dinner of baked beans and carrot sticks, Nate Saint, the pilot of their small plane, radioed that he could see a group of Aucas approaching the camp. He landed the plane and the 5 excited missionaries began to sing… number 600 in our hymn book….we rest on thee…
And the last line of that hymn reads, “When passing through the gates of pearly splendor, Victors, we rest with Thee through endless days.”
Within minutes that is exactly what Jim Elliot and his 4 friends would do. By 4:30 that afternoon all five missionaries were dead: viciously murdered in an ambush, their bodies pierced repeatedly by primitive spears at the hands of those Auca Indians for whom they had prayed for six years and for whom they had sacrificed all comfort and career opportunities to win them to Christ. … Rejoice in their service!
One remarkable irony is that wrapped around one of the spears taken from the body of one of the missionaries was a gospel tract, one of many they had dropped from the plane.
They left behind five widows and nine fatherless children.
But that’s not all…Years later, contact with the Aucas was reestablished, and many came to Christ, including the killers. One life spent for Jesus is not wasted; give of your all to Jesus, and let’s rejoice in each other as we serve Christ in pleasure or in pain.
600. Let’s stand together.