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A Life of Commitment to God’s Word
Holding fast and holding forth the Word of God–WALK WORTHY, part 5 Philippians 2:16
The first face many 20th century immigrants saw was the Statue of Liberty. Her iconic countenance promised the hope of a new life. America welcomed the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses as Lady Liberty raised her torch as a beacon of hope. The statue has an unusual history–it was assembled twice. Assembled in Paris, France, given to America as a gift, disassembled and then reassembled on its current site.
Civil War General Sherman selected the statue’s location, Bedloe’s Island, which was later renamed Liberty Island. The statue functioned as a lighthouse for 16 years, with electric lights which could be seen 24 miles away. The statue was the tallest iron structure ever erected at the time in 1886. The interior was designed by Gustave Eiffel, who later created the Eiffel Tower.
The copper skin is only 3/32nds of an inch thick–less than the thickness of two US pennies. The US Congress once appropriated $62,000 to paint the statue, but public outcry kept the statue in its current state. Due to the placement of the statue and the height of the pedestal, visitors cannot see Lady Liberty’s feet. She is standing among a broken shackle and chains, symbolic of the freedom from oppression she represents.
Today, picture Lady Liberty in your mind, or look at this picture. See her holding fast and holding forth her torch–a great symbol of freedom. This picture could symbolize a Christian with God’s Word. Two truths are evident—standing firm on God’s Word and holding forth the light of the truth, which is the only path to genuine freedom.
Christians proclaim freedom–freedom from guilt, freedom from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin. Christians are the only people on this planet who are free. John 8:36, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” Galatians 5:1, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
We hold fast upon the truth of God’s Word and we hold forth the truth of the Gospel which brings freedom. This is how Paul wraps up his challenge to the Philippians to walk worthy. Are you walking worthy? Paul told this church in chapter 1:27 to, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
The drive behind this worthy call is the need for unity. The Philippian church was divided. Two women were arguing with each other and causing others to pick sides. Pride was running amok in their midst, all the while they were under attack from two extremes–those who wanted to add Jewish tradition to the Gospel and those who wanted to cheapen grace so believers didn’t obey.
So after a long exhortation to fight for unity (verses 1 to 11), Paul picks up a worthy walk again (verses 12 to 16) with these words about obedience, dependence, guarding your mouth, living pure to be a witness, and now verse 16, a conviction to hold fast and hold forth the word of life. As we wrap up the blessing of walking worthy today, read our beacon of freedom in verses 12 to 16.
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, [and the final verse in this section] 16 holding 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.”
To express humility as a believer, you obey God’s Word (verse 12), depend on God’s sovereignty (verse 13), guard your mouth (verse 14), live holy in order to be a witness (verse 15) and now today what do you do? Verse 16, develop a death grip conviction to depend solely on God’s Word and a conviction to communicate the Word of life.
We live in a day when reliance upon the Word of God is rare. Churchgoers today prefer messages on finding a mate, talks over the latest hit movie, sermons which are really passionate pep talks smattered with a few verses far more than understanding who God is and what His Word meant by what God said through the human author to the original audience.
It is happening again, just like it happened with Amos. “’Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord’” (Amos 8:11). People are starving for the Word accurately taught today. They don’t get meat or even milk–at best they get junk food, or even poison. You know, Bible verses mixed with error, which is like drinking chocolate milk mixed with rat poison.
Some church attenders don’t care. Some students don’t care–you’re forced to come to church and listen. You have your own opinion. You think differently. Your parents talk Jesus, but He doesn’t seem alive to you. Maybe they don’t practice what they preach very well. When I teach God’s Word, it’s just one more opinion to you. And the reason you think that way is simple–you are dead to God and a slave to sin. You should know–your Christian family and friends are praying you’ll be crushed by sin so you might see the importance of the Word of God and turn to Christ.
The only way we can help those blind to the truth is to grow deep in our convictions about God’s Word. And FBC, that means you need to grow in three commitments—one, two, three.
1 To develop a plan for you to UNDERSTAND ALL the Word and sound theology ANNUALLY, through classes, books, and studies
2 To intensify your commitment to ATTEND church WEEKLY to a rabid (close to legalistic) level, to hear the Word
3 Individually develop the HABIT of being in the Word DAILY
Annually a plan, weekly attendance, and daily a habit–when it comes to God’s Word, you must have a plan of attack. To walk worthy, verse 16 points right at each of you. Read it again. “Holding 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.” What does a worthy walk look like? It first manifests . . .
#1 A conviction of COMMITMENT and COMMUNICATION
Read the first phrase of verse 16, “holding fast the word of life.” There is some difficulty in determining what Paul actually means when he says, “holding fast”—1) does he mean commitment, holding fast the Word, or 2) does he mean evangelism, holding forth the Word like a light? The context leads you to believe it should be translated holding forth the Word in evangelism.
But the actual word meaning of “holding fast” leads you to believe the Greek word means to stand firm upon the Word with an obedient lifestyle. There are good theologians and technical commentators who are on both sides–accurate men hold both views. But there’re some of us who believe Paul used a word which only means hold fast in a context which points to hold forth–both are true, and here is why.
Simply stated, the Greek word only means hold fast. And the context demands the word means hold forth. I believe both truths, holding fast and holding forth are the intentional point Paul is making. Paul tells the Philippians to hold fast, be unmoving in their commitment to believe the Word by living the Word in order to put the living Word on display in the world.
Christian, develop unbending biblical convictions on truth. Why? So the Word of God has credibility with the lost and will shine forth like a light in darkness. If you keep it, obey it, live it–then you will be verse 15, “above reproach, blameless lights…to a lost world.” Holding fast demands two responses. It is much more than agreeing with a doctrinal statement. It is different than merely liking a church or preacher. It is greater than the affirmation of truth.
1) HOLDING FAST demands PERSONAL OBEDIENCE
If the Bible says it, you do it. The Bible says you are to serve, so you do. The Bible says don’t grumble and complain, so you don’t. The Bible says you attend church faithfully, so you do. The Bible says you give financially, you do sacrificially.
2) HOLDING FAST demands SPEAKING UP for TRUTH
When your friend attends first church of coolness and they have a weak view of marital roles, which means they have a false view of God and the Christian life—you speak up and say, “Why do you attend there?” And he says, “Well, I don’t agree with them.” So you say, “You’re saying one thing, but doing another. You’re undermining your own convictions.”
Speak up for truth–don’t argue, don’t fight, don’t hit them over the head with truth, but speak up for truth. The lost world is looking for people who trust and obey the Word, but there are few who truly hold fast. Those who do hold convictions upon God’s Word become like a lighthouse on a rocky shore–a guide to all who are lost at sea, searching for God’s shore.
Paul already taught us in verse 15 to live holy in order for our witness to the world to have credibility. He said, “Don’t grumble as a church” in verse 14, so your witness isn’t maligned in the community. Verse 15, Paul asks them, “How will the lost believe the Gospel can transform your life if you can’t stop complaining?”
Paul’s point in verses 15 to 16 is to challenge Christians to live differently than the world. The world is crooked, verse 15. The Word is straight, verse 16. Even if the lost reject the Word of life, they should respect how powerful it is in you and through you. The twisted generation around you, verse 15, should see you as the truth generation, verse 16. The perverse generation of verse 15 should see you as the principled generation of verse 16.
If you’re at work, complaining about people, you really have nothing to offer those without Christ. If you’re at school, flirting with babes or boys, you’re living out a Christ who isn’t sufficient. If you keep skipping church, your kids will never take the Bible seriously–if church is optional, so is Jesus.
In verse 16, Paul’s word choice and then grammar give you your own Statue of Liberty. Holding fast is to stand firm on the Word, with an unshackled commitment to truth, while we hold forth the light of the Gospel. Only as you stand firm upon the Word of God can we hold forth the offer of the Gospel clearly. “Holding fast the Word of God” means the Bible affects every area of your life.
The Great Commission is clear in Matthew 28:19 to 20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” We’re to obey all Christ has commanded, which means bringing every area of your life under the authority of the Word while you are also in the process of going forth to share the Gospel and making disciples.
That’s the same truth being taught here in verse 16—standing on the truth and shining forth the truth. Holding fast the truth, and holding forth the truth–develop convictions to stand upon the Word and speak forth the Word. To live it and share it, making certain when you share the Gospel it’s also shown through your lifestyle.
Beware of being the believer without behavior. Beware of standing on proper doctrine without performing deeds. Beware of possessing convictions without producing conduct. You are to hold fast and hold forth—develop a conviction of commitment and communication. And do so because the Bible is unique.
#2 Confirming the CHARACTER of Scripture
Verse 16 continues with “holding fast the Word of life.” We have and hold forth “life’s Word.” This description is found only here in the New Testament and certainly is a striking one. The grammar allows “Word of life” to mean “Word that is life,” or “Word with the quality of life”–but it does not mean “Word about life.”
Paul is telling us the character of the Word is living–it is life-giving. The Word is life–eternal life. First Peter 1:23, “born again … through the living and enduring word of God.” And Jesus said in John 6:63, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” This Word makes alive, it keeps alive, and fuels the spiritual life. And apart from this Word, everything is spiritually dead.
You’re committed to holding firm to and holding forth a living, active, life-changing Word. It’s only this Word that saves and this Word alone that sanctifies. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
Look up here. Is this just another sermon, or are you desperate to hear the living, active Word of God? Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Living and active means the living Word is like a person–like conversing with Christ, like a conversation with the one who gave His life for you, loves you, and always wants what’s best for you. Through the Word, you are getting the best, most wise counsel from the person who knows everything, is all powerful and controls the future. The Word is alive. It is verse 16, “the Word of life.” Only the living Word saves the ain’ts and only the living Word sanctifies the saints.
Let me share with you a huge secret–this is shocking! I know how to build a huge mega-church, get crowds, and appear to be a massive success. I know the techniques. But the elders and I are not interested in crowds–we are interested in health, in lives coming to Christ and becoming like Christ. And that only happens through verse 16, the Word of life. So we give ourselves to teaching the Word of life.
So Paul says, “Hold fast and hold forth the Bible, which is alive! Tell people about the Word of life.” Is this book living to you? Do you commune with Christ through the Word of life? My most intimate moments with Christ each week occur when I am digging into the text of Scripture. When the Bible is alive to you, you will want to read it, meditate on it, study it, listen to it, hear it, live it, expect it to change your own life and expect it to change the lives of your children, spouse, disciples, and the lost around you. Hold fast and hold forth the Word of life. Why should you? Because it’s the only way you’ll be ready . . .
#3 For the COMING DAY of JUDGMENT
Verse 16 says, “holding fast the word of life [WHY], so that in the day of Christ.” There is a future day Paul is getting ready for. As Paul stands upon and shines forth God’s powerful Word, he’s hoping (as he expends himself proclaiming, teaching and demonstrating God’s living Word), lives will come to Christ and become like Christ. As Paul stands before Christ in judgment, he wants his life to have made a difference for God’s glory.
Paul is a human vessel for God to work through. Paul is a tool for God to use to accomplish His purposes. And Paul wants the Philippians to be those whom the living Word transformed. Paul desires the Philippians to be evidence Paul was used of God to make people like Christ. Paul desires to be ready to stand before Christ, having used the Word of life by the power of the Spirit to impact Philippians to come to Christ and become like Christ.
Paul wants to be the person through whom God saved unbelievers and sanctified believers through the living Word. Paul, in Philippians 4:1, calls those in Philippi, “My beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown.” Crown means they are Paul’s reward. Paul views the Philippians as evidence of coming reward on the day of Christ. They are not notches in Paul’s belt, but Lydia is part of his crown. The Philippian jailer and his family are part of Paul’s crown.
On the day of Christ, those final days surrounding the Second Coming of Christ, there’ll be a time when believers are judged. Our judgment is not over sins–Christ took our judgment for sin upon the cross. Our judgment will be for reward. This is described in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
This event is not an option–pay close attention to what this verse is telling you. “For we must all”–ALL genuine Christian’s will be judged. “So that each one”–you will be rewarded individually. “We must all appear”–APPEAR means inside and outside, both external actions and your internal motives figure into reward.
“For his deeds in the body”–you will only be rewarded for what you did on earth now. Right now matters for eternity. “According to what he has done”–you will only be rewarded for what you have done–not hope/wish to do someday. “Whether good or bad”–good and bad means useful or useless. You’ll only be rewarded for what is useful. Useless actions are done in the flesh for your glory and useful actions are done in the Spirit for God’s glory.
You will face Christ in judgment, verse 16, “so that in the day of Christ.” WOW! Think about your purpose and how little time you have. You and I are here to be used of God to make as many people like Jesus Christ in the shortest time possible. You hold fast and hold forth the living Word of life so others will come to Christ or become like Christ. And on the day of Christ, you will be rewarded.
Paul is reminding us why the Philippians are on earth. And he’s reminding them, time is short–quit messing around, stop fighting with each other, stop arguing with each other, and get on with your mission. When Paul stands before Christ, he wants the Philippians as the evidence that he, as an apostle, did not run nor labor in ministry for nothing.
And Paul takes it a step further–for as Paul looks at the Philippians, he wants to boast. Paul adds in verse 16, “I will have reason to glory.” This means, “I will have reason to boast!” ESV says, “I may be proud.” Paul wants the Philippians as an object of boasting–a ground of glorying. The Philippians were boasting about Paul back in 1:26–now Paul wants to boast in the Philippians.
Don’t freak out. This boasting is not about what Paul has done, but about what Christ has done through Paul for God’s glory. In Romans 15:8, Paul states the same truth this way. “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.” And in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”
A worthy walk lives a life desiring to brag–not about yourself, not about what you have done and definitely not seeking to brag right now. But bragging about what Christ did through you, bragging about how God used you, a clay pot and dirty vessel so others came to Christ and became like Christ, boasting about how God graced you to hold fast and hold forth His living Word so others could be impacted.
Bragging about how the Holy Spirit empowered you to live for God’s glory in order to give sacrificially and serve faithfully in the church. Bragging about how you depended on Christ alone to work through you as you labored in service to children on Sunday, students on Wednesday, or adults each week. Your boast in the future will be about how Christ used you. Are you His tool? Are you doing anything which consistently allows you to impact others for Christ?
Will you have a reason to glory? Are you being used of God to make as many people like Jesus Christ in the shortest time possible? Are you ready to face Christ in the judgment of reward? To walk worthy is a life committed to holding fast and holding forth the transforming Word of God, in order to impact people to come to Christ and become like Christ. Why is this important?
#4 Because of the COST of MINISTRY
Paul will stand on God’s life-giving Word alone, because only God’s living Word saves and sanctifies–to positively be ready for the judgment of reward and negatively to not waste his life nor his efforts. Paul says it in a way every Greek would understand in verse 16 with, “because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” Paul loves describing the Christian life like an athlete in competition. Do you know why?
In the Greek world there were the great Isthmian Games at Corinth, the great Pan-Ionian Games at Ephesus, and greatest of all, the Olympic Games held every four years. Greek cities were often in disagreement and frequently at war–but when the Olympic Games came round, no matter what dispute was raging, a month’s truce was declared so the contest could take place.
There is little doubt Paul had been a spectator of some of these athletic contests. There was something about these athletic events which illustrated truth for Paul. Paul knew of the rigorous discipline of the training and the strict regulations athletes observed. And here you see again Paul describing his ministry as if it were an athletic event.
Paul’s hope is this–he doesn’t want to be the athlete who trains every day, then runs, but it was all for nothing! For him, the greatest prize in life was to know that through him others had come to know, then serve Christ. Paul longs for the spiritual growth of the Philippians so at the last day he may have the joy of knowing he has not trained for ministry and run his race of ministry in vain.
You see, if the Philippians continue to complain, remain disunified and proud, then Paul will have toiled in vain. The New Testament word toil paints a picture of labor to the point of complete exhaustion. And toil describes the massive labor exerted in the training for an athletic event. Paul hopes all the exhausting work of ministry was not for nothing. The Greek word vain means for no reason, to no end, empty, to no eternal value.
Paul wants to make certain his ministry efforts, his holding to the convictions in God’s Word, proclaiming the Word of life actually makes a difference in eternity at the judgment of reward. Paul knows the only hope will be the life-transforming Word of life, not psychology, humor, practical principles, shallow sermons, or wimpy doctrine, but the living Word as God wrote it.
Are you convinced it’s holding fast and holding forth the Word of life alone which will cause lives to come to Christ and become like Christ? Are you convinced the Word of life can alone transform lost children, friends and family? Paul wrote verse 16 in order to change the Philippian church and he wrote verse 16 in order to change FBC, meaning you.
I have the same hope as Paul. For if you do not come to Christ, become like Christ by obeying Christ, serving Christ and impacting others for Christ, then my efforts are in vain. Yet as Paul considered the coming day of Christ, he was joyful, verses 17 to 18. That joy led him to be an example, which we will study next week. For today . . .
1. Know your PURPOSE
You are here to be used of God to make as many people like Jesus Christ in the shortest time possible. Are you a vessel? Are you standing on the Word of God? Are you living the Word in such a way you’re a light to others? You glorify God by living like Christ and saying what Christ did. Are you living out your purpose?
2. Use your CIRCUMSTANCES
Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Notice the participle go–it literally means as you are going, telling you and I the best evangelism is providentially supplied by God. As you go around at work, as you go to the store, as you go to school, make disciples.
Part of that is holding fast and holding forth the living Word. Ask, “Do you know what the Bible says about this?” Or ask, “Do you realize God’s Word speaks to this issue?” Use your everyday circumstances to speak the truth!
3. Feed off the WORD
I do not promise if you read the Bible daily and store it up in your heart, you will shine like a light. But I do promise you, if you don’t read and feed on the living Word, you won’t. Get accountable in order to get into the Word daily. Annually a plan, weekly attendance, and daily a habit. You need a plan and convictions to learn the Word of God.
4. Make certain you are a VESSEL
In order for God to work through you, He must first be in you, which means you have surrendered your life, turned from your sin, and sought to depend on Christ alone, His death for your sin, His resurrection from the dead. You are running out of time–you will be judged! Some of you will be judged for sin and condemned forever. Some of you will be judged for reward and blessed forever. Which one will you be? Let’s pray.