The Eternal Family Of God: Philippians Series #1
I want to ask you a question. What would you say that these people have in common: a Jewish philosopher who hates Christ; a New Ager, who has been deep into the occult; a prison guard, whose heart is filled with malignity and hate against all humankind; a feminist, who, perhaps, never married, who has her own business? What would you say all of those people had in common? They were all members of the church at Philippi. The Jewish philosopher who got saved was the Apostle Paul. The New Ager was a demon-possessed girl who was saved by the Gospel of Christ. The jailer, the prison guard, was the jailer who was saved in a Philippian revival. The businesswoman was a woman named Lydia, from Thyatira, who had a business selling purple dye.
The incredible thing is that the grace of God took people from this divergent background and made them one, in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what a church is today. A church is a family of people who have come from all kinds of backgrounds, all kinds of beliefs, all kinds of ideas and ideals, and have found unity in the family of God. The common denominator in our church is Jesus. Because we have one Lord, we have one life. And, because we have one Lord, and one life, we have one love: the Lord Jesus Christ. We are the family of God.
There are so many people who don’t have families. The Apostle Paul really didn’t have a family. He had a wife at one time. Yet, we do not know what happened to her. Did she die? We don’t know. We don’t know about Lydia, the seller of purple, whether she was divorced, widowed, or never married. But, I think the demon-possessed girl that we’re going to read about, who was delivered by the power of God, needed a family. The old brutal jailer, he needed a family. There are lots of people who need a family. Do you know what a church is? It’s an extended and eternal family.
I. The Supernatural Formation Of The Family Of God
I want you to see how this church got started. I want you to see what I’m going to call the formation of God’s forever family. Look, if you will, in chapter 1, verse 1: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi” (Philippians 1:1)—all the saints in Christ at Philippi.
Now, how did these saints get to be saints? There are only two categories of people in the world: the saints and the ain’ts. The saints are those that are saved. How did they become saints? In Acts 16, Luke records the founding of this church. We are talking about the supernatural formation of the church.
The Restraint of the Holy Spirit
The people of the world can build buildings. The people of the world can have organizations. There needs to be a dimension about this church that cannot be explained by program, personality, propaganda, or planning. Right? Say, “Amen.” If it’s not supernatural, it will be superficial.
In Acts 16:6-7, we read about Paul, and Silas. The Bible says, “Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.”
Paul and Silas desire to serve the Lord. Their motive is right: to preach the gospel of Jesus. They’re going into Asia with the plan to go to Bithynia. The Holy Spirit says, “No, I don’t want you to go that way.”
Have you ever taught a child how to drive? What’s the first thing you show them—the accelerator or the brake? You show them the brake. If he or she said, “I’m not interested in the brake,” you would probably say “Just give me the keys back.” Isn’t that right? Of course.
Before God will ever show you the accelerator, He must always show you the brake. If you’re not interested in the restraint of the Spirit, you’ll never know the release of the Spirit. The path of life is strewn with the wrecks of people who have high-powered engines and faulty brakes. They don’t know how to listen to God’s no. God’s no is as important as God’s go. Somebody said, “A fanatic is somebody who, having lost sight of his goal, increases his speed.”
The Release of the Spirit
First of all, there was the restraint of the Spirit. Second, there was the release of the Spirit. In Acts 16: 9-10, we read:
“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel unto them.” Now, first God said, “No”; and then, God said, “Go.”
God does not always give us what we want. God gave us something better than we wanted. Paul assayed to go in Bithynia, and into Asia, but the Holy Spirit said, “I want you to go over to Greece. I want you to go over to Macedonia” (Acts 16:7–10). God opened up all Europe for the preaching of the gospel, because God was supernaturally building His Church.
The Results of the Spirit
When they got to Philippi, they met Lydia from Thyatira. She came to a prayer meeting. God touched her heart. She said, “Paul came over to my house. We’ll have a prayer meeting there. You can start your Bible studies there.” That was the beginning of the church. God opened her heart. Soul winning takes on a new dimension, when we know the restraint, and the release of the Spirit.
Also, there is a demon-possessed girl. She’s following Paul around there in the city of Philippi and says, “These men are the servants of the most high God” (Acts 16:17). Paul had tried to avoid her. You know, we’re to resist the devil, not to chase him. However, Paul had enough. He turned around, and he rebuked her in the name of Jesus. The devil came out of her and she was saved. Afterwards, Paul ended up in jail, because she was making a lot of money for those men who were profiteering off of her. The little girl got saved. Paul and Silas are in jail at midnight. They’re in the innermost jail. Inside, Paul and Silas are praising God, and giving God glory.
The prisoners had heard a lot of moaning, but never heard praising. They had heard a lot of cursing; but probably had not heard praying. God is so pleased. He looks down and begins to shake that whole jail, so there is an earthquake.
The jail began to shake, and the bonds fell off. The jailer, no doubt a hardened prison guard, is ready to commit suicide. Yet, Paul and Silas say, “Don’t hurt yourself. We’re all here. Don’t commit suicide. We want to tell you about Jesus.” The jailer got saved. When a church gets right with God, no matter how much persecution comes along, the devil can’t stop the revival; all he does is just move the location. There was a revival in that jail.
Paul was a philosopher. What is the answer to the intellectual sophistication of our age? Jesus. Lydia was a businesswoman. What is the answer to the deepest needs of a woman’s heart? Jesus. That demon- possessed girl was in the grip of the occult. What is the answer to the occult? Jesus. That jailer who was surrounded by all those prisoners and criminals. What is the answer to the crime problem? Jesus.
That’s the way God put people together, in what I call a forever family.
II. The Sacred Fellowship In The Family Of God
In Philippians 1:5. “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now, notice how Paul has these people in his heart. He said: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel” (Philippians 1:1–5).
Do you see it?—“Your fellowship in the gospel.” A supernatural formation always leads to sweet fellowship. What is our fellowship? Our fellowship is not in Kool-Aid and cookies. Our fellowship is in the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What is the bond that holds us together? It’s the word fellowship. And, that word fellowship is the Greek word, koinonia. The word koinonia means, “to have something in common.” We have a common Lord, a common life and a common love.
There are three times that koinonia is used in Philippians.
The Fellowship of Soul Winning
In verse 5, he speaks of the koinonia of the gospel, the fellowship of the gospel. What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. You want some fellowship? You want to be close to somebody? You look around and find a brother or a sister who is interested in getting out the gospel of Jesus Christ. Find someone who wants to win somebody to Jesus. Two people who win a third person to Jesus Christ are never, ever again the same.
The Fellowship of Supplication
In Philippians 2:1 we read, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit” (Philippians 2:1). Do you want fellowship? Get a prayer partner. Study the Word of God with that person. Let the Spirit of God just melt you together. So many churches are wired together, or rusted together, or frozen together. They need to be melted together by the Holy Spirit. Two people who pray together are never, ever the same. When we bind our hearts together in prayer, we will find out there is something called the koinonia of the Spirit.
The Fellowship of Suffering
In Philippians 3:10, we read, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings.” If you say, “I don’t have any friends. I’m not a part of the church.” Let me tell you what to do: find somebody who’s hurting and hurt with them.
Paul said, “I want to know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.” Well, how can you know that? Jesus is in Heaven, but He said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). Two people who win a soul together are never quite the same again. Two people who pray together are never quite the same again. And, two people who cry together are never quite the same again.
III. The Secure Future For The Family Of God
In Philippians 1:6, we read, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Now, who began the good work? Jesus. How did He do it? Through the Holy Spirit. We talk about building churches. You don’t build churches. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). He didn’t say, “You will build my church.” He didn’t say, “I’ll build your church.” He said, “I will build my church.” And then, Paul says, “Since He’s the One who began it, I know He’s the One who’s going to finish it.”
How did you get saved? Did you think it was your idea to get saved? “There is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11). No, not one. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). He chose us. You were chosen of the Spirit, and then you were convicted of the Spirit, and then you were converted of the Spirit. Then, you will be completed by the Spirit.
Everything we start will not be finished. Everything is winding down to the grave. However, anything Christ does is forever. The Apostle Paul says, “I’m ‘confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ’” (Philippians 1:6). I don’t know what business you’re in, but there’s no business like the gospel business. What God does is forever.
Whatever we plan to finish, we need to get started today. Whoever we plan to win to the Lord, we need to get motivated today. Soon and very soon, Christ is coming back for His Church. One day the family of God will gather around the Lord’s table and time will cease to exist, as eternity rolls on. The family of God was supernaturally formed; it has a sacred fellowship and a secure future!