Imitating the Apostle Paul
many years, the coast town of Monterey,
California, was a pelican’s paradise.
As the fishermen cleaned their fish, they flung the offal to the
pelicans. The birds grew
fat, lazy, and contented. Eventually,
however, the offal [began to be] utilized, and there were no longer
snacks for the pelicans. When
the change came, the pelicans made no effort to fish for themselves.
They waited around and grew gaunt and thin. Many [even] starved
to death. They had forgotten
how to fish for themselves. The
problem was solved by importing new pelicans from the south, birds
accustomed to [scavenging] for themselves.
They were placed among their starving cousins, and the newcomers
immediately started catching fish. Before
long, the hungry pelicans followed suit, and [their] famine was ended
(Bits and Pieces, 1994, bible.org).
Gen. George C. Marshall took command of the Infantry School at Fort
Benning, GA, he found the post in a generally run-down condition.
Rather than issue orders for specific improvements, he simply got
out his own paintbrushes, lawn equipment, etc., and went to work on
[sprucing up] his personal quarters.
The other officers and men, first on his block, then throughout
the post, did the same thing, and Fort Benning was brightened up
[without even saying a word]” (source unknown, bible.org).
researcher for Penn State discovered [that] 98% of teens reported lying
to their parents in a recent study.
They lied about [how they spent money, how they spent their time,
and who they spent their time with].
Yet 98% of [the] teens say [that] trust and honesty are essential
in a personal relationship, [and 97%] say lying is morally wrong. [So,]
what’s happening? … The most disturbing reason [that teens] lie is
that [their] parents teach them to.
When adults are asked to keep diaries of their own lies, they
admit to about one lie per every social interaction, which works out to
[at least] one per day, on average. Encouraged to tell so many white
lies and hearing so many from others, [teens] gradually get comfortable
with being dishonest” (taken from Church Leader Intelligence Report
three examples show us the power of example and influence, don’t they?
The apostle Paul once wrote to the brethren in the church at
Corinth: “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians
11:1). Why was Paul worth
imitating? One writer had
this to say about Paul: “The range of his friendship and the warmth of
his affection are qualities which no attentive reader of his letters can
miss. … And in his friends, he was able to call forth a devotion which
knew no limits” (Bruce). Paul’s
relationship with the church at Philippi was a very strong and close
one. Reading through his
letter to them brought the power of imitation and example to mind.
This morning we want to look at nine ways that we can imitate the
apostle Paul based on Phil. 1:19ff.
of all, may we have Paul's boldness (1:19-20)!
Let’s read vv. 19-20. “For
I know that this will turn out for my deliverance” is an exact
quotation from Job 13:16 in the Greek version of the OT.
Like Job, Paul was confident that God would be his ultimate
Helper. But then Paul adds
two other sources of strength: the brethren’s prayers and the Holy
Sprit’s help. The
brethren’s prayer would help him to act properly, and the Holy
Spirit’s strength would help him to speak correctly.
Paul’s “earnest expectation” (like a runner stretching to
cross the finish line) was that he would not do something that would
make him ashamed of himself while making his defense for his faith.
With great boldness, he wanted to stand fearlessly for what was
right. No matter what the
outcome—whether he was declared innocent and let free or found guilty
and sentenced to death—he wanted Jesus to be glorified!
Someone has observed that God is not glorified in cathedrals or
political movements but in the lives of bold Christians.
Someone else said that to have Paul’s boldness, Jesus must not
be just a part of our lives but He must be at the heart of
our lives. Why don’t we
begin praying that Jesus will be magnified through our congregation’s
boldness to stand fearlessly for what is right?
Let’s face our trials with Paul’s confidence and boldness.
May we have his boldness!
may we have Paul's perspective on death (1:21-26)!
Let’s read 1:21-26. Isn’t
Paul’s outlook amazing? His
living is wrapped up in Christ, and his dying, well, that’s even more
profitable! Yes, living
means a fruitful and productive life, but dying, well, it is very far
better (Paul puts 3 comparatives together)!
So Paul walks in a narrow passage pressed on both sides between
the walls of life and death. His
deep desire (or we might say,“his burning passion”; it’s the same
word that often used in the NT for lust) is to pull up stakes from the
camp or throw the ropes off the mooring so that he can be with Christ.
Paul is expecting a closer intimacy and a deeper fullness with
Jesus beyond death! His
staying in this life, however, is more necessary for the advancement of
the Philippian brethren’s faith. So,
he says, “I’ll continue on, and your faith will progress, and our
joy will be made full when I come to you again!”
Paul saw death as a profit, as something better than what this
world offers, as a trip to a greater destination or a path to a closer
friendship! Death is no
“grim reaper” for Paul; it’s only a bridge to get him closer to
Christ. An American poet
stated it this way: “And so beside the Silent Sea, I wait the muffled
oar; No harm from Him can come to me on ocean or on shore.
I know not where His islands lift their fronded palms in air; I
only know I cannot drift beyond His love and care” (Whittier).
Dying is very far better—may we have Paul’s perspective on
may we have Paul's courage (1:27-28)!
Now let’s read verse 27-28.
Paul wants his followers' conduct to be worthy of the gospel.
Then, Paul spells out what living worthy of the gospel looks
like. It involves three
elements: standing fast in one spirit, striving together for the faith
of the gospel with one mind, and taking a courageous stand against those
who oppose our beliefs. Paul
knew that Satan never stops trying to make Christians waver, give up,
and defect. Standing fast in
one spirit is having a firm dedication to being unified.
Striving together for the faith comes from a military term
meaning to march side by side in the battle.
Not being afraid comes from a term where horses would be spoofed
and then stampede. Paul
knows that there will be continued opposition from the Philippian
brethren's Roman neighbors. Their
courageous united stance would be the living proof to their opponents
that they were in the wrong and the conduct taught by Christ was in the
right! It's like the elderly
lady who attended a seminar conducted by an atheist.
He had been presenting all kinds of arguments against God's
existence. Then he opened
the floor for questions. This
elderly lady stood up and said, “Now sir, I know I will not be as
eloquent as you. But I do
have a question. When I was
about 30, my husband died and I had to raise our three sons by myself.
Sir, it was not easy, but I asked God to help me everyday, and He
gave me the strength to go to work, to administer discipline, and to
teach my sons right from wrong. My
question, sir, is this: when the crisis times come in life, what can you
fall back on in your system daily to help you live productively?
The atheist had no response.
Don't you admire that women's courage to set the record
straight?! May we
steadfastly stand together side by side, and may we courageously stand
against our foes as well. May
we have Paul's courage!
may we have Paul's suffering (1:29-30)!
Now let’s read these verses.
Notice how Paul puts believing in Jesus and suffering for Jesus
together. Suffering is
usually not easy, but it does have some positive values: it matures us,
it helps us to see what's important, and it can be used by God to bring
about blessing and good. Paul
had experienced suffering during his mission work in Philippi; we
remember how he was falsely accused, beaten, and put into the stocks for
Christ's sake. And Paul was
writing his letter while being chained to a Roman guard because his
faith in Jesus had brought him to Rome to stand trial before Caesar.
When we suffer for righteousness, we are partners with Christ in
His previous agonies. When
we suffer for righteousness, we are partners with all the saints who
have ever suffered for their faith.
When we suffer for righteousness, we show the proof of our faith
that we believe God is ultimately in control.
The apostle Peter encourages us with these words: “Yet if
anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him
glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:16).
Some Christians have been disowned by their families, some
Christians have lost jobs, some Christians have been ridiculed by their
peers, and some Christians have been severely tortured.
Suffering for us Christians is standard equipment; it is not an
optional extra. Although
somewhat scary, may we have Paul's suffering!
may we have Paul's attitude for “others” (2:1-8)!
Now let's read 1-8 or chapter 2.
Paul states that he wants the brethren in Philippi to have an
“’others” attitude. Be
like-minded or have this attitude. Do
not act out of selfish ambition, but esteem others better than yourself,
look out for their interests, and be willing to humble yourself, to give
up your prerogatives just as Jesus gave up His.
Paul had this “others” attitude as he gave himself tirelessly
to serve the churches that he had established.
With the “others” attitude, we won't hear members saying,
“We either do it this way, or I'm leaving.”
With the “others” attitude, there will be no place “for
petty conflicts for [position] and preferment, no jockeying for gaining
advantages, no pushing and shoving for prestige or attention”
(Coffman). Instead, we will
see members forgoing their rights. Someone
once said that Jesus’ coming to earth to die for us would be like us
giving up the advantages of our humanity to become cockroaches!
Jesus knew that servanthood would have to precede brotherhood
(Barnes). Our humility,
submission, and obedience under God leads to our humility, submission,
and looking out for the interests of other members (Martin).
It's not about my way or your way, but it's all about God's way
and serving Him together! An
elder once told me, “If we can ever get members in a congregation to
put the good of the whole above their own preferences, then that church
will go far!” Let's have
Paul's “others” attitude!
may we have Paul's hope (2:9-11)! Now
let's read verses 9-11. In
verse 9, God steps in. We
see Him who stooped so low now being raised to the highest place of
honor and given the most authoritative name in all creation (Martin)!
One day all angels, men, and demons will bow before Him and will
verbally confess His Lordship! Someone
has rightly observed, “There will be no atheists on the Judgment
Day” (Barnes)! Jesus
is the Supreme Ruler—this was Paul's hope, this was every martyr's
hope, this is every oppressed Christian's hope, and this is our hope as
well! Paul already knew that
the victory was secure since the resurrected Jesus reigns at God's right
hand! Remember what Paul
said at the end of his life: “I have fought the good fight, I have
finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteousness Judge [that's the living and ruling
Jesus] will give me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who
have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
May we also have Paul's hope—Jesus continues to reign over all!
may we have Paul's joy (2:12-16)! Now
let’s read these verses. Missionaries have no greater joy than to know their converts are
holding fast the word of life and living faithful lives; it makes all
the previous sacrifices worthwhile!
Paul wants these good brethren to be able to carry on without
him. Their labor to practice
their salvation and God's work among them to help them do His will
brings God pleasure (Harrell). Then
Paul encourages the Philippian brethren not to complain or grumble.
Ever notice how just one grumbler can really destroy a group's
Being blameless means correcting the sins in our congregation,
and being harmless means living together in such a way that no finger of
criticism can be pointed against us (Barnes and Harrell).
This kind of lifestyle is certainly counter-cultural, so
Christians stick out against the social darkness like bright stars!
By doing these things, they will be holding on tightly to the
word of life like a runner who holds on tightly to the torch that he
carries. If we'll hold on to
one another, and to God's word, then we'll be able to hold out and
endure when testing comes! Such
faithfulness would have caused the apostle Paul to rejoice!
Let's hold each other up and all cross the finish line together
in that Great Day! What a
joyful triumph that will be! Hold
on, hold out, hold up! May
we have Paul's joy!
may we have Paul's generosity (2:17-18)!
Now let’s read these verses.
Paul uses the language of sacrificial worship here.
He compares the Philippian brethren's faith to a sacrifice and a
service, and he compares his ministry to a drink offering.
“The Jews sometimes poured wine out on an altar in connection
with religious sacrifices (Numbers 15:1-10)” (NSB).
Both Paul and the Philippian brethren are giving of themselves to
God, and Paul is joyful to see such generosity.
Someone has rightly observed that “every call for sacrifice or
toil was a call to Paul's love for Christ, which he gave with joy”
(Coffman). Do we see
ourselves as living sacrifices? Are
we willing to give up our will, our time, our energy, and our funds for
the cause of Christ? We have
a gospel meeting coming up. Will
we give anything towards making it a success?
Will we give up some of our evenings to attend?
Will we give up some time to invite others?
May we learn the joy of service and have Paul's generosity.
may we have Paul's brotherly love (2:19-30).
Let's read 2:19-30. Listen
carefully to how Paul describes his brothers in the Lord.
Timothy is like-minded and sincerely cares for the Philippian
brethren (Timothy had known them from the start).
Timothy has the “others” attitude (that we mentioned
earlier), and he had a proven track record of helping Paul in working
with various congregational situations.
His was like a son to Paul and helped him greatly (Paul probably
hated losing his help when he sent him to Philippi).
See how greatly Paul treasured Timothy!
And then notice what he says about Epaphroditus, the brother that
the Philppian brethren sent to carry a gift to Paul.
Paul calls him: a brother, a fellow worker, a fellow soldier, a
messenger, a minister, and one who should be held in esteem.
Epaphroditus had risked his life to serve Paul.
Paul tells the Philippian brethren to give him a hero’s welcome
home, with all the joys and pats on the back included!
See how greatly Paul honored Epaphroditus! Paul’s brotherly
love for these men is very evident because of the respect and praise
that he has for them. Do we
love one another in our church family in a similar fashion?
Certainly, we also have some dedicated brethren, like Timothy and
Epaphroditus, whom we need to esteem.
Let’s respect and speak highly of one another, just like Paul
did. May we have Paul’s
“A nine-year-old named Tommy had just received a model ship from his great aunt who lived a considerable distance away. As he looked at the outside of the box and the picture of a completed ship, he was anxious to retrieve it from the box and see it up close for himself. When he opened the box, he was dismayed to discover that the ship was in small pieces and had to be put together by hand. His discouragement only heightened when he remembered that his dad was out of town and couldn't help him. He knew his dad would help, if only he was there. As he sat and thought, he began to ponder, ‘What would Daddy do if he were here?’ He looked around the table and his eyes caught sight of the instructions for assembly. He thought, ‘Daddy would do it right; he would follow the instructions. If I want to do it right, I've got to be like Daddy.’ With that [in mind], he followed the instructions carefully and built a beautiful model ship. Later, when his father saw the finished work and heard what he had done, he praised his son for using his head and his heart to do the right thing. We need to think more like our Heavenly Father from day to day. That will make the difference between living in victory or defeat. We need to dwell on the instructions God gives us and make them a part of our lives so much that we begin to imitate [Paul and Jesus]. Thinking [loving, and living] like God wants us to think [love, and live] is no small task, but [with wisdom and help from above] it can be done” (N. Johnson, bible.org). The Lord’s instructions tells us that our journey of faith begins with seriously considering Christ, then repenting of our sinful lives, then confessing before others that we want to follow Him, then being buried in a watery grave with Him to rise a new creation, then living faithful lives of devoted service through Him, just as the apostle Paul did. Won’t you start that journey this very day?