Holding Forth the Word of Life – Philippians 2:16

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Holding Forth the Word of Life – Philippians 2:16

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Philippians 2:16



In our last lesson of this study, we addressed what it means to be children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.   This is a text that we will use as our theme of study this year.   We noted that Paul has challenged these brethren to each do their part as they sought for unity, while God would do His part.   Then he began to describe how they should conduct themselves.     He noted that they are to do all things without complaining or murmuring, to be blameless and harmless, and in this they were to be shining as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.   We noted that the time of Paul’s writing was a time of increasing animosity toward Christians and a very immoral society.   We also addressed how today is no different in its character.

Today, we want to finish this section by noting the rest that Paul said to them about shining as lights in this dark world.   Today we will talk about holding fast the word of life and Paul’s desires concerning this.

Holding fast the word of life

  1. Holding fast – defined by Bullinger as, “to have or hold upon, to hold out towards, to direct upon, to aim at and hit” – the ideas of holding onto and holding out (forward) that word are emphasized in this text.
    1. The primary usage of the word “holding fast” is that of holding firm to something. We need to hold on to the truth and never let go of it –
      But the truth, and do not sell it – Proverbs 23:23.
      1 Timothy 6:20 – Timothy was told to guard that which was committed to his trust – which included the word of God he was teaching.     1 Timothy 4:16 speaks of Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. This is the same root word as “hold fast” in our text.
    2. We also need to hold forth God’s word. Recall this is part of shining as lights in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation. Jesus in Matthew 5:15 – said we do not hide our lights, but put it on a lampstand. We let our light so shine – vs. 16.
    3. Consider the following verses
      Philippians 1:27 – live with conduct worthy of the gospel, standing fast in one spirit and one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel
      2 Timothy 4:2 – Timothy exhorted to preach the word always.   Don’t let go of it.
      2 Timothy 2:15 – handling it accurately.
  2. The word of life – be reminded God’s word is described as:
    1. Words of life – by this, we mean that the word of God gives us spiritual life and the hope of eternal life.
      Romans 1:16 – the gospel is the power of God unto salvation,
      Ephesians 2:4-6 – we were dead, and have been made alive through Christ (by God’s grace)
      John 6:48 – Jesus described Himself as the bread of life
      John 14:6 – He is the way, the truth and the life and the only access to the Father
      John 12:46, etc.
      Rooted in the gospel – John 6:63, Acts 5:20
      John 1:4 – describing Jesus, we read, In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
    2. Words of light – Again John 1:4 ties together words of life and light.
      Our text also ties them together noting that we are shining as lights in this world, as we hold forth the word of life.
      Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path – Psalm 119:105,
      John 9:5, 12:46 – Jesus is the light of the world.   He demonstrated that while on this earth.
      That light is rooted in the gospel – 2 Corinthians 4:4 speaks of the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (in a context where the god of this age – Satan – is seeking to blind those who do not believe, lest the light shine on them)
      We are to reflect that light – Ephesians 5:8 – walk as children of light
      1 Thessalonians 5:5 describes us as sons of light and sons of the day (not of the night)
      John 12:36, where Jesus is encouraging His disciples to walk in the light while it is there. “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
    3. John 8:12 – bringing these back together, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Rejoicing in the day of Christ

  1. Paul’s hope was to rejoice (with them and for them) – his goal was constantly about others.
    All the letters Paul wrote were filled with encouragements and a goal of saving souls. Whether it be winning souls to Christ, or sustaining the faith of converts, he continually cared about others.   Winning others and keeping them firm in the word – Consider the following as a brief list
    1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – I became all things to all men.
    Romans 9:1-3 – he would trade places to save His Jewish brethren
    Romans 10:1 – his heart’s desire and prayer that Israel be saved
    Philippians 1:7 – I have you in my heart;
    3:1 – for me to write these things is not tedious, but for you is safe
    2 Corinthians 6:11 – our heart is wide open This was not some superficial exercise he was involved in.
    Galatians 4:16 – have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
    IS this not the motive behind godly conduct – including the sacrifices and suffering we might endure?   Hearing of the obedience of others is what gave Paul joy, and John as well – 3 John 4. What about us?
  2. The day of Christ would be the day of His return or the day of judgment
    Never forget that we must all appear before God in judgment – 2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:10-12
    What matters most is preparing for that day which will come – 1 Thessalonians 5:2 – it will come as a thief in the night; 2 Peter 3:10ff – elements will melt. It will be the end.
  3. That I have not run in vain – again typical language for Paul.
    Again, it’s about saving souls – both converting the lost and keeping the saved.
    Paul doesn’t want ANYONE to be lost, especially those he has brought to Christ. That is why He doesn’t just baptize them or start a church in a town and then leave them on their own. He continually followed up and did what he could to build them up. He desired salvation and to prevent the loss of anyone (though he could not control that) – that is why he took it personally.
    BUT, no matter how much you try, you will lose some. And quite often it is NOT your fault!   But EVEN if it is not your fault, you take it personally.
    I think of 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 – where is talks about the works of some being burned.
    INSTEAD what Paul desires is what we read of in 1 Thessalonians 2:19 – For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?
    2 Corinthians 1:13-14, For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.


Remember that this is all still part of shining as lights, in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation.   Even in ungodly times, we must still remain true to God’s word.   This is not a time to either let go of OR to hide our light.   And like Paul, we need to keep the fate of souls at the forefront of our minds. Are you faithfully holding fast to the word of life and light?