BRIEF INTRO: As we continue with our study, take notice that Paul writes to them: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” This ONE thing was so important for Paul to get across to them.
Remember, Paul just finished sharing with them how much he loves them, prays for them, is thankful for their participation in the work of the gospel. He just shared with them what was going on in prison so that they would be encouraged and trust the Lord more fully. He just let them know of the uncertainty he had regarding whether or not he would die in prison and go to be with their Lord or remain on and serve them for their further progress in the faith. And this is what concerns Paul, this is his first instruction to these believers in this letter, and it is the foundation for all other teachings that he will deliver to them.
So, what are some ways “in a manner worthy of the gospel” would play out in their/our lives?
2. Obedience to the word of God
3. Walking in love, unity 4. Forgiving others
5. Pursuing godliness
6. Evangelizing, etc., etc.
The gospels’ influence in our lives, dear Christian, doesn’t end at salvation. The gospel saves us, but it also is what we are to be living (in) light of and (for) as we sojourn through this place.
So how in Paul’s mind does that play out for these believers? He goes on to write that: “Standing firm (one spirit, one mind).”
Now, this verb “standing firm” that you see there means “to be stationary.” It means “not to be pushed around,” “not to be moved around.” The idea is that you are anchored in a place, and there is no reverse gear in you. You have taken your stand, and you are immovable because of your convictions in the gospel, and you are standing firm.
It is a military term, actually, and it pictures a soldier’s duty in the battle to hold his position. He has been assigned a place on the front lines. And wherever there is a breakdown, the enemy can slip through. The enemy is always looking for the weakest soldier in the army. And if they can defeat the weakest soldier, it becomes the entry point to break the ranks, and to penetrate, and to infiltrate, and to be able to bring about a devastating defeat.
Take notice of those two qualifiers in that sentence? One Spirit, one mind. Paul is writing to “all the saints at Philippi,” not one solitary individual. He is speaking about these believers being “unified,” having unity among themselves. If there is a weak link among them, you can be sure, disunity and strife will enter their local fellowship.
They needed this warning. Already in this church, we have two ladies who are not getting along, and it never stops there, does it? Two ladies bickering among themselves then become two husbands arguing among themselves. That then becomes two families and then adds all the friends of the families taking sides, and on and on the disunity and strife grows.
If we are, as we will learn later in Philippians, seeking to have the “mind of Christ,” the whole body pursuing Christ-like-ness, disunity and strife would not be able to disrupt or destroy our fellowship. It would not be able to weaken or destroy our witness for Christ. It would have no place!
Dear Christian, are you pursuing unity with your church family? Are you seeking to esteem them more important than yourself? Are you actively practicing forgiveness rather than harboring bitterness and unforgiveness?
Paul also uses the word “striving.” Striving together (for the faith of the gospel)!
Striving together is just one word in the original language. And it is a primary root word with a prefix put at the beginning. The primary root is athleo; from that, we get our English words “athlete,” “athletics.” And the idea is to compete in a contest, and specifically, commentators tell us that it is the contest of wrestling.
And then, the prefix “with” is put at the front, meaning that we are to be
wrestling together. We are to be contending together. We are to be competing together. And the idea is we are on the same team. We are not wrestling against one another. We are wrestling on one team in trying to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ (Dustin Benge). One body, one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism… one God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4: 4-6) A team under the banner of Christ!
Christians, we have a robust gospel that saves sinners from God’s wrath and judgment. We have a beautiful gospel that reminds us of the grace and kindness of God toward mankind. The good news that: God made you and me and wants to have a relationship with us. But mankind fell into sin in the garden of Eden, and that sin has been imputed to all of us ever since. We are by our very nature children of wrath. Our sin separates us from God who is holy by His very nature. But God sent forth His only begotten son, Jesus, and He took the punishment our sins deserved on the cross. He died, was buried, and rose again, God the Father accepting His son’s sacrifice in our place. So, if you, with repentant faith, trust in him for your salvation, you will be forgiven, justified, and accepted freely by His grace and indwelt with his Spirit and one day will be with Him for all eternity.
This is the message that we are to be “striving” together to promote, live out, model, teach, preach, proclaim.
Fellow Christians, are we contending together for the “faith of the gospel? Are you, dear brother, dear sister, a part of the team, competing together for the sake of the gospel with the rest of the family of God? Now, all these things may seem daunting to you right now, but take courage Christian, God is working in us to do and be what He desires us to do and be, Amen!
Now take notice of some pretty incredible results of our obedience and unity within the church, the body of Christ.
Not alarmed by your opponents (the affect of such living) (28)
Paul continues in his thoughts about unity and perseverance in the gospel. He says if the Philippian believers would be of one mind and one Spirit, contending together for the faith of this amazing gospel, they would “in no way” be alarmed by their opponents.
In other words, he is saying, using powerful language here, that he does not want them to be frightened. KJV uses the word terrified in any respect by their opponents. Fear would prevent effort. Fear of the enemy would stifle gospel witness and hinder the very unity Paul was calling for.
Rather than fear, the church’s failure to be intimidated by its enemies is a sign of the ultimate failure of the enemies of God! Unity in the gospel, striving together, standing firm in the body, leaves no “weak link,” no way for the enemy to break through the ranks. And so that is a sign to them of at least two things: (28)
1. Sign of destruction for their enemies
2. Sign of salvation for you
What Paul probably means here when he says “a sign of salvation for you,” is the fact “that believers have been granted courage from God to stand firm in their struggles and in doing so are demonstrating their salvation.” These words from Paul would have been very convicting (considering what is going on in their local fellowship) but, I think, encouraging as well, especially when they read the following verses.
Paul says that two things have been “granted” them. (29)
1. To believe in Him (Salvation)
2. To suffer for His sake
It has been “granted” them, or we could say graciously given to them their salvation. That we understand, right? Nobody should have a problem understanding how gracious God is in granting vile sinners forgiveness and newness of life. But they are graciously given suffering from Him as well? That’s a harder nut to chew.
According to one commentator: “suffering for Christ was not to be considered accidental or a divine punishment. Paul referred to a kind of suffering that was really a sign of God’s favor. The Greek word translated “granted” is derived from a word which means grace or favor. Believing on Christ and suffering for Him are both associated with God’s grace.” (Lightner)
James says that we are to count it all joy when encountering various trials, knowing that there is a God-ordained, just, and good reason behind it. We can trust Him in the hard times! Brothers and sisters, I would guess that we don’t count our sufferings as God’s favor upon us. I would also think that we do not count them a joy when we encounter them, and I would also guess that for these Philippians to be experiencing the same conflicts Paul was, it was pretty challenging for them.
But what we have to remember is that just as they shared a similar struggle as Paul, Paul encouraged them, just like they did him. They wanted to know how he was doing in prison, and so he told them all those things to encourage them as they faced hardships. So, as Paul calls for unity and perseverance within the body of Christ amidst opposition, so do I:
Will we behave like the citizens of Heaven that we are?
Will we be found to stand firm in one Spirit with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel?
Will each of us stand firm to not give a foothold to the enemy without, and will we be at peace with one another so as not to let division begin within?
Will we trust God to lead us, aid us, empower us and work in and through us?
Things worthy of our prayerful meditation