Intro: Paul had a special love and respect for the church at Philippi. They had supported him financially. It was one of the most mature of the churches described in the New Testament. They loved God and each other. Paul says he was thankful to God every time he thought about the church there (1:3), and that he was confident that they would continue to be faithful to God and He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; (Phil 1:6). This letter focuses on joy and the Christians at Philippi were a joy to Paul.
- But there were some potential problems for the church there. Paul was very eager to warn them of dangers. They needed to be on guard against false teachers and those who worked evil. (“dogs” – 3:2)
- They had to contend with those who were “enemies of the cross of Christ” (3:17-18), and sought only to serve their own lusts. The apostle knew that it does not take long even for a faithful church to slip into indifference and eventually into moral and doctrinal error.
- Out study on Jesus and His enemies (during July) lends itself to a look at how we engage the enemies of the cross. How do we fight the spiritual battle? Paul gives some direction here.
Philippians 1:27-30 – Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.
- In v. 30 Paul refers to the “conflict” they had heard about and could see in Paul. The word for conflict is also translated “battle”. Paul showed the signs of one who was engaged in a battle. He was battle-scarred. But he was not ashamed of these scars. In fact he desired that these Christians in Philippi would see them clearly, and be encouraged to stand fast in the same conflict.
- Although we often associate conflict with a lack of joy and peace, Paul presents the spiritual conflict in the life of the Christian as the environment of true joy. The joy that comes through the spiritual conflict comes through remembering some important things about the struggle itself.
A. “Conduct worthy of the Gospel” – The main verb (conduct) is Politeuomai, which in the Greek is a single sentence. It comes from the root word polis (city), which in earlier times usually referred to the city-states to which inhabitants gave their primary allegiance. The verb carries the basic meaning of being a citizen, and by implication, it means being a good citizen, one whose conduct brings honor to the political body to whom one belongs.
1. Philippi had the distinction of being a Roman colony (Acts 16:12), and its inhabitants had many of the rights enjoyed by citizens of Rome itself. The city was conscious of this status and its citizens did not want to do anything to discredit their community or bring disrepute on his “polis”. This Paul uses this term on a spiritual plane to depict the life of the Christian as honorable, and lived in view of the heavenly citizenship he enjoys. Phil 3:20 – For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, This type of conduct is characterized by being “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” (Phil. 2:15).
2. To say that we live “worthy” of the gospel is to say that the life we live represents well the message of the gospel. How do we say to the world that we serve a Lord who modeled truth, sought the salvation of all men, and gave his life to do it? There needs to be consistency between our profession and our deeds. We must “stand firm”. As we do, it will have its effect.
3. One of the most powerful weapons against error is not on the debate platform or in the pulpit; but in the lives of the those who love the Lord and who demonstrate day by day the complete superiority of God’s truth over the lies of Satan!
B. “standing fast in one spirit; one mind; striving together” – Striving together–is an interesting word. sunathleo (soon-ath-leh’-o); to wrestle in company with, i.e. (figuratively) to seek jointly: We could follow the Greek word here into our language in the word “athletic”. The picture created by this word is that of a group of competitors who are running together. They are on the same team, working for a common victory. In the Greek langauge the prefix “sun” means “together with”, and when placed in front of other words (verbs) strengthens the idea of unity. Paul uses this powerful prefix at least 16 times in Philippians to emphasize the cooperation that must exist in doing God’s work.
1. In one spirit, with one mind. There are some who see the word “spirit” here as referring to the Holy Spirit. Paul does teach that we are united in our commitment to the single message of the Holy Spirit, and that we must maintain the unity provided through the work of the Holy Spirit.
a. In Eph. 4, Paul also encourages Christians to walk worthily of their calling… Eph 4:3-6 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
b. But the best interpretation of “spirit” here may be in reference to man’s spirit or attitude. Our single attitude (mind) must be the mind of Christ – a mind of submission to the needs of others. Phil 2:1-4 – Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. If we are going to face the enemy we must fo it together, holding a common allegiance to the words of God’s Spirit.
C. “for the faith of the gospel”. The faith is not some written creed from some past historical meeting, nor is it some consensus understanding of today’s preachers. (Standing up to defend what the “Church of Christ teaches” – signifying a group of affiliated congregations) The faith of the gospel refers to what has been revealed by the Holy Spirit through the apostles and prophets of Jesus Christ—the message found in our New Testaments. It is God’s word alone for which we contend.
1. This faith has been once for all delivered to the saints by the Holy Spirit (Jude 3) and we must contend for it! 1 Tim 4:1-3 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 2 Tim. 3:13-15 – 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
2. We need to make sure that we do our own thinking, making our own independent investigation, and verifying that it is the gospel that we are defending and promoting, and not some man-made doctrine.
D. “not in any way terrified by your adversaries” – he called on them to not be afraid. God’s people do not need to be intimidated. We live in a world where most people live by different values. It is easy to be intimidated by their numbers, or their criticism. Keep your courage and find assurance and consolation in what Paul says.
1. Satan and all his forces. Satan seeks to nullify the effect of the precious truth God has entrusted to us through deception and wickedness.
a. And he has “ministers” who are committed to the propagation of his message. 2 Cor 11:13-15 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
b. Those ministers are not only so-called “men of God” in religious garb. They may be politicians competing for your vote, entertainers on stages, professors in classrooms, or actors on the big screen. The might be members of our own family. We need to make sure we have carefully identified the opposition.
2. Paul says those who oppose Christ are marked out for perdition. There is a bit of irony in vs. 28. The adversaries believe that “the faith of the gospel” will bring destruction and work to bring it about through persecution. But the faith in the lives of the Christian becomes a sure sign of the perdition to those who oppose God. It is the evidence of our salvation, but of their destruction.
E. “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,” Paul points out that this conflict against evil is not without purpose. They are to do this “on behalf of Christ… for His sake”.
1. Persecution for Christ’s sake is a privilege! “God has granted...”
2. Persecution for the gospel is the lot of all the faithful. Paul reminded the Philippians that “the same conflicts” were experienced by Him – 1 Peter 5:9 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
Conclusion: As we then fight the good fight of faith, we must work hard. We may shed tears over those who are defeated by sin. We may suffer from the hurt of those who wrong us. But however painful, in all of it we can rejoice that we are fighting for the only thing that really matters; that we are citizens of another kingdom to which we hope at last to arrive. Let us rejoice in even in the battle for truth.
- What will it cost? It has already cost much more than we think. -Can you recall the words of President Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address as he spoke of the battlefield about the fight for freedom and equality that began our republic and then turned to think of the dead soldiers at Gettysburg who in the same tradition had given their lives and hallowed the ground upon which they stood.
- “But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract”. Later he spoke how they did that “by giving the full measure of devotion“–their very lives. A powerful testimony to the cost of the conflict that has purchased and preserved our freedom.
- Have we considered the costs of the conflict that produced the ground upon which we stand? The battleground upon which we fight was first hallowed by the blood of prophets who spoke of the Christ to come. Then hallowed with the blood of our Savior who died to make victory possible for us and “for whose sake” we are striving. Since then with the blood of countless martyrs who gave their lives for the testimony of the Lord. Only when we have fully comprehended the costs already paid will we find the motivation to:
- Value truth enough to make our own prayerful investigation of what is right rather than take the easy road of creedal conformity to past conclusions or popular preachers.
- Take a stand for what is right when everyone else is willing to speak another message of conformity with the world. Issues like homosexuality, adultery, and the role of submission in the family will be large battlefronts for us.
- Listen patiently as a new generation is instructed in things we already know. To grow tired of hearing truth is a signal that the value of truth has diminished in our hearts. And I say to you that it never must!!!
- We must live pure lives, always cognizant that we are citizens of God’s kingdom and we have a purpose.