Last week we studied how Paul’s ministry was not only unimpeded by his imprisonment, but it was also flourishing. The effects of his imprisonment were not only felt among the praetorian guard, but they also extended far beyond the confines of this prison to other believers. Believers who were now boldly preaching the word of God. And as we closed last week Paul finished by saying that although he wished to be with Christ in heaven; he knew that it was necessary for him to remain in order to encourage and grow the body into the maturity of their faith. Truly we learned that Paul’s joy was overflowing despite his circumstances.
This week we turn to how we are to conduct ourselves in a way that is worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Along with a boldness for the gospel we must also conduct ourselves (or walk) in a way that is pleasing to God. Doing so will keep us safe in the bonds of unity with the body of Christ and is a sign to us and to others of our salvation.
27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.
“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”. Where have we heard that before?
1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk [conduct yourself] in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
10 so that you will walk [conduct yourself] in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
We’ve been studying this idea of how we are to conduct ourselves over the past months in both Ephesians and Colossians. Here again Paul reiterates the idea of our conduct in respect to the Lord and His word.
Let’s take a look at the progression of the idea of our conduct within each of these letters. In Ephesians Paul talked of the immeasurable blessings, grace, and mercies that are bestowed on us in Christ. Then Paul encourages us to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of Christ’s calling. As we truly begin to understand the depths of His blessings, graces, and mercies we desire more and more to obey and please our Lord and Savior.
Next, Paul presents Christ as preeminent and all-sufficient in Colossians. Here too we are instructed to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord. The Lord is king, sovereign, preeminent, and all-sufficient, which means we can confidently walk as our Lord would have us to walk. But we must recognize His all sufficiency in all things before we can confidently walk in His will at all times.
Finally, we arrive at Paul’s letter to the Philippians where He again encourages the body to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Notice also that the overall tone of this letter is joyful. Paul’s joy is overflowing in this letter and his joy will only increase as he watches the Philippians grow in maturity of their faith. In fact, this idea of Paul’s continued joy in seeing the body continue to walk in a manner worthy of Christ will be brought out even more next week as we begin chapter 2.
Paul explains why their maturity gives him so much joy throughout verses 27-28. He starts with the way that believers will stand. Believers stand firm. We stand unmoving in our faith and this unmovable faith dictates our actions (i.e., our boldness in Christ). But how do we stand firm? Well, what we stand upon must be firm or there would be no hope of actually standing firm.
We stand on the word of God, we stand on the firm foundation that Christ has provided. We have been taught what that firm foundation looks like as we have progressed from Christ’s blessing in Ephesians to His supremacy and all-sufficiency in Colossians’ and now to Philippians’s unending joy in growing closer to Christ. Blessings, power, and joy from our Savior, what more could we ask for in a sure foundation on which to stand unmoving.
Now Paul talks of standing firm in one spirit (not the holy Spirit, but rather an individual’s heart, mind, and emotions) as well as striving together with one mind. Taken together we see the most complete description of church unity. We as the body of Christ should be unified (both standing and striving) together in one spirit, one heart, and one mind.
As we stand firm it is inevitable that there will be opposition to our faith. That’s just the normal progression of these things. To help us be bolder in our faith Paul gives us encouragement in verse 28 (remember how Paul talked of his imprisonment causing others to be bold in their faith earlier in his letter). He says that opposition to our faith is a sign for us and for those that oppose God. This word for “sign” gives the sense of a proof or evidence that something is true. For us this is our evidence that we are children of God. But to those who oppose God and His word, it is evidence of their utter destruction.
But it is not just this opposition that gives proof of our salvation. We are also not alarmed by our opponents and their hatred and persecutions. Fear is a cruel weapon and is wielded skillfully by the opponents of God. By not letting ourselves become alarmed (terrified, frightened, or intimidated) we can disarm them of their most dangerous weapon…fear. But notice Paul doesn’t say to go on the offensive here. Yes we are to proclaim the gospel boldly and with love, but we are not to aggressively attack the opposition in a tit-for-tat struggle. Remember what David said when confronted with Goliath…”the battle is the Lord’s”. The battle is ultimately the Lord’s and the Lord is supreme.
The Lord is also gracious beyond measure. So we do not want to attack our opponents and tarnish the good name ofJesus Christ our Lord. God is working in their lives too, just like He did in our lives before we turned from the world and turned to Christ. But let’s read on as there is more evidence for this type of gracious conduct we show to our opponents.
29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
In these two verses Paul wants to show us that there are two things that God has granted us: to believe and to suffer. Oddly enough both belief and suffering go hand-in-hand. As believers we will suffer in various ways. Just because we are saved doesn’t mean our suffering ends and everything smells like roses. On the contrary, suffering will come.
Now this is the bad news, we will suffer. However, the good news is that we do not suffer in isolation or in vain. We suffer for the One who suffered more than any other by bearing our sins, though He was sinless. Look at the wording here, “…to you it has been granted…”. The word for “granted” gives us the sense of something that has been graciously given to us for our benefit. And what has been given us? Two things, to believe and to suffer. Both were given in grace with an eye towards our benefit. Like me you are probably saying, “Yeah, I get the part about God graciously giving us belief in His Son, but graciously giving us suffering?!?!” That is the dichotomy of God’s grace, we both believe and suffer. But we believe for the sake of Christ and we also suffer for the sake of Christ.
Consider this, Christ suffered more than anyone else for all humanity. The same humanity that spit on Him, beat Him, and hung Him on a cross. Throughout all of this Christ suffered in a way that cannot be measured in order to give His life for humanity. As we are extended grace upon grace that we would believe and be given salvation only through Jesus Christ our Lord, we become like Christ. In becoming more and more like Christ we must also take on His suffering. As we take on His suffering Jesus can work in the hearts and minds of unbelievers to draw them to Himself. Remember earlier how I said there was more evidence for showing our opponents grace? Well, here it is.
The last point I want to make about these verses is that suffering given to us graciously by our Lord is also designed for the purpose of maturing us as believers. What if God allowed no more suffering when we believed? Would we continue to strive for maturity in our faith? Would we consider it worthy to put to death at all times our own sins? Or would we just coast through the rest of our lives without much of a care about anything or anyone since everything smells like roses?