Philippiansby David Sanford
Paul continues his heavenward focus by encouraging the Philippian believers to live ″in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ″-and in particular, to ″stand firm in the one Spirit″-amid persecution (1:27). Paul may be offering a general exhortation. Or, he may be addressing specific believers who are in conflict with each other, causing disunity in the church.
Whom might Paul have in mind? Later, he will name names (4:2). For now, know that they are believers who love God, have served faithfully for many years, and yet are struggling to follow Jesus Christ in three important ways.
Their first struggle? To ″conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ″ (1:27). Scripture, church history, modern biographies, and contemporary experience make it abundantly clear that God's people don't always live like God's people. But let's not feel defeated. The key to living worthy lives is acknowledging that through Christ, we have been reconciled to God (Romans 5:18); we have died to ourselves and have risen with Him (Galatians 2:19-20); and we no longer live for our glory, but for His (Romans 14:7-9). If we consciously ask God for the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower us, we can live worthy lives. The choice is ours.
Their second struggle? To ″stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel″ (Philippians 1:27). When we don't live like God's people, we will inevitably experience disunity with other believers. When I'm out of sync with God, I'm automatically out of sync with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Worse, I become contentious and oppositional. Again, we need the Holy Spirit to empower us. Otherwise, division and derision will result.
Their third struggle? Not to be ″frightened in any way by those who oppose you″ (v. 28). It's bad enough to experience opposition, but it's even worse to face persecution while we're out of sync with God and our fellow Christians. The answer, however, isn't to focus on this third struggle. Rather, it is to address the first two struggles and then ask God for courage. Then we'll stand tall.
Paul's words deserve careful attention. If we are in conflict with other believers, or if we are witnessing such conflict in the church, we need to reflect: How can we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel? How can we stand firm in the one Spirit?
Which of these three struggles have you faced recently? Which has been the hardest?
Which struggles can you surrender to God, asking for His Holy Spirit to help you overcome?