Devotional # 123. 2/9/15. Philippians 1:27-30.
Intro. A few weeks ago Paul was thankful that the church in Philippi had “fellowship in the gospel”. Last week Paul said “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Today’s Devotional is about bringing the two together.
vv. 27. Here Paul sets his focus on the Christian’s conduct. He doesn’t say ‘make sure to conduct yourself in a good way’ or ‘don’t do bad things.’ Instead he gives a better and higher expectation. He says that the way that we handle ourselves should be “worthy of the gospel of Christ“. Now any believer who truly understands the need for a Savior will recognize that we can never conduct ourselves in a worthy manner equal to the greatness of the good news of Jesus being that Savior. But the word “worthy” should be defined. In the Greek it is axios (G#516) and is better translated “worthily” (Source 1). So the word “worthily” does not refer to the person of the one partaking, but to the manner of their partaking. Again, no person is or ever will be “worthy” except Jesus. In other words it’s about living our lives in a worthily manner which reflects the respect that we have for what has been done.
Now that we know about “worthily” conduct Paul tells us why a Christian should handle themselves this way. It’s because he will hear if they handle themselves in a “worthily” manner, but even more importantly the implication is that others will hear about the Philippian church too. Good or bad – people will hear about them. If you think gossip magazines and TV is bad now it was just as bad then. People have always had a desire to know juicy news. A Christian can live an upstanding life for 50 years then make one little mistake and that’s all anybody talks about. It may even be all that they’re remembered for. Now it’s impossible to be perfect, Paul gets that, more importantly, Jesus who was perfect, gets that we cannot be perfect. But to understand the responsibility that Christians have is the key.
What does this “worthily” conduct look like? Paul gives us three points to model: 1. “that you stand fast in one spirit,” 2. “with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,” 3. “not in any way terrified by your adversaries” (v. 28). Pay attention. Paul is giving you something to apply to your life. If you’ve been feeling lukewarm in your Christian walk, if you’ve been wanting to figure out what your next step in the Lord should look like, or if you’re excited and on fire about God, these three things are what God wants you to be doing:
1. “that you stand fast in one spirit“: As always the unity of the church is crucial. Remember that walking “worthily” of “the gospel of Christ” was because not only will other believers see it but juicy news travels fast. Showing love to our fellow brothers and sisters is imperative, especially when witnessing to non-believers about Jesus’ love. We spent so much of Ephesians talking about this it’s no surprise that Paul brings it up again.
2. “with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel“: we are to be so cohesive, like a sports team that knows each other’s moves so well that it’s like we’ve got one mind. And that is actually the case. If Jesus is our leader than he is the “one mind” that brings us together. It’s also important to note the use of “striving.” J. Vernon McGee says, “Here Paul uses the word “strive” which is so different from the word “strife” about which he wrote earlier in the chapter. In the word “strive” is the thought of agonizing. We are to agonize together for the faith of the gospel” (Source 2, p. 37).
(The last one is in the next section).
v. 28. Paul gives his third point to model: “not in any way terrified by your adversaries.” The early church had many obvious adversaries. They had the government, the Jewish factions, non-believers and wolves in sheep’s clothing. It seems Christians in Hungary and the United States sometimes get mixed up on who their adversaries are. Your enemy isn’t the School District and it’s not your boss. It’s easy to miss that these attacks are spiritual because we only see what’s right in front of us. Others forget they have adversaries that they should be scared of. These Christians think everything is perfect as long as they don’t stand up for God or be identified with His people.
But everyone has troubles and whether you properly think its spiritual or incorrectly focus on the humans that afflict you, you shouldn’t be “terrified” of “your adversaries.” Paul’s point in this chapter, between “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (v. 21) and “striving together” (v. 27) and “suffer for His sake” (v. 29), is that we will go through difficulties for Him but don’t fear those who put us through those difficulties.
vv. 29-30. This is a great conclusion to what Paul said last week, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” One commentator says, “when you get to the place where He lets you suffer for Him, you have arrived – that is the high calling of Christ Jesus” (Source 2, p. 37). That’s the mindset we should have! Not that one we suffer we’ve done something wrong, that God is punishing us but that it’s a blessing from God. That we GET to suffer for Him!
We’ve talked about the unity of Christians and we’ve talked about suffering for Christ but I’m not sure we’ve talked about them together like this. It is the Holy Spirit who can orchestrate these two topics to come together and make sense. As we go through troubles because we have faith in the Lord our strength comes from the Lord, but it can come from those that the Lord’s strength is also working in. If we miss the fellowship of our family of faith then we’ll still go through the spiritual storms but it will be even harder and lonely. I encourage you to give it over to the Lord and throw away whatever reasons you have for not being unified with other believers.
Source 1: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G516&t=KJV
Source 2: J. Vernon McGee, Philippians & Colossians, 1982.