COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“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, 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.” (Phil 1:27-28)
The believer’s manner of life is not the result of following laws, but of walking in the Spirit and living by faith. No other life is acceptable with God. Where there is no reliance upon the Lord, and no hearty embrace of the Gospel, living is off-center. For this reason, the Spirit will now associate living with the Gospel–not with a code of conduct, or a series of procedures. This is an arresting consideration, and is not at all common in the churches. Yet, this is the manner of the Kingdom, and it is glorious to behold Remember, Paul has the churches in his heart when he himself is oppressed.
CONDUCT WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL
“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ . . . ” (KJV). The word “only” shifts the attention from Paul and the response of the Philippians to his ministry. While they have profited from his life and ministry, their primary responsibility is not to the Apostle. Their lives have been enhanced by his presence, but they must NOT be diminished by his absence. True ministers bring a message that liberates the souls of men and women to live in a manner that complements the Gospel.
Ponder the weight of this statement. Conduct is compared with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The spiritual yardstick for living is the Gospel! This differs radically from a rules and procedures approach to life. It is true that spiritual immaturity requires “tutors and governors,” or “guardians and managers”(Gal 4:2). That state, however, is not meant to be a permanent one. It also excludes the individual from “strong meat,” or solid food (Heb 5:12). Such a state, though initial in spiritual life, is not complementary to the Gospel of Christ, any more than an infant brings great honor to its parents.
By saying “worthy of the Gospel,” the Spirit indicates there is a walk of life that is a reproach to the Gospel. Such is a manner of living that causes the name of God, His doctrine, and the Word, to be blasphemed (Rom 2:24; 1 Tim 6:1; Tit 2:5). Without question, lethargic and infantile believers are among the greatest enemies of the faith, and are reproaches to Christ Jesus.
“Worthy” means in a manner proper to, or in harmony with, the Gospel. Our new life was initiated by a vibrant fellowship in the Gospel. We died with Christ, were buried with him, and raised to walk in the newness of life (Rom 6:3-4). A life that is in harmony with the Gospel is one that is lived to the Lord, and is dead to sin and the world. It is written of the Christ of the Gospel,“knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God” (Rom 6:9-10). A Christ Who was not raised from the dead would be ineffectual for sinners. Neither, indeed, could we be helped by a Savior who repeatedly died for sin, and was continually tempted by it. If death had dominion over Him, He could not enable us to triumph over it. If He did not live to God, He could not make intercession for us. This is essential to the Gospel.
The relevance of this is seen in the next verse. “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:11). That is the ONLY life “worthy of the Gospel!” Where such a life is not found--regardless of profession--reproach is heaped upon Christ, the Gospel is neutralized, and the good confession voided.
In this world, men may maintain their citizenship, even though they live in flagrant contradiction of it. But this is NOT the case with our heavenly citizenship (Phil 3:20). No grace will be given to those who insist on living in contradiction of the Gospel. That is, those who do not crucify the flesh and appropriate the life of Christ, will not obtain Divine approval. While this may appear to be strong, it is necessary for us to think in this manner. If we fail to do so, Satan’s temptations will have more power against us.
STANDING FAST IN ONE SPIRIT
“ . . . 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” (KJV). The glory of spiritual life is found in its consistency. When life is lived in harmony with the Gospel, continual monitoring by other brethren is not necessary. The notion ofaccountability that is so popular today, is fraught with flaw. That some value may be found in it cannot be denied–but it is only at the novice level. Further, growth out of that condition is imperative. Joseph must be able to live for God in Egypt, even when his family is not there. Moses must trust God in the wilderness when he is alone. David must maintain a tender heart when he cares for sheep in a solitary place. Daniel and the three Hebrew children must trust in God when they are in the king’s court, and isolated from kindred believers. If this point is not reached, a fall is sure.
The idea expressed in this verse is this: whether I come and personally behold you, or hear about you from a distance, the message of your faithfulness will be the same. By saying “your affairs,” Paul does not mean everything they are doing. He is referring to their walk of faith, their life in the Lord, and their progress to glory. The incidentals of life, important though they may be at times, were not the focus of his attention. He wanted to know if the seed he had planted was continuing to yield fruit.
The expression “stand fast” is common in Scripture (1 Cor 16:13; Gal 5:1; Phil 4:1; 1 Thess 3:8; 2 Thess 2:15). This is the maintenance of spiritual stability in the face of trial and opposition. It is sustaining faith when the scorching heat of persecution arises, and the fiery darts of the wicked one are hurled at the believer in unusual measures (Matt 13:21; Eph 6:16). This is holding our ground, and not relinquishing aspects of life to the devil.
But this is a joint endeavor. Paul longed to hear of the Philippian brethren standing fast as a whole–in “one spirit”–with single-heartedness. It would be uncomely for them to be divided in this matter. One “mind” was to dominate them all: “with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” The“faith of the Gospel” is the faith initiated and maintained by the Gospel. Striving for that faith is exerting effort to “keep the faith,” so that is grows“exceedingly” (2 Thess 1:3). There are vistas of truth yet to be experienced, but striving to obtain them is necessary.
Standing fast and endeavoring to keep the faith are not spiritual luxuries, to be sought by a select few. The very nature of spiritual life demands these activities. We are in a hostile world, facing an aggressive enemy, and dwelling in frail houses of clay. Anyone imagining that such a circumstance allows for casualness will be disarmed by that imagination. Satan thereby gains the advantage, and a fall from grace is imminent.
The exceeding rarity of this spirit in the churches is a cause of great concern. Scarcely can a congregation be found that is united in their effort to keep the faith and live in consonance with the Gospel. It seems that this is an exceedingly rare thing in nearly every congregation. It is a condition that requires the fervent prayers and labors of every believer.
NOT TERRIFIED BY OUR ADVERSARIES
“ . . . 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.” (KJV). A lack of spiritual fervor causes this verse to sound peculiar. Many professed believers do not think of themselves as having “adversaries,” or opponents. There is a brand of Christianity that imagines all men are our friends, and we are friends to all men. But this is not the case at all. One has only to consider our blessed Lord, the personification of both love and truth, to confirm this.
Faith causes some people to become our adversaries, or antagonists. An adversary is aggressive, and launches spiritual initiatives against the child of God. Who does not know this to be the case? Think of Lot, Joseph, Moses, Israel, Daniel, John the Baptist, and the Apostles. Consider the early church that was scattered abroad by contentious persecutors (Acts 8:1-4). An unopposed church is probably not a good one.
The adversaries of which Paul spoke were not known for simply casting aspersions at the people of God. They would take their property (Heb 10:34), kill them (Rev 2;13), and beat them (Acts 18:17). Their wicked advances, however, were not to strike terror in the hearts of believers. If we fear anyone, let it be God, not man. Jesus once said, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Lk 12:4-5). It is evident God does not always restrain our adversaries from harming us–but we are not to be terrified by them.
The fact that our adversaries oppose us proves they are condemned! “This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed” (NIV). Strong language, indeed! The Thessalonians were told, “it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you” (2 Thess 1:6). Not only does their unbelief confirm the wrath of God abides upon them, but their antagonism toward the elect corroborates that fact. This is an awesome consideration, designed to console those who endure suffering.
An even more profound thing is seen in this text. The existence of adversaries–opposition because of our faith–proves we “will be saved” (NIV). This is affirmed repeatedly in Scripture. Persecution proves we possess the Kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:10). It is one of the means through which we are“counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which” we suffer (2 Thess 1:4-5). When, therefore, we are asked to pass through periods of great opposition and persecution, we must lift up our heads, and be of good cheer. We are en route to glory, and to a sure reign with Jesus (2 Tim 2:12).
The Spirit adds one more word to bolster our faith: “And this is God's doing” (NRSV). Both the destruction of the wicked and the salvation of the righteous will be carried out by the Lord. There is not the slightest chance that either of these will fail of fulfillment! We are to take hold of this word, and refuse to let it go. Our adversaries will face the Lord, and therefore we are not to be terrified by them. We ourselves will be saved by the Lord, and therefore are not to tremble before opponents. A comforting word, indeed!