The thrust of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a message of thanks for the gift they had sent him upon learning about his imprisonment in Rome weaved through several other topics.
The opening of this letter to the Philippians (1:1-2) introduces necessary background information and an overview of the messages contents. Paul continues by giving a joyful prayer (1:3-5), praising their affection for Jesus (1:6-8) and expresses his hope to see their love abound (1:9-11). After that, Paul communicates remaining joyful about seeing the Gospels advancement in the midst of disappointed in not being able to enjoy fellowship with his brothers and sisters in Christ in Philippi (1:12-14). Paul continues his letter by addressing the intentions behind preaching the Gospel (1:15-17) ultimately does not matter (1:18a).This idea launches off from Paul’s remarks about remaining in this world should be spent glorifying Christ’s name while dying is our gain (1:18b – 26).
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27 Only let your manner of life be worthy[a] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
The Philippians and Paul understood that living a life worthy of the Gospel will always result in persecution given they were both involved with those that opposed the Gospel (1:27, 30). We see this struggle against the Gospel being communicated in the region when Paul and Silas were imprisoned upon visiting Philippi for the first time (Cf. Acts 16:19-40).
It is clear that Paul did not have an out of sight out of mind mentality when it came to the Philippians. As we know, the Philippians were certainly on his mind when he wrote this letter while imprisoned. The intent was to encourage them to remain faithful in striving with one another to stand firm for the sake of the Gospel despite Paul’s presence since they had the same struggle (1:27).
Differences In Christian Suffering (1 Peter 4:12 – 16)
It necessary to clarify that there are differences in the reasons individuals deal with suffering. There are Christians who only suffer from decisions that they eventually have to face the consequences. Then there is suffering for the sake of the Gospel. It is the later form of suffering that Christians should not act surprised or feel shameful but rejoiceful about Christ being glorified. The Christians response to suffering in a faithful manner while doing good is imperative.
17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[c]
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Though suffering for the sake of the Gospel can feel disheartening, it is an opportunity for Christians to decide consciously if they will respond faithfully to standing firm in one spirit and being contenders of the faith.
Standing Firm In One Spirit
Whenever the Gospel is under attack, followers of Christ need one another and must stand firmly united together. It is imperative for the Christian community for two distinct reasons (1:28). The first is that consistent opposition to the Church and Gospel is a certain sign of an eventual destruction of a peoples or person given the rejection of Jesus being the only way of salvation. On the flip-side, the Christians persecution for the sake of their faith (not their decisions) is a definite sign of their salvation’s genuineness nature (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:5). Doing so is certainly a noble goal that requires more than just a desire for harmony. The goal of unity is achieved through a community that takes being in one spirit seriously through having a common disposition and purpose centered in maintaining the standards and goals expressed.
Contenders of the Faith
The suffering as a Christian alongside our faith is a blessing (cf. Matthew 5:11-12; Acts 5:41; James 1:2; 1 Peter 4:14 ). The reality is that the Christian life is not only about our belief alone as it is also about our suffering since people first hated Jesus (John 15:18-25; Matthew 10:22; 1 John 3:13). Thus, it imperative to remember suffering as disciples are only expected due to people’s hatred for Jesus first, which makes it important for us to recognize the need to partake our suffering with grace.
The Philippians dealt against opposition for the sake of the Gospel was a constant reality. The strain that they faced is certainly something that every generation of Christians can understand. We can certainly take away the importance of faithfully standing firm in the midst of our individual and collective struggles in one spirit as contenders for the faith. Although the persecution we all personally face is likely not similar to what the Philippians experienced. Nevertheless, I am sure that each person reading this has been reminded of their personal struggle against opposition against the gospel. It is the contention that our differing experiences can be efforts that we need to stand firm against with fellow Christians who will encourage and come alongside in contending for the faith.
Let Your Voice Be Heard
I encourage each person that has read this article to considers these questions for themselves. I will love to read your responses to these questions if you are willing to share them in the comment section below.
- How have you/we been opposed to communicating/living the gospel?
- How have you/we managed to stand firm in one spirit while contending for the faith?
- How can you/we better apply this portion of Scripture?