Philippians 1:27-30, ESV:
“Only let your manner of life be worthy 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.”
Have you ever hear people make the statement that they do not like to go to church because of the way “Christians” act? Or they say something like “They are the biggest bunch of hypocrites. If that is the way Christians behave, I don’t want anything to do with it.” Or maybe they even say something a little more specific by way of a situation they personally encountered, either with a group or an individual, that put a bad taste in the mouth. Something that turned them off from wanting anything to do with church.
Now, I could make an argument about how absurd that is, not from the standpoint that it is not true — that is that there are many times (unfortunately) that so-called “Christians” do act in a way that is not worthy of the gospel. The argument I could make is this: why on earth would you let something as great and so filled with hope and eternally good promises for you, blessings that will never end, keep you from them because of anything, no matter how hypocritical it is!? That is like saying that you are going to go to the grocery store because they had a bad bunch of bananas, or because the cashiers can’t get their act together. You still have to eat. You don’t stop going to the grocery store for something like that. Why? Because the need and results of going are more important and greater for your personal (temporary) well-being than staying at home starving!
So in that sense, that argument doesn’t hold-up. But people still make that excuse about not wanting to go to church or not wanting to be a Christian because of the way Christians behave. And because that is a reason some give — valid or not — it needs to be addressed. It must be.
What we never want to do, either as a church, or as an individual member of a church, is act in a way that is a turn-off for others. So that is what I am going to focus on this morning: Acting like a Christian.
By the way, you know what that term means? The term “Christian?” It actually means little Christ. It was sometimes used as a derogatory term for believers in the early centuries. But despite that, the people wore that term like a badge of honor. Many delighted to be called a Christian — not because of pride or status, rather because they knew the joy awaiting them forever was infinitely greater compared to the temporary and mild inconveniences of life. But there were also some in the church during that time who needed to be reminded of the way they acted. And Paul addresses them in this last section of chapter one in Philippians.
Examining our Life
Now because you and I are to keep our lives pure and as James says “keeping ourselves unstained by the world” (James 1:27), we have to ask ourselves questions of examination. In other words, we need to take the Word of God, see what it says, take it to heart, and square our lives up by it. And for those areas of our lives that seem to be under the control of the Holy Spirit — which there should be those — we need only beware of our ability to fall in those areas and maintain our righteousness. But for those things that are not in-line with God and his righteousness, we must repent and ask the Lord to make us more like Jesus, our example. It is really that simple. Nothing complicated here! But it requires humility. Nothing complicated, just humility!
When it says in verse 27, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ,…” it means that you really need to stop and take stock of your life. That very first word “only” means that “of all the things I could tell you, this is essential. Listen-up. Pay attention. This is critical.” He is calling them — and us — to ask ourselves “Am I doing anything, saying anything, engaging in anything, acting in anyway, that would bring reproach to the cause of Christ? Is there anything that I am doing that would bring shame to His name? Is there any reason that I am giving non-Christians to say ‘Well if he or she is acting like that, I really don’t see how they are any different than I am?’”
When you act in a manner unworthy of the gospel — the good news that says Christ has come and shed His precious blood and died to make you different, not the same, but different — you are saying to those watching “This is what God is like. I am a Christian, a little Christ. Don’t you want to be like me?” And there answer shamefully is “No! I don’t.” For all of those outside of Christ, as they watch us, they are witnessing by our manner of life everyday, what Jesus is like, what God is like. That’s what we’re telling them.
So we must, first of all, examine our lives and ask the Lord to take away those things that will hinder the gospel and bring reproach to His name. That is how we let our “manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Now some translations use the words “conduct yourselves” and by that word “conduct,” Paul is picturing here acting as a citizen of a “polis,” meaning a city. We get our word “political” from it and so Paul is saying, live in a way, conduct yourselves in a way as if you are citizens of a free political state. And what Paul has in mind, and I think this because he uses this type of imagery elsewhere, is living as a citizen of Heaven. When others look at you and watch you, live in such a way that the love and the mercy and the goodness and the patience and the high-quality of the governing rules of that city are seen in your life. So pay attention to your lives. Examine your conduct.
And Paul says (verse 27), “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…” Paul is saying that no matter whether he gets to visit them personally and see first-hand the manner of life, or whether (for whatever reason) he can’t make it to see them, but only hear about them through a messenger, he will know they are living lives worthy of gospel.
One spirit, One mind
And he zeroes in on one idea that is crucial for all generations of Christians. By this phrase, he is telling us what the church ought to look like to an outside world (and a little bit later, he tells us why it is important that they see a unified and fighting church). He is saying that when they look at us (and he is speaking in the context of a body of believers here), this is what they must see: “…that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…”
That word “spirit” (pneuma) in this context is not referring to the Holy Spirit. It is not saying that we need to be firm in the Holy Spirit — though that is true and we ought to be. It is saying that as we fight, as we battle, as we engage in war with the enemy, we do so together in one unified spirit. We don’t have a person doing their own thing over there, or this particular group of families over here doing their own thing or seeing things in their own way, or looking out for their own interests, instead of for the interest of the whole church. None of that! We are standing firm. But not only standing firm, but doing so with one spirit, one purpose, under one captain — Jesus — as He leads the troops into battle. When Paul says in the next part of the verse “with one mind,” I think Paul is more or less repeating himself for emphasis. There is to be such a unity of spirit and purpose about you that it is as if you have one mind. One mind!
You know why you have conflict in a church? Because you have at least two people concerned about their own interests. There isn’t a unified spirit. And this has been a problem throughout the history of the church. That is why there is always a need for a call to unity. It was even a passion for Jesus. He says in John 13 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If we are not unified and of one mind, namely having the mind of Christ in us, and having love, one for another, how are others supposed to know that we truly are disciples or followers of Jesus?
Standing and Striving
Now look back at this verse again, because there is something we are to be doing as we have one spirit and one mind. What is it? It says in verse 27 “striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Paul is using two analogies in this verse to help us understand what our sole-purpose is. One is a military analogy and the other is an athletic analogy. So Now link this up with what he said earlier in the verse about “standing firm” and you will begin to see what Paul is encouraging them to do. ”Standing firm” (steko) is a term used of a soldier that under no circumstances will budge from his post. No matter what onslaught of temptation or evil may come against him, he stands firm. He doesn’t move! The church is full of soldiers that have been given orders to maintain their posts at all costs as they fight against a single enemy side by side.
And what are we fighting against? Let me tell you what the devil’s overall strategy is to prevent the church from being unified and standing firm and running alongside each other with a single objective. What he does is magnifies a problem or problems in your life to the point that you are so focused on it and you begin to think that is where the fight is. I am not saying those things are not important, but they must not become so big in our mind(s) and so focused in our own interests that we not lose sight of where the real battle is. I see that happening often. When you are off fighting your fight and your own personal monster and another person is fighting a different battle in a different place, how is the real battle going to be won? How are we to fight “the good fight of the faith” which is won by fighting together with one mind and one purpose? Besides, Paul said in Ephesians, our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the onslaught of demons and devils and temptation. And the way — the only way — to win that battle is to keep your post and fight together. It is to run the race together striving for the common goal. It is to strive for the faith of the gospel.
What is the faith? What does that mean? We are in a conflict to preserve and protect the faith from those who attack and destroy. We are in a conflict to proclaim and preach the faith to those who reject it. Don’t lose your perspective, folks. You have a two-fold striving. We are a team, we are athletes together and our common goal is to preserve the Word against hostility and to proclaim the Word to the very hostile people who attack it. Tough battle. Don’t lose your perspective. So many churches spend all their time fussing and fuming about piddly internal stuff that doesn’t even matter when they need to be lost in the preservation of and proclamation of the Word of God. So standing was a military analogy. Striving is an athletic analogy, it calls for team work against an opponent who threatens to defeat us all personal matters aside…all personal matters aside. We must proclaim the truth.
Strength in your Position
Now this is a good time for me to say we must never be fearful or timid to proclaim this truth. I feel like the church today is so afraid to speak the truth. There is no boldness. And the reason for this is the church really doesn’t know who they are. Look at verse 28: “…and not frightened [or alarmed] in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”
That’s good news, isn’t it? That word “frightened” or “alarmed” is never used another place in the Bible, that’s the only place it’s ever used but it’s used in classical Greek to refer to startling horses. Don’t be startled, don’t be bolted or jolted by your adversaries, your enemies. Why? Because it’s a sign of destruction for them but of salvation for you and that too from God. What does he mean? Their hostility toward you is a sign that they’re going to be destroyed. And it’s a sign that you’re going to be saved in the end. I mean, if they’re attacking you, that proves whose side they’re on and that proves whose side you’re on, right?
When we really believe who we are, we should not be afraid of telling others of the good news. We are citizens of the greatest kingdom in the history of the world. And don’t think that I am talking about being a citizen of America. I am talking about being a citizen of Heaven. And yes, being a citizen there, begins now and will continue on this earth into the future. But you are a citizen there now! Our one purpose, then, is to live godly lives, to be the salt of the earth, preserving and protecting it for God’s glory.
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (Matthew 5:13). Our one purpose is to live in fullness of faith, being bold as lions, with no fear. Why is this important? According to verse 28, by not being jolted by anything the enemy attacks with, and facing life with confidence and a heavenly perspective, it tells others clearly, those who do not have this truth, that if they don’t call out to Jesus, they are doomed.
Did you catch that in this verse? Let me read it again: and not frightened [or alarmed] in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.” So if you are advancing God’s kingdom and being vocal about it, get ready for opposition. It will come. But when it comes, in whatever form, stand firm at your post and fight! It is God’s battle anyway, and there are a host of angels around God’s faithful, fighting with you and for you. What this passage is saying is to be a clear sign to others who don’t know Jesus that something is wrong with them and if they don’t change — which can only happen by the power of God in their lives — they are going to forever be destroyed. That’s a heavy way of looking at things, I know. But that is what this passage is teaching us. Do we believe it or not?
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.”
What does he say suffering is granted to us? If a church is what it ought to be it won’t be easy, you will suffer for you to it has been granted to you — it is a gift of grace. He uses the word here related to grace (charis). God has chosen you not only for salvation, and He has graciously gifted you not only with faith, but with suffering.” Did you know suffering is a gift from God? You say, “He gave me a gift of suffering?” You say, “Why is it a gift? What’s so good about it?” It assures you of your salvation, doesn’t it? When they attack you, it tells you whose side you’re on. It produces hope of heaven. It perfects you for usefulness. It provides union with Christ, the fellowship of His sufferings. It brings joy due to the privilege, like the early church said, they counted it all joy to suffer for His sake. It leads to eternal reward. It strengthens the church. It wins the lost. Paul’s suffering did, he said that in Philippians 1:12 to 14. Ultimately it glorifies the Lord. Expect it…expect it and don’t feel alone, verse 30 says, you’re not alone. All the faithful servants of the Lord have suffered.