Heavenly Conduct – Pt. 2 : United Commitment & Fearlessness
27Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28in no way alarmed by your opponents–which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. (Philippians 1:27-28 NASB)
As I mentioned previously, verse 27 marks a shift in Paul’s thought in this chapter. It begins with an imperative command for the Philippians’ lifestyle to match the worthy truths of the gospel. Having experienced the divine joys and the perilous toils of being an Apostle, Paul exhorts the believers in specific ways as marks of living worthy of the gospel of Christ. He desired that they would stand firm in one spirit, strive together with one mind together for the faith and to be fearless in the face of opposition.
Stand firm is taken from the Greek word steko and it literally means to hold one’s ground. It conveys the idea of soldiers committed to their posts or assignments not deterred by distractions or opposition. Paul is desirous of them to be presently and actively standing firm in the gospel. But the key issue of Paul’s thought is to do this together in one spirit. Jesus prayed for this same unity in John 17:20-23. Such unity is reached when a common purpose lies at the center of our wills and we selflessly and continually give ourselves to the fulfillment of this purpose, namely the advancement of the gospel and the magnification of Jesus Christ. Being united to Christ positionally unites us to all believers, but practically we are called to pursue and display such unity as a credible testimony to the watching world for the glory of God. Also, we must be on guard against sins from within such as isolationism, divisiveness, and idolatry to preserve unity. We also must be on guard against attacks from without as we are continuously engaged in spiritual conflict.
Next, Paul is calling them to stand stand firm collectively so they will with integrity and credibility with one mind strive together for the faith of the gospel. The Greek word Paul used for strive together was sunathlountes modified from sunathleo, which means to contend alongside with. Sunathleo is a combination of two Greek words: sun (prep. – together with) and athleo (v. – struggle or contend) from which we get our English word athlete. Again, Paul is calling for a unified contended effort to accomplish something. That something is the faith of the gospel. Considering the persecution he experienced at Philippi after he brought the gospel there and established the church (Acts 16), persecution was continuing and Paul is encouraging them to vigorously strive for the defense and the advancement of the gospel. The mission of the church is to glorify Christ by being the pillar of truth and an agent of mission. We can’t neglect a core tenet of our ecclesiastical character, which is to be missiological.
Lastly, as evidence of walking worthy of the gospel, in verse 28 Paul calls them to be fearless in the face of opposition. It’s not a matter of if we’re going to face persecution, but when. If we are actively obeying our Lord, we will incur evil opposition. Jesus assured His disciples of that in John 15:18-19. The basis of our fearlessness is our salvation and all that it entails. Knowing that we have been elected to be the reward of Christ’s suffering and predestined for adoption (Ephesians 1:5-6), purchased by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19), sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14), and free from condemnation (Romans 8:1), we have no rational reason to fear man or the Adversary. In fact, this fearlessness Paul says is actually a sign of the opponents destruction. Our steadfastness gives a great testimony of the validity and reliability of Jesus Christ. And even moreso in the face of opposition. When our adversaries don’t sense fear in us, it sets off fear in them. It is also a strong indictment against them to the end that they will experience God’s wrath. In the same manner, fearlessness is a sign that we truly belong to God as we hold fast the word of truth and prize Christ’s glory above all things.
What a mark we can leave in our generation for the glory of God by taking heed to Paul’s exhortations! Strikingly they seem to build on one another by necessity. In order to be fearless in the face of opposition, we must be striving together for the faith faithfully, and to strive together we first must be standing firm in one spirit – unity.
May we take an honest assessment of our walks and examine if we are standing firm and striving together with others for the faith of the gospel with boldness as a testament of the worth of Christ.
Prayer: Father what a blessing it is to be one of your own. Please continue to unveil the beauty of your design for us to be united in community co-laboring for the advacement of the faith. Keep us from internal strife, selfishness, laziness, apathy and idolatry for the sake of the mission. Embolden us as we seek to make Christ known. Amen!