The exhortation for the Philippian believers, and of course for us, was quite simple: to live a life consistent with the gospel of Christ (Phil 1:27). Paul, deeply conscious that Philippi’s inhabitants were proud of their citizenship, reminded the believers that their true citizenship was heavenly (3:20) and their conduct must therefore be worthy of the gospel that they preached (v 27). Such a life involves several issues.
As a self-supporting assembly that did not rely on visiting gift, the Philippians’ continuance in divine things was to be independent of Paul’s presence or absence (v 27). A local church, having been established, should rely upon the Lord for spiritual life and vitality rather than the continuing presence of the missionary who brought the gospel. The same principle applies to every individual believer. We are not meant to live independently of other Christians, but we must not overly rely on each other either, for “it is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes” (Ps 118:9).
Believers should show steadfastness in the faith without wavering, being able to “stand fast” (v 27).
Unity (1:27; 2:1-4)
There must be visible unity among the saints, being of “one spirit” and “one mind,” an ideal which sadly does not appear to have been fully maintained at Philippi (2:2; 4:2). Discord was clearly present in the church, and the ground for Paul’s exhortation was a reminder of their close association in Christ (v 1). With consolation, meaning “a calling to one’s aid,” and comfort, a word which means “to come to the side of one,” and fellowship, or having things in common, the intimate relationship between believers was emphasized. This loving fellowship which is brought about by the Spirit forms the basis to which Paul called them. The aim of his exhortation was for Paul’s joy in them to find fulfilment (2:2). The details of the exhortation are found in verses 2-4. One vital step toward Christian unity is for all to think alike: be “like-minded” (2:2). Scriptural harmony does not find its origins in tolerating conflicting views, but rather in submission to all God’s Word. Sadly, however, division among saints is often not about major doctrinal issues but matters of personality. How important for us to value each other, esteeming “other better than” ourselves (2:3), and be characterized by “lowliness of mind”! Paul himself was a humble man (1Cor 15:9; Eph 3:8; 1Tim 1:15), and the Lord Jesus gave the ultimate example of such a spirit (2:5-8). Tragically, much service can spring out of wrong motivation, such as strife – seeking to displease others (1:15, 16) – or “vainglory” – trying to please others (2:3). Instead, our service should result from valuing each other. It is also important to look out for each other rather than ourselves (2:4), for love “seeketh not her own” (1Cor 13:5). In short, Paul wished the same as the Lord Jesus for the saints: “that they may be one” (Jn 17:22). These high standards of a selfless, humble attitude can only be effectively achieved through emulating the perfect example of the Lord Jesus Christ (2:5). This will be looked at (DV) in our next study.
Struggle or labor is inevitable in the Christian life, its clear goal being “the faith of the gospel.” The gospel cannot simply be boiled down to four points often presented in gospel meetings but rather embraces the entirety of the faith: the body of revealed truth found within the Scriptures.
Fearlessness characterizes a life consistent with the gospel: “in nothing terrified by your adversaries” (v 28).
Privilege (1:29, 30)
There ought to be a sense of privilege whenever suffering arises for our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, for unto us “it is given,” as a gracious gift, not only to “believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (vs 29, 30). The “conflict which ye saw in me,” is no doubt the beating Paul suffered at Philippi and which the believers had witnessed first hand.
We must never forget that we do not really belong in this world, that we are only passing through it, and that heaven is our true home.