Philippians 1:27-28 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.
If the church were to be confident in what it believed, with a determination not to waver, coupled with a zeal to evangelize the world and an ability to defend the faith against all attackers, and to do so alongside one another in unity – then they would have little susceptibility to fear.
The word used here for “frightened” brings with it the idea of horses scattering after being startled. Paul is saying, that with such a unified defense and capable offense, you will not be easily shaken. This is the power of a unified church which is striving together for the gospel.
Paul closes out chapter one and this passage on living the worthy life by offering the Philippians some words of encouragement regarding suffering.
The Blessings of Suffering
As Paul describes the manner of life worthy of the gospel of Christ, he inevitably comes to the topic of suffering. What we learn throughout the New Testament is that suffering or difficulty in the Christian life is not rare or unexpected. In fact, we are told plainly that suffering for Christ’s sake should be an expected reality for every believer.
2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
As difficult as suffering may be, it does come with some unmistakable blessings. Consider the three blessings of suffering which Paul offered to the Philippians.
1. Their Opponents are Condemned.
Philippians 1:28 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.
First of all, Paul tells the Philippians that the fact that they are being attacked or persecuted is a clear sign that their opponents will face destruction.
The point here is not primarily that they will face destruction because they are persecuting the church but that by opposing Christ, through persecuting the church, these men are making plain their rebellion against God. Their opposition to Christ and his work on earth reveals the true nature of their depraved hearts and consequently, the fact that they will one day face the judgment of God.
2 Thessalonians 1:4-10 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering– 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
Paul’s message to the Philippians and Thessalonians is the same. When the world persecutes genuine believers, they are revealing the true nature of their depraved hearts. Their hatred toward Christ and Christians is a very clear sign that they are rebels against God who will one day face his just judgment.
The Philippians needed to understand that although they may feel at times that they are the helpless victims of a hateful world, they were actually the ones condemning their opponents. Through their faithfulness to Christ and their commitment to live a manner of life worthy of the gospel, even while suffering, they were in fact exposing their persecutors as unrepentant rebels against God. They were making it clear that God would be perfectly justified in one day pouring out his unmitigated wrath upon them.
The fact that our faithfulness in the midst of suffering condemns our opponents should encourage us to maintain a right attitude while we experience suffering. If God finds it a matter of justice to judge those who persecute us, then we have no place in taking matters into our own hands. We should endure difficulties with grace while trusting that God will execute justice however and whenever he deems appropriate. I this your attitude? Or, do you harbour bitterness and unforgiveness while looking for ways to make others pay for their offenses?
After telling the Philippians that their faithfulness in living a life worthy of the gospel would condemn their opponents, he mentions another blessing of suffering – their faith would be authenticated.
2. Their Faith is Authenticated.
Philippians 1:28-29 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. 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,
Through suffering and persecution, multiple things become clear. On one hand, it exposes the persecutors as rebels against God (there is no hiding or excusing one’s rebellion when they are actively opposing Christ and Christ’s people); on the other hand, it reveals who the true children of God are (by remaining faithful to Christ through trouble, their faith proves to be genuine). In this way, persecution both condemns and clarifies.
John 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
The world hates Christians because they represent and reflect Christ and his authority. When we suffer for his sake, it becomes clear that we belong to him. It is for this reason that the Apostles in Acts 5 could rejoice “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” (Acts 5:41). By suffering for Christ at the hands of those who hated Christ, they were identified with Christ. There are few greater proofs of our relationship with Jesus than the fact that the world treats us the very same way it treated him.
It is simply a matter of genuine salvation that those who follow Christ will suffer for his sake.
The word for granted here is related to the word grace. The early believers saw suffering for Christ as a privilege given to them by the grace of God. Why? Because it served as clear evidence that God had counted them worthy to be identified with him. Paul goes so far as to say that suffering for Christ’s sake is a gift of God’s grace, on par with his gift of faith!
Like the Philippians, when we endure the persecution of our opponents, we expose their rebellious hearts, reveal the true nature of our faith, and enjoy the reality that God is active in giving us his grace. We make it clear that we possess a salvation, and that from God.
Consider next that when we live a life worthy of the gospel, even in the midst of suffering, our fellowship with godly believers is deepened.
3. Their Fellowship with Godly Believers is Deepened.
Philippians 1:30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Here Paul encourages the Philippians by reminding them that when they suffered for Christ’s sake, they were in fact suffering the same way in which he suffered. In other words, they were in good company.
The fact is, when we suffer for Christ’s sake, we not only identify with Christ himself but also with a long line of godly men and women who have suffered for Christ throughout the ages. It is for the purpose of this type of encouragement that the scriptures are not only a source of theology, but also biography. God has designed the faith to be lived out and he desires one generation after the next to look to the example of men and women who came before them for encouragement.
In verse 27 of our passage, the Apostle Paul used a special word to describe the worthy life. In saying “let your manner of life”, Paul was using a term which literally means “behave as citizens”. He was surely using this term because it is one with which the Philippians would have easily related – as proud Roman citizens. But, he was also using it to reflect a greater truth. In chapter 3 and verse 20 of Philippians, Paul would remind the Philippians, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”. He wanted them to understand that they were fellow-citizens of a heavenly city and that as such, they should behave themselves as worthy citizens.
This sense of belonging to a heavenly city and looking forward to its coming ought to be the attitude of every believer as they live life in this world. It provides for us, not only encouragement that this world is not our home, but also that whatever we endure, we do so along with a host of fellow-citizens.
Hebrews 11:4-15 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.
Hebrews 11 features a long list of brief biographical sketches. God worked through these men and women and recorded their faithful lives in order to provide a source of encouragement for all those who would follow. Why? Because few things are more encouraging, while suffering for our faith, than to know that other men and women have experienced the very same things and have remained faithful to God.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Paul knew that the realization that the Philippians were engaged in the same conflict as they saw in him, would be a source of encouragement for them. To know that they were being tested and tried, just as the Apostles were, would give them both a confidence in the reality of their salvation and a sense of privilege that God would display his grace in them, just as he did in men like Paul.
To summarize, the life worthy of the gospel is a transformed life which is lived with conviction about what we believe. This conviction then overflows into a mutual striving for the faith of the gospel which includes both sharing and defending the gospel. Then, the worthy life stands strong in the face of the persecution which will inevitably come. It sees suffering for Christ as a work of God’s grace whereby rebels are exposed and our faith is authenticated. It rejoices in knowing that we are in good company, suffering alongside other men and women of faith.
The above is an excerpt from Pastor Rick’s study through the book of Philippians