Philippians 1:27 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,
The city of Philippi was the scene of one of the most significant battles in Roman history. In 42 B.C. Antony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius in a battle which would see the Roman republic become the Roman empire. Following the conflict many army veterans settled in Philippi and the city itself was given status as a Roman colony.
At the time of Paul’s writing, the culture within Philippi had become thoroughly Roman (a fact its citizens were very proud of – Acts 16:21) and the presence of military men would have been a daily reality. It is no surprise then that in encouraging the Philippians to walk worthy of the gospel, Paul used both terms of citizenship and soldiering (“let your manner of life” is literally “behave as a citizen”; “standing firm” is a military metaphor).
When Paul told the Philippians that he wanted to hear that they were standing firm in one spirit, he was encouraging them to present a united, unwavering front. One which would neither be broken by inward disunity nor frightened by outward opposition.
Paul uses the same term in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
The traditions mentioned here were the teachings of the Apostles (cf. Acts 2:42). In order for the Thessalonians to stand firm they were to remain faithful to all that the Apostles had taught them. It was to reject any temptation to alter or deviate from apostolic teaching.
Paul also used the term in writing the the Galatians.
Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Similarly, Paul encouraged the Galatians to stay faithful to the gospel. They were to reject any temptation to swerve away from what the Apostles had taught them or to return to their previous beliefs.
If the Philippians were to let their manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ they would have to stand firm in what they had been taught. Just as it would be disastrous for a soldier to break ranks or to “do his own thing”, so too it would be disastrous for the Philippians to become disunified in the doctrines of the faith. Paul expected them to know what they believed and to stand for it – with unwavering conviction. He said something similar to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
A life worthy of the gospel is a life of conviction and determination. It includes a settled conviction regarding what we believe and a determined commitment to safeguard that truth. This however, is not something we do as individuals. Paul encouraged the Philippians to stand firm in one spirit. Just as soldiers would present a united front, holding the line against oncoming attack, so the church is to engage the world settled in what it believes, without dissension in its ranks.
This type of unity is not based upon popular opinion but upon the truths of God’s word; it is not maintained through mere human effort but through the work of the Spirit of God (2:12-13). Paul would tell the Ephesians, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:1-3)
Through the scriptures, we can know what we should believe and through the Holy Spirit of God, we can maintain a sweet harmony around those truths. God has provided everything we need for such a unity and so he holds us accountable to living a life which reflects it – a life worthy of the gospel of Christ.
The above is an excerpt from Pastor Rick’s study through the book of Philippians