“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” (Phil. 1:27-30)

(Continued from last month)

As believers in Christ, we are declared to be heavenly citizens (Phil. 3:20-21). While this citizenship affords us wonderful rights and privileges, it also carries with it great responsibility as well. Though citizens of heaven, we are left here on earth by God as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20). We have been entrusted with the Word and ministry of reconciliation, imploring the lost to be reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is important that we conduct ourselves in a manner fitting that of heavenly citizens. Paul admonishes us, “Only let your conduct (i.e. as citizens) be worthy of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).

We looked last month at the fact that the measure of “proper” conduct is the gospel of Christ. Our conduct is to be “worthy” of the gospel, or, more literally, to “balance” or have equal weight as this wonderful gospel message entrusted to us; a gospel message that focuses on the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross of Calvary; a gospel message that is based on the grace of God; a gospel message that is received by faith in God.

In this lesson, we want to look at three specific areas of the believer’s conduct that Paul stresses in Philippians 1:27-30.

Stand Fast in One Spirit

As believers it is important that we “stand fast.” The expression means to take a firm stand and then to keep one’s standing, to persist, to be unmoved. What are we to stand firm for, and why is it such an important part of our conduct? Paul admonished the Galatian believers to “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free” (Gal. 5:1). These saints had believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, been saved by God’s grace, and been freed from the law, the “yoke of bondage” which held them in sin and death. Yet, they were allowing false teachers to turn them away from this wonderful freedom to a system of religious and legal works (Gal. 1:6-9). We see the same types of false teachers today, seeking to keep men under the bondage of one legal system or another, teaching that men must do “good works” to be saved. Thus, a vital part of our conduct as heavenly citizens, is to stand fast in the grace of God that saved us.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers and encouraged them to “stand fast in the faith” (1 Cor. 16:13). The Corinthians were a spiritually immature group of believers (1 Cor. 3:1-3). As a result, they were carnal (fleshly minded), and their church was beset with a number of serious problems: envy, strife, division, sexual immorality, marriage problems, etc. The solution to all these problems is found in God’s Word. This is why Paul instructed them to “stand fast in the faith.” The expression “the faith” refers to the truth of God’s Word which they had believed. Once we are saved, we need to grow, and spiritual growth comes through reading, studying, and living God’s Word. The Corinthians did not hold firm to the truth of the Word, and so they did not grow spiritually. Sadly, this is a problem in many churches and in the lives of more and more believers today. Paul warned Timothy that this would be the case. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Paul experienced this in his own life and ministry. “This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes” (2 Tim. 1:15). It’s possible they turned away from him because he was in prison, but more likely, they turned away from him because of the message he was then proclaiming, the truth of the mystery that God had entrusted to him for this present age of grace (2 Tim. 1:13-14, Eph. 3:1-9). How we need believers today who will take a faithful stand for the truth of God’s Word, particularly for the truth of the mystery committed to Paul. Paul instructed Timothy of the need to “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:14).

Paul stressed that these believers in Philippi were to “stand fast in one spirit.” It was not just as individuals that they were to stand fast, but as a local church as well. Certainly they were to take their stand in the power of the Holy Spirit, but they were each to have the same spirit, the same spiritual resolve in their stand for the Lord. A local church that takes a firm stand for the Lord, for the truth of His Word, and for the wonderful message of God’s grace is one that can truly be used of God to reach people for Christ and to enable believers to grow and mature in the things of the Lord.

Striving Together with One Mind

Paul wanted to hear that they were “with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.” The expression “striving together” is from the Greek word “sunathleo.” The last part of this word, “athleo,” is where we get our word “athletics.” It means to engage in an athletic contest or to compete in public games, to contend for the prize. This competition requires endurance, sometimes even pain and suffering. The Christian life is not an easy life. Paul often uses the concept of athletic competition to describe the Christian life. He speaks of it as “running in a race” (1 Cor. 9:24-27), of engaging in a wrestling match (Eph. 6:12), of “fighting the good fight” (1 Tim. 6:12).

The first part of the word “sunathleo” is the preposition “sun” which means together with. Paul is stressing that, as believers, we are not in this alone; we are to contend and compete together, as a team. To do so effectively, we must have one mind. The word “mind” is actually the Greek word for “soul.” The soul speaks of our natural life (Gen. 2:7). It is the seat of our emotions, our feelings, our passions. To effectively strive together we need to have a real, shared passion for the work.

What are we to be passionate about? What are we to strive and contend together for? The faith of the gospel. As we have already seen, “the faith” refers to the truth of God’s Word that we put our faith in. We live in a time when the Word of God in general, and the gospel of Jesus Christ in particular, is constantly under attack. Satan opposes and seeks to keep people away from God’s Word (1 Tim. 1:18-20, Titus 1:9-11) because he knows “it is the power of God unto salvation” to those who hear and believe it (Rom. 1:16). This is why, as heavenly citizens, we need to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

We need individuals, and local churches who will stand firm and strive together for this precious message with one soul, with a real passion for the Lord, for His Word, and for reaching people with the gospel of God’s grace.

Suffering in the Same Conflict

As we take a stand and strive together for the faith, we will most certainly find opposition. Satan and his ministers will take a stand against us, speak out against us, persecute us, and seek to hinder us in every way possible. Paul told the Philippians not to be “terrified” by this prospect. The word “terrified” means to be frightened or scared; it is also used to describe a horse being “startled.” Paul is basically saying, “Don’t be surprised” and “Don’t be scared” when you are faced with persecution and suffering from your adversaries. “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29). The word “granted” is the Greek word “charizomai” which is from the Greek word for “grace.” It is been “freely given” to us, by God’s grace, not only to believe in Him (as Savior and Lord), but also to “suffer for His sake.” We don’t often look at suffering as a gift, particularly a gift from God, but this is exactly what this verse teaches. It is a privilege to suffer for the name of Christ, to experience sufferings on His behalf (John 15:18-25). In Acts 5 we read of the twelve apostles being held by the Jewish Sanhedrin for teaching and preaching in the name of Jesus Christ. After the apostles were beaten, commanded not to speak any more in the name of Jesus, and let go, “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

As heavenly citizens, the way we respond to sufferings and opposition, is an important part of our conduct. We must realize that “all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). The Philippians were facing the “same conflict” which they had seen in Paul (when he was in Philippi, Acts 16), and now heard was in Paul (as he was in prison in Rome). This same conflict rages on today as Satan continues to oppose the truth of God’s Word and the people of God who proclaim it. As we face these sufferings that will come, let us not be surprised, let us not be scared, but let us “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10) and “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1).

May each of us take heed to this important directive from the Apostle Paul: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” May we stand fast in one spirit, striving together with one mind, one soul, for the faith of the gospel, joyfully enduring the sufferings that we will all face, knowing that, as we do, it all will redound to the glory of God.