READ PHILIPPIANS ONE
Yesterday we say how vital Paul views Christian community. It’s so central to his theology of the Christian life that Paul says that he will remain in the flesh for the sake of encouraging his friends, the Philippians. Paul concludes chapter one with an exhortation, encouraging them in their life together.
He starts by encouraging them to live lives worthy of the Gospel of Jesus. Think back on our word study of this word. What do you think Paul means?
The following verses elaborate on this encouragement, and give us a good picture of what Paul has in mind. Paul wants to hear a report about the believers’ life together. What does he want to hear? (There are three things in verse 27-28)
If you were to summarize this exhortation in one word, what would it be?
Paul desperately wants the believers to experience unity. He want them, first, to stand firm in one spirit. He wants them to be resolved in their unity and unified in their resolve. The call to stand firm indicates that they aren’t just experiencing agreement over unimportant things, but they are resolute in their shared convictions, hold each other to those convictions, and helping each other along in the faith.
Secondly, he wants to hear that they are striving together for the faith of the Gospel. When I first read this passage, I thought that Paul was only talking about evangelism. I though Paul wanted them to work side-by-side to spread the good news of Jesus Christ with others. And while that is certainly in view, notice specifically what Paul says: “with one mind striving side by side for the faith off the Gospel.” Paul wants them to experience unity as they point each other towards the Gospel! He wants them to hold it out to one another and says, “believe!” He wants them to work, in united way, for the faith of the Gospel.
And lastly, Paul wants them to not be frightened by those who oppose the Gospel. Most scholars agree that the Philippians’ opponents are not the same people we saw earlier in this chapter who are preaching out of envy. Instead, they seem to be those who oppose the Gospel in Philippi who are intimidating the believers. Paul wants them to have united confidence as they continue to preach the Gospel to the world who needs to hear about Christ. Together, they will have the confidence to stand firm.
Paul concludes chapter one with a final, albeit veiled, exhortation towards unity. What it is?
Paul recognizes that the Philippian believers are going to suffer as they proclaim the Gospel, but they will not suffer alone. No, they are united to him even as they are united to one another. They know he has experienced the exact same kind of persecution – in fact, he even writes these words from a prison cell. They will not be alone in their suffering for Christ; he will be with them and he will be for this.
This is the beauty of Christian unity. Christ, who holds all things together, draws Christians together by His Spirit. Spanning time and space, he will draw us together and hold us together. And this unity is irreplaceable in the life of faith, and it is this unity in the Gospel alone that will cause our spiritual friendships to flourish.
PRAY & REFLECT
Spend some time praying for unity in your relationships with other believers. Ask the Lord to give you a particular unity in your spiritual friendships founded in the Gospel of Christ.