23rd August 2018

Philippians: Week 3 (Thursday, August 23 2018)

 

Chapter 1: 27-30

 

Paul urges the Christians at Philippi to fight together for the faith 1:27-30

v27 More importantly than anything else, behave as citizens who bring honour to the gospel of Christ. I may come and see you. Or I may not. In either case, I want to hear that you remain firm and united. I hope to know that you are fighting side by side for the gospel. v28 And I hope to know that you are not afraid of your opponents. Your courage will be a sign to them of their destruction. But it will be proof to you of your salvation that comes from God. v29 This is because you do not only have the honour to believe in Christ. You also have the honour to suffer for him. v30 You have to fight the same battle as you saw me fight. And you hear that I am still fighting it now.

 

Verse 27 Paul speaks about their way of life as citizens. He means as citizens of Rome. He also means as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. He speaks directly about their home in heaven in 3:20. To be Roman citizens meant to obey Roman laws. It also meant to enjoy the benefits that they gave. And they could be proud of those benefits too. In the same way, the gospel brings blessings but also responsibilities. The Christians’ behaviour should be of the highest standard. Paul is not yet sure whether he will be able to visit them. And he reminds them about that. His absence should make no difference. He wants to know that his appeal to them has been successful. He wants to know that they are united. And he wants to know that their faith remains strong. They need to fight close together as Roman soldiers did in close lines. They are fighting ‘for’ the gospel. They are not merely defending it. They are also struggling to spread the good news about Christ.

Verse 28 ‘afraid of’ comes from a special Greek word. It describes how horses behave. When something surprises them, they jump up. And they rush away from it. Dangerous things, that they do not expect, may happen to the Christians at Philippi. Even then, they must show courage.

Their ‘opponents’ may have been any or all of these things:

1          Jews who opposed the Christian *faith. When Paul first visited Philippi, there were very few Jews in the city. But the situation may have changed and perhaps there were now more Jews in Philippi. They might be causing bad feelings against Christians.

2          Gentiles, including Roman officials, whose attitude to the church was changing. They were just beginning to turn against Christians.

3          False teachers of two kinds:

·     Jewish Christians who said that Gentiles must have Jewish circumcision first. And only then could they become Christians (3:23).

·     Those who made God’s grace an excuse for allowing all their physical desires to control them (1:6).

Verse 28 ‘a sign of their destruction’. Their opponents will see that they are wrong. Paul himself once thought that he was right to attack Christians. He failed. It was their faith in Jesus that made Christians strong. And Paul knew that now.

Verses 29, 30 Pain and trouble were gifts of God’s grace, when they were on behalf of Christ. Such pain and trouble were a sign that their faith was genuine. They were sharing the same struggle as Paul himself. That struggle was like the great effort of a runner who was trying to win a race. They had seen what had happened to Paul at Philippi. There, the crowd opposed him. People hit him and they put him in prison (Acts chapter 16). They had heard about what Paul had to suffer in prison in Rome.


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