In the last paragraph the apostle Paul has described his joy in suffering. His joy came from knowing that the gospel was advancing through what he was experiencing. His joy also came from knowing that his faith was only being strengthened to bring about his spiritual deliverance. Paul spoke this way because for him to live is Christ and to die is gain. His whole life is about Jesus and death is the fulfillment of all that this life is about: to be with Jesus. Paul was not a fatalist or desiring to die but understood that the purpose of his life was to serve Christ. But now Paul says that there is one thing that matters. There is one thing that is absolutely important for their walk with the Lord. Turn to Philippians 1:27 to see what this is.
Manner of Life Worthy of the Gospel of Christ (1:27)
This is the one big thing! Nothing must distract us from this objective! “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” The KJV reads “conversation” but this is not what the Greek word means. Rather, the word speaks of living as citizens in a kingdom and the lifestyle you have in that realm. Christianity means living worthy of the gospel. The apostle Paul makes this point in a number of letters to Christians (Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12). We learn that Christianity is a way of living, not just a way of thinking or believing. The gospel is the means by which our whole way of living changes. We live a life consistent with God’s revealed word. We are to discharge our duties as servants of Christ and citizens of his kingdom while we live on this earth. This is a beautiful concept that Paul is instructing us to have. When Paul speaks of living in a worthy way, we are living in such a way that shows what we believe is of supreme worth. We live in such a way that Jesus is seen as glorious and honored. We live so that people see that to live is Christ!
Now, realize that Paul is not saying that you need to make yourself worthy of the gospel. We cannot make ourselves worthy of the gospel. We cannot earn the call of the gospel. We do not deserve what God is offering us. We demoralize ourselves if we think about that we have to be worthy of the gospel. We cannot do this. Rather, we live in a way that shows the infinite value and worth (worthiness) of the gospel. So what are our lives to look like if we are to live in a way that shows the worth and value of the gospel? What does it look like to live worthy of the gospel? There are three characteristics of believers who live worthy of the gospel.
Standing Firm In One Spirit (1:27)
Paul says that he wants these Christians to walk worthy of the gospel of Christ so that whether he comes to see them or not, he will hear that they have certain traits in them. Walking worthy of the gospel has observable fruit in the Christian life. Before we look at these three characteristics I want you predict what you think Paul will say are the characteristics of a life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then we will see if your prediction matches what Paul says Christians must do to walk worthy.
The first thing Paul tells them to do is stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. The first characteristic Paul points to is unity. Remember that we saw this in Ephesians 4 where Paul called for those Christians to walk worthy of the calling and then described the need to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The apostle Paul teaches the same thing to these Christians. Living a life worthy of the gospel of Christ is to stand firm together in the same mind. Standing firm gives us the picture that we are under Satan’s attack and under attack from the world, but we are standing side by side together. We are not battling each other. This is a failure and shows we are not letting our life be worthy of the gospel. We are not showing ourselves to be citizens of Christ’s kingdom when we fight each other. Further, notice that we are not to be battling individually. The picture is that we are side by side in this fight, battling together. This life is not a bunch of Christians simply concerned about their own faith. We fight together for the faith. We stand side by side for the faith. We are so joined together in this fight for Christ that it can be described as having one mind. We are united in our thinking, attitude, vision, desires, and ambition. Our singleness of mind comes by focusing only on the gospel. In the last paragraph we saw that Paul’s life was centered on the gospel of Jesus and its advancement. There is not to be division among us but we are operating together in harmony. Therefore we must view one another in this room as a team working together in the fellowship of the gospel for the faith of the gospel.
A divided church is one that stops focusing on the gospel and our partnership in it. We are willing to overlook differences and conflicts because we are side by side in the fight for the faith of the gospel. We are working together to advance the gospel in our community. We are working together to build each other up in the faith. We are working together to provide strength to each other in difficult times. Notice that Paul pictures an outward focus. Paul pictures Christians who are joined together in one mind and attitude because they are looking to advancing the gospel in all people. There must be a focus on this goal. We are not thinking about ourselves but about the gospel. It is awful when the focus on the gospel is lost for the church because people are more concerned about their own problems and what others are doing for them. Take your difficulties and suffering and use them for the gospel. Do not detract from the advancing of the gospel. Do not sit around wondering why no one is holding your hand or calling you. Use that energy to stand side by side to advance the gospel. We have a saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We cannot be self-centered individuals, draining resources and time away from the fight that is before. Stand firm together with our eyes on the gospel.
Not Frightened In Anything By Your Opponents (1:28)
The second characteristic Paul describes for living in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ is to not be frightened by your opponents. Some translations read to not be intimidated (NET, NLT, NRSV). The scriptures repeatedly tell us to expect opposition for the cause of Christ. In our society today the tide is turning against Christians. Yet this is not a reason for fear or intimidation. This seems counterintuitive. Shouldn’t we be afraid at the opposition? It is highly likely that these Christians in Philippi were enduring great opposition. When we read Acts 16 we see that Paul and Silas were thrown in prison for preaching the gospel. It is not hard to imagine that the same treatment would occur to these Christians. Yet Christians are not to be frightened by the opposition. How?
There are two reasons Paul gives for strength and to continue in the faith during opposition. First, opposition to your faith is a clear sign of their destruction. God has decreed judgment against those who oppress us for our faith in the gospel. Their destruction is certain. The second reason for encouragement in opposition is that this is also a sign of our salvation, according to verse 28. Just as God has decreed the destruction of the opposition, God has also decreed the salvation of those who live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ. What else would we expect living life worthy of the gospel of Christ would mean than following in Jesus’ steps of suffering at the hands of the wicked world. Therefore, walking worthy means continuing to strive side by side for the faith even when opposed. There is no quitting. We keep striving and standing firm. This kind of fearless faith results from holding on to Christ as our treasure.
Granted To You To Suffer For Christ (1:29-30)
Listen to those words in verse 29. “It has been granted to you … to suffer for his sake.” “Granted” means that we have a new view of trials and suffering. “Granted” means that this was given to you, like a favor bestowed in kindness. The NRSV tries to capture this idea for this word in its rendering: “For he has gracious granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well.” This sentence seems to capture the point Paul is making. God is giving you a gift in suffering so that you can live in a manner worthy of the gospel. Suffering is not proof of God’s neglect but proof of God’s grace at work in your life. Oh how difficult this is to think of and hear. But we need suffering to become what God desires and he graciously grants us this privilege. In scriptures, Job showed God to be sufficient for him and to be his everything because he did not quit on the Lord when he lost everything. When it was granted to him to suffer, he did not turn his back on God but showed patient endurance through tribulation.
Now we must think about this: there is no greater privilege than to suffer for the sake of Jesus. We must fix this in our minds. This is why we will not be frightened by our opponents and how we will stand side by side in the gospel: there is no greater privilege than to suffer for the sake of our Lord Jesus. It is a clear sign of our salvation and a clear sign of their destruction.
The first two verses of chapter 2 are the fitting conclusion. So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:1–2 ESV)
So be united! Be of the same mind, have the same love, be in full accord, and be of one mind. If Christ means anything to you, then be of the same mind. Let us have the same purpose, same goal, same love, and agree with one another.
We show the gospel of Jesus to be supremely valuable to us when we deny ourselves so that we can be a blessing to others. When we forgo our own way to stand together in the Spirit of Christ, we make the gospel look glorious and we bring God glory. Let us never think individually about our role as citizens in Christ’s kingdom but as people joined together working for the gospel. Only one thing matters! Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.