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, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
We are living “In the meantime.”
For most of the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, his emphasis has been to encourage an eternal perspective. Being a Christian in the first century was a risky choice, which Paul himself was experiencing first hand. By this point in his life he had already endured tremendous suffering and hardship as a result of his persistence for the Gospel. Now, he was writing from prison, with his life in jeopardy, and yet his first aim is to encourage his friends in Philippi to not be afraid. Now, as we reach the end of chapter one, Paul shifts his focus. Having established the mindset of hope, Paul turns his attention toward how that hope ought to impact their daily lives. In other words, now that they’ve been reminded that their eternal future is secure and glorious, how should they live “in the meantime?”
Paul begins with an exhortation. He says, “let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). If our hope is in Jesus (it is), and Jesus is coming back (He is), and heaven is going to be incredible (it will be), then the way we live our lives ought to reflect these realities. The “manner” of our life (how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis) ought to be “worthy” of the Gospel of Christ.
What does that look like?
I think it’s important to remember what Paul is not saying here. There is nothing any of us can do to make us “worthy” of having Jesus die for us. We can’t earn our salvation. That’s the whole point of the Gospel…we’re not worthy, but Jesus is. So what does Paul mean here? He clarifies with his next statement: “I (hope to) hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents” (Philippians 1:27-28). Paul identifies two characteristics of a “manner of life” that are “worthy of the Gospel of Christ” — perseverance and unity.
It makes sense that Paul would emphasize perseverance in this context. Perseverance is continued effort in the face of difficulty, and these were difficult times. First, Paul urges them to “stand firm.” Don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged. Hold your ground. Then he challenges them to “strive for the faith.” Keep working hard. Show some effort. Press on. Finally, Paul implores them to “not be frightened in anything by your opponents.” This makes perfect sense as well. Fear can be an enemy of perseverance. Fear paralyzes. Fear is disheartening. Paul wants them to push past their fear of man, to take courage, to fight hard. This is a way of living that’s befitting of the Gospel of Christ.
Paul then speaks of unity. He asks his friends in Philippi to stand firm “in one spirit,” and “with one mind” to strive “side by side” for the faith of the Gospel. Paul continues in this vein at the beginning of chapter 2, saying “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2). It delights Paul to hear stories of Christ followers who are living in unity. We also know from Paul’s writings that he loathes infighting among Christians…we’ll observe one example of this at the beginning of Philippians 4. True unity in Christ honors Jesus. When Christians are divided, it’s a Gospel distraction.
Paul ends this section by saying, “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (Philippians 1:30). Perseverance and unity. A close-knit team of people doggedly pursuing a Gospel mission together, suffering together for His sake, that’s a “manner of living” that’s “worthy” of the Gospel of Christ. Jesus is coming back. “In the meantime,” Paul says, let’s proclaim His name in the way we choose to live.
- What distracts you from living a manner of life that’s worthy of the Gospel of Christ? Be specific.
- What causes fear in your life? How does the eternal mindset of Paul give you an example that can help drive away that fear?
- What’s the difference between freely striving as a response to God’s grace versus working hard to earn God’s favor? How can you avoid the trap of legalism as you pursue a life of perseverance and unity?
Who are you teamed up with in your efforts to help others hear about Jesus? It could be your Life Group, your family, or perhaps you’re involved on a ministry team. Take a few minutes to pray for the others on your team by name, that you would pursue unity and persevere together for the Gospel.