Session 8

Philippians Study – Session 7

(Philippians 1:27-30)

 

The thesis statement of this paragraph is in the first part of v.27 - “...conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ...”   The KJV translates that statement, “…let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ…”  However, the word that the KJV translates “conversation” means much more than just speech.  In the old English of the King James era, “conversation” meant much more than just “talk.”  It meant “walk” or manner of life.  The word in verse 30 translated “conduct” is the word from which our word “politics” comes.  Literally the word means “citizenship.”  The people in Philippi took citizenship very seriously.  Philippi was a Roman Colony.  As such, its citizens had great freedoms of which they were very proud and which they guarded carefully.  They understood what it meant to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of being citizens of the Roman colony of Philippi.  And Paul reminds them that they are citizens not just of Rome.  More importantly, they are citizens of the kingdom of God.  This is a theme that Paul returns to later in Philippians (see 3:20) and alludes to in Colossians 3:1-4.

What does it mean to “…conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…”?  How does that look?  What does it mean to be a good citizen of the Kingdom of God?  That is what Philippians 1:27-30 tells us.  In the last part of verse 27 and the first part of verse 28 Paul spells out what it means to be a good citizen in the Kingdom of God.

 

Good citizens in God’s Kingdom are characterized by strength in the face of adversity

1.      Notice the phrase “standing firm in one spirit...” in verse 27.  The word translated “standing firm” in that phrase carries the idea of perseverance or tenacity.  It means to—

--stay with it even when you are discouraged...

--to keep going, even when you are tired...

--not give up and quit even when things are difficult

2.   Many of the citizens of Philippi were retired Roman soldiers who had been granted citizenship as a result of their service in the Roman army.  The word translated “standing firm” has military overtones.  It carries the idea of standing your ground, not giving in, not backing up, even in the face of tremendous pressure. 

3.   I remember reading several years ago interesting statement about Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States...after he had become president, one of Jackson's childhood friends was reminiscing about him... said that as a boy Andy was not particularly strong...boys would play a game seeing who could throw the other to the ground first...this childhood friend said that almost all the boys could throw Andy...but Jackson would always get up and come back for more...he would never admit that he was beat...he would keep coming back until his opponent got tired and Jackson was able to win...and the childhood friend said, "The thing I remember most about Andy Jackson is that he would never stay throwed." [Infosearch-ILLY]  I like that..."He would never stay throwed"...what a wonderful quality to have in one's life...

4.      One key to being a good citizen in God’s Kingdom is not just what we do but how long we do it...most Christians begin well... they start with good intentions...failure comes, not because we don’t do the right things...failure comes because we don’t do the right things long enough...we don’t “stand firm” or stay with it for the long haul...

5.      As I’ve said many times before, the Christian life is not a sprint...it is a marathon...we must keep on keeping on…there is no time to quit…not time to let up…we must continue to stand firm as a soldier stands at his post…

 

Good citizens in God’s Kingdom are characterized by a cooperative spirit

1.      One of the recurring themes in Philippians is the importance of Christians living and working together in harmony...the church at Philippi at a fellowship problem...there were two women in the church who were not getting along with each other, and apparently others in the church were taking sides in the dispute... the result was a division which was hindering the work of the church...at least 16 times in this letter Paul stresses the importance of Christians cooperating with each other, working together, being unified, living in harmony...

2.      And that’s the basic idea behind the phrase at the end of v.27, “...with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel...” ...the word translated “striving together” is a form of the word from which our athletics comes…the word is “sunathleo””sun” is a prefix that means with or together…it carries something of the same meaning as our prefix “co”  in words like co-workers or cooperate…putting the prefix “sun” with the word “athleo” means “to  work together as a team”...

3.      Paul is telling them and us that one mark of good citizens in the Kingdom of God is the ability to get along with others, to work together...and, conversely, a sure sign of poor citizen ship in God’s Kingdom is always being in conflict with others...tragically, religious people can sometimes be the most difficult and uncooperative people with whom to deal…Jesus certainly experienced that in his ministry…it is important that Christians be characterized by a cooperative spirit for two reasons--

--first, people who are not believers will never believe that we can love and accept them if we are always fighting among ourselves...

--second, we can get much more done for God’s Kingdom by working together than we can by working against each other...

4.   Charles Osgood, of the Osgood Files fame, tells a story of two women who lived in a convalescent center...each had suffered an incapacitating stroke... one was left paralyzed on right side and other on left side...both of these women had been accomplished pianists and each thought she would never play again because of the stroke...the activities director of the center sat them down at a piano and encouraged them to play together, one using her left hand and the other using her right hand...they did, and together they were once again able to play beautiful music... [Illustrations A-Z-Don Higginbotham]

5.   And that’s the way citizens of the Kingdom of God should operate...where one is weak, another is strong...and only by cooperating together, are we able to accomplish what God calls us to accomplish...

 

Good citizens in God’s Kingdom are characterized by a courage

1.      Notice what Paul says in beginning of v.28...”...in no way alarmed by your opponents...” The word translated “alarmed” was used in the 1st century to describe a horse that was so frightened in battle it would bolt and run away.  Paul is not saying here that good citizens of God’s kingdom will never experience fear.  He is saying that in the face of fear, we continue doing our duty. 

2.      I saw a good example of that kind of spirit several years ago.  Carol and I went to Six Flags Over Texas with two of our grandchildren.  We coaxed our granddaughter who was eight years old at the time, to ride one of the large roller coasters.  The day we were at was “Double Ride Monday” where people were allowed to ride some rides two consecutive times without having to get off and go back through the line.  As we waited to board this roller coaster, Ainslie was obviously very nervous.  By the time we got on, she was crying.  For the entire ride she cried and literally shook with fear.  But, when we finished the first time around she said, “I want to do it again.”  While she was afraid, her fear did not cause her to bolt and run away.

3.      That is something of the spirit Paul is describing in the phrase “…in no way alarmed by your opponents…”  If you consistently live a life of faithfulness to Jesus, the time will come when you will run into some opposition.  That should not surprise us.  We have a powerful enemy who is determined to attack and bring down the people of God.  As the Scripture says in Ephesians 4:12 – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness…” 

4.      Verses 28-30 tell us several important things about this great spiritual battle in which we are engaged:

1)      Our courage in the face of opposition is a sure sign to our spiritual enemy that we are on the winning side.  In the end, Satan loses and God wins.  That is the overarching message of Scripture.  Verse 28 says our not fleeing in fear from our spiritual enemies is “…a sign of destruction to them…”

2)      Our courage in the face of opposition is an evidence of our salvation.  While it is “…a sign of destruction…” to our enemies, it is a sign “…of salvation for you.”  Of course, that does not mean we are saved by suffering.  We know salvation is not based on what we do but what God is Christ has done for us.  But once we are saved, we join what Paul calls in Philippians 3:10 “…the fellowship of sufferings…”  Many people seem to think the battles in their lives come to an end when they commit their lives to Christ.  Actually, the commitment of our lives to Christ initiates a whole new series of battles.  As Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation…”  And in 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul writes that “…all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution…”  The fact that we experience spiritual battles is an evidence of our salvation.

3)      It is a privilege to suffer for the cause of Christ.  In verse 29 we are told “…it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…”  The word “granted” carries the idea of a gift.  It is a gift to suffer for Christ!  It is not the suffering that is a gift but the suffering for His sake.  When we suffer rejection or ridicule or abuse because of our commitment to Him, we are only experiencing in miniscule form what He endure for us.

4)      We never suffer for Christ alone.  We are part of a vast army involved in this spiritual conflict.  In my reading about the experiences of soldiers on the frontlines in Europe during WW II, many of the soldiers said the worst times were when they were in their foxholes alone and cut off from their fellow soldiers either by enemy fire or darkness.  One of Satan’s tactics is to make us think we are cut off and alone and what we experience in the way of spiritual warfare is unique to us.  In verse 30 Paul reminds the Philippians they were “…experiencing the same conflict (the word is agonia) which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”  There is something encouraging in knowing that we are not alone in our struggles.

 

CONCLUSION

To be good citizens of God’s kingdom means that we:

--“standing firm...”....exhibit strength in the face of adversity…

--”striving together...”...have a cooperative spirit…”

--”in no way alarmed by your opponents...”...are characterized by courage...                                   

 

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