Philippians 1:27-30 Devotional
Philippians 1:27-30. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Reflection. You might have picked up from the previous devotionals that Philippians contains some repeated themes and ideas: sacrificial service, being passionate about the faith of others, and rejoicing in the gospel not our circumstances. But 1:27 contains a hugely important though inconspicuous word - or theme - we often and easily miss: “whether”.
It has appeared a handful of times already: whether others preached the gospel from false motives or true ones Paul rejoiced that Christ was proclaimed (1:18); and considering his own fate, Paul hoped only that Christ would be glorified in him, whether he lived or died (1:20). Later in the letter Paul speaks of his contentment in Christ, whether he had much or little (4:11-12). In the verses we are looking at today, Paul says that whatever happens we must live in manner worthy of and pleasing to God, whether he returns to them or not (1:27). But what is “a manner worthy of the gospel”? Paul offers at least three answers in 1:27-30.
Firstly, gospel believers should share in and desire unity. “Stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel” (1:27). We will read more about this in 2:1-4, but for now the challenge is simple: the gospel creates God’s church and should drive us to pursue gospel unity. This is not merely co-existing with other Christians in our local church or begrudgingly tolerating each other. Notice that Paul says we should strive together as one for the gospel. Our selfless participation in and prioritising of God’s people is a sure indication of faith, whereas indifference towards God’s church reveals immaturity or even faithlessness.
Secondly, the Christian’s confidence should be in Christ alone, “without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved” (1:28). Christ said that the world hated him and that we can safely expect it to hate those who follow him too (John 15:18-25). But this should not move us to be ashamed of Christ or wonder if we are doing something wrong. There will be opposition and this should not surprise us. But let the disfavour of the world be a result of our faithfulness to Christ and through the proclamation of his gospel.
Finally, and following the previous point, suffering as Christians is not a sign that we lack faith but is in fact consistent with it: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (1:29). Furthermore, when our sacrificial commitment to God’s church and delighting in Christ leads to suffering and hardship we are in good company, for Paul says, “you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have” (1:30). Only, “whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27). A life that honours God asks how our circumstances provide us with the opportunity to serve others.