Written by Paul J Bucknell on July, 10, 2021
Philippians 1:27-30 Precious Consistency
“27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Philippians 1:27-30).
Precious Consistency, an expository sermon on Philippians 1:27-30, highlights the full power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, when His people stand firm in complete confidence of God’s work in them!
In Philippians 3:17 Paul states, “Brethren, join in the following of my example.” This theme runs throughout the Book of Philippians. Paul realizes how hard it is for any of us to endure persecution.
By sharing his personal example, Paul further enables the Philippians and other readers to understand his empathy towards them and gain courage. As God helped Paul endure his suffering, he is confident God will also help these new believers. Paul’s message is powerful because it’s based on his personal experience. The whole community knew of Paul’s afflictions during his wrongful imprisonment (cf. 1:12-13).
Those who have gone through severe times of testing know full well that Christ faithfully strengthens those who suffer for Him. Paul is not boasting of himself but of how Christ supported him. The Lord will equally sustain the Philippians.
Paul’s Example (Philippians 1:27)
Paul begins verse 27 with the words, “Only conduct yourselves.” Up until now, he has been using his life as an example; now, he transitions to exhorting them. (For an outline on Philippians.)
We read earlier of the power of Paul’s consistent personal example in verses 1:1-26. And then, beginning with this section, Paul adds his public appeals to the end of the book. Usually, Paul begins his letters with much truth and theology and then exhorts God’s people to live it out—but not in the Book of Philippians. A personal example comes first.
Personal reflection-Transferring the Truth
- Each of us needs to think about how much the truth of God has affected our lives.
- In what areas do you struggle with living out a strong, consistent faith?
- Read ‘Tracing Our Life’s Journey’ for reflection on consistency in our spiritual disciplines.
A personal example is most powerful because it is observable. We know it is possible; it’s not just talk.
After drilling holes in the wall to mount something on the wall, my wife saw the drill in my hand and mentioned she needed bigger holes in her bird feeder. Water collected in it. As I started drilling, I noticed one of my sons and thought he should learn how to do this. I called him over, but he was reluctant to help, somewhat fearing the drill. I am sure my son knew intellectually how to drill a hole. He watched me but was unwilling to give it a try.
Knowledge must become practical to be useful.
One of the most challenging steps in our Christian lives is to transfer the truth of God from head to heart. We hear it; our parents or friends believe it, but very little of God’s Word has sunk into our lives. Paul takes every opportunity to convey this truth about living out a Christ-centered life.
“A manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ”
“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27a).
Now, here is the challenge. Make it your goal not only to consistently live out Christ in your life (same as faith in the Gospel) but to live a good example for those around you.
Every new parent quickly understands the implications of having children. Children imitate their parents, not only when they make cute faces and funny sounds but also in their fits of stubbornness, anger, and lack of self-control.
Paul has full confidence that each believer can live their lives “in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ,” living in an honorable way that brings glory to His Name. This standard applies to all of us.
Personal reflections: So what is the Gospel of Christ?
- Have you adopted this standard for yourself?
- Why would you or others make an exception?
The Gospel of Christ is the historical message of what happened when Jesus died on the cross and its continued influences upon each person’s life. Christ’s death becomes the portal through which we not only enter God’s presence but life itself.
Since Jesus Christ is resurrected and alive, the Gospel truths (literally ‘good news’) not only influence what we believe and our destiny but radically shape our lives here now on earth.
Because we were taken from sin’s curse and made a child of God, we are to live up to this awesome standard of love, peace, and joy in Christ. This ‘worthy’ means that our lives are particularly chosen for the glorious task of displaying God’s grace in our lives.
Doubts and Misconceptions
People, including believers, have numerous misconceptions about the Gospel. Each one leads to doubt, which in turn leads to inconsistency. The reason is simple. If we are not sure of the power of the Gospel in some circumstances, then it is very likely, we do not have faith to live in its full power. Doubts ruin our opportunities.
Here are a number of misconceptions that produce doubt and inconsistency.
People in the pews and out in the streets are always quietly asking, “Can the Gospel really work for me?”
- Only works for you, not me.
- Only works in your situation, not mine.
- Only works when things are going well, not when things get difficult.
- Only works in peaceful circumstances, not in persecution.
Your onlookers need your good example to convince them. Your consistency in life becomes a precious means by which God strengthens others. Paul is a good example for us, as he was for the Philippians, but we only know that because we read the Book of Philippians. People around us, however, are our only “read.”
Difficult circumstances show the real power of God’s love through our lives (e.g., Job). Nobody wants these problematic situations to pop up. Still, sometimes they are necessary to fulfill God’s greater purposes for ourselves and others, hoping the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ further shines us through.
Stepping up to Maturity
“So whether I come and see you or remain absent” (Phil 1:27b).
Immaturity is marked by inconsistency. We really can’t rely on immature believers because they are not faithful. They only participate when a friend works with them, or when there is a perk, or people applaud them. This is not real life, however. As people grow up physically, they also are to grow spiritually.
Paul instructs the Philippians to conduct themselves worthy of the Gospel of Christ all the time, not just when he was around. Most people understand the problem Paul is addressing because they tolerate double standards in their own lives.
The Apostle Paul doesn’t want them to live out these things only when he is present or because he is some important and powerful man of God. He is, but this doesn’t help them in the long run. God’s people need to adopt that standard for themselves and live in a manner worthy of the Gospel at all times.
Personal reflections-Two Big Challenges
- Do we allow different standards in our lives?
- Why do we tolerate double standards in our own lives when we cannot stand them in others?
- What should you change to act more like Christ even when others aren’t watching?
Consistency, by definition, means ‘in all circumstances.’ When we determine to live in a manner of the Gospel, we will face challenges.
Paul addresses two challenges that the Philippians faced. Ours might be different or the same, but the evil one provides challenges to foster inconsistencies, which produce a lack of credibility.
Challenge #1: Interpersonal Relationship Problems (Philippians 1:27c-28)
“I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
Throughout the book, Paul alludes to division among God’s people (1:17, 2:2-4, 4:2) and with others (3:2, 3:17-19). Paul hints at this in Philippians 1:27 by stressing the need for oneness. We can safely assume there is a lack of it.
The apostle, in confirmation of this interpretation, gets specific at some points. Philippians 4:2 says, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.” Paul names a few leaders and exhorts them to work and serve together. In 1 Corinthians, he further addresses the problem of congregational differences.
Division and contention commonly arise in the church. The evil one seeks to disturb the unity of God’s people through various and sundry differences. There is room for correction in the body of Christ but not division. Let’s go back and review what Paul actually said.
Two Subtle Commands
Paul gives them two subtle commands. The phrase “I may hear” takes the sense of command out of the statement and instead challenges them to live by the high standard of the Gospel. Paul wants to hear of the congregation’s unity, and they need to make improvements to reach this standard. Paul speaks ever so gently with the Philippian church.
When dealing with other brothers and sisters in the body of Christ (or otherwise), we should learn that even though we might have the authority to speak with outright commands, sometimes it is more helpful to exemplify gentleness in our treatment of them. In this case, Paul, perhaps, sensed the emphasis on authority as one of the roots to this problem, so he provides his example.
“Standing firm in one spirit” calls different individuals within the body of Christ, including the leaders, to actively (i.e., stand firm) work from the same life-giving Spirit.
The phrase ‘one spirit’ can be interpreted to refer to the Holy Spirit such as in 1 Corinthians 12:9, “Healing by the one Spirit” (also see 1 Cor 12:13; Eph 2:18, 4:4), but sometimes, like here, uses it to refer to that spiritual power animating the body (1 Cor 6:17). The context, not the original Greek words, determines whether the word ‘spirit’ has a capital ‘S’ or not, whether it refers to the Holy Spirit or not.
The phrase ‘one spirit’ emphasizes the need to focus on their common source of life: through the divine Spirit working in the church. Once they focus on what keeps them together, they can work out His will. He redirects the various factions to unite to God’s purpose, which lies underneath their divisive superficial issues.
“Striving together with one mind” goes a step further and reveals Paul expectation on their co-working spirit. They must have ‘one mind,’ which calls them to think alike.
‘One mind’ in Greek here (psuche) refers to one’s heart. The phrase in Acts 2:46 is different and refers to a ‘common fierceness’ or passion. Think of the many drops of water that form a river. Psuche here, however, refers to the seat of feelings, desires, and affections and therefore our heart or soul (Thayer).
They have a common heart. Since they have one new nature after Christ, they have a common desire, and thus are enabled to work closely together, devoting themselves to the Gospel.
Once the different parties realize their opposition, they need, as Paul guides them, to focus on what they have in common—their life-giving Spirit. The commonality of faith in the Gospel is the backbone of all their lives, and so Paul correctly requests a shared drive and focus.
- Where might your church have significant differences?
- How are different groups within the church to unite?
True Opponents (Philippians 1:28)
“In no way alarmed by your opponents–which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God” (Philippians 1:28).
Before moving on to the second challenge, Paul provides a fascinating statement about the Gospel’s opponents in Philippians 1:28.
A question that always comes up when speaking about restoring unity, “What about those that are not seeking God’s ways?” First, we should be clear on two points.
(2) Unity for the church does not mean we should buddy up with everyone who calls themselves Christians, believers, followers of Christ, etc. Some teach and live contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, despite their willingness to say they follow Christ. The church is obligated to keep separate from those who hold heretical views of doctrine and life; Paul is willing to treat them as outsiders.
- Despite observing the presence of Gospel antagonists, we should still live out the unity to which we were called. Don’t use anything as an excuse for preserving the unity of the body of Christ. That only worsens the problem.
What can we do?
“How are we to treat them then?” Indeed, even our responses to this can become a point of division. Though treating them as members and hoping that this love would woo them to a commonality of faith and devotion to Christ, this does not always happen. Paul does not approach the problem this way.
Paul is willing, at some point, to identify them as ‘opponents.’ Jesus did the same when naming certain people ‘false prophets,’ “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Just as the white blood cells hunt down ‘irregular’ or foreign cells, we need to clearly identify those who might claim to live for God but, in fact, do not.
Paul brings up at least one more significant point about these opponents. The Philippians are not to be disturbed by them. In other words, God’s people should not be overly concerned with opponents.
When alarmed, we think that they can somehow frustrate God’s work. The enemy, however, never can shake the church if she would stay focused on the faith in the Gospel of Christ. Darkness only grows when the light is not shining. This does not mean, however, that there will not be outright opposition. Here is our second challenge.
Challenge #2: Opposition Brings Suffering (Philippians 1:29-30)
“29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Philippians 1:29-30).
Opponents will try all sorts of schemes to minimize your impact. Christians sometimes are rather gullible, falsely concluding that people wouldn’t do such things. But if Judas, professing faith, actually framed Jesus, others might also do such things. Paul presents this situation slightly differently, changing our perspective of suffering. (Read here for more on Paul’s example of suffering).
“It has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29). Paul is essentially telling them that the complete redemption package often includes this privilege of suffering for Christ. This is especially true of those believers in places where the Gospel has not yet taken firm root or where the Gospel is being rejected.
Paul wants us to think of suffering for Christ as a privilege; this should be our approach. Paul saw himself as a good example for us all—“saw in me.”
Is it wrong for the apostles to preach the Word? Absolutely not! Sometimes we forget the wickedness of society and the need for people to know Jesus. The forces of evil are alike at work today, and the Gospel still offers eternal life to those who believe.
I have traveled to places where Christianity is only now making inroads into heathen societies. Some of the brothers and sisters I meet do suffer, sometimes ostracism from their families. At other times, they lose their homes and businesses. Life becomes very hard. But you should see their beaming faces. They have Jesus, and He is more than all to them.
Those who have not suffered often have a hard time grasping this.
No matter what the challenge, we find that the Gospel can sustain us during difficult times. Challenges will continue to arise, but we need to face and endure them with hopes of being an example for others.
As the Lord provides the opportunity to live out our Christian lives, we need to step forward, pledge ourselves, and live for Christ—no matter what we face. This frees us to live for His ways and be unafraid of the enemy’s tactics.
Until we do so, the Gospel will be locked up in church buildings rather than radiating and penetrating the sin-stained cultures around us.
I earlier shared the difficulty of transferring knowledge so that it becomes practical and helpful. In this case, I thought of helping my son. He saw me drilling before, but watching how to drill and drilling are vastly different. He was a bit reluctant, but then I urged him on and worked closely with him.
Conclusion and applications
I took the drill and put it in his hands. I made sure he had his finger on the start button and then held my hands around his, aiding to keep the drill steady. Meanwhile, I was telling him how it works and what to be careful of. I made four holes and then he, with a bit of help, made four holes.
How are we going to transfer Paul’s examples and exhortations into our lives? We know about the manner of life through the Gospel, but wonder if it will work. It will.
Bravely hold to that high standard of a Christ-filled life that the Gospel provides. Paul carefully wrote to the Philippians and testified that it could be done, like a dad with his son. Starting in 1:27, Paul turns around and says, “Now it is your turn.”
- What will you do with your life?
- May you learn from Paul’s example and unreservedly commit yourself to a holy standard.
Bible Study Questions on Philippians 1:27-30
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