A Study of the Book of
“Philippians” Unity. Humility. Joy.
“Let Your Manner of Life be Worthy of the Gospel of Christ”
“During World War II, Hitler commanded all religious groups to unite so that he could control them. Among the Brethren assemblies, half complied and half refused. Those who went along with the order had a much easier time. Those who did not, faced harsh persecution. In almost every family of those who resisted, someone died in a concentration camp.
When the war was over, feelings of bitterness ran deep between the groups and there was much tension. Finally, they decided that the situation had to be healed. Leaders from each group met at a quiet retreat. For several days, each person spent time in prayer, examining his own heart in the light of Christ’s commands. Then they came together. Francis Schaeffer, who told of the incident, asked a friend who was there, “What did you do then?” “We were just one,” he replied. As they confessed their hostility and bitterness to God and yielded to His control, the Holy Spirit created a spirit of unity among them. Love filled their hearts and dissolved their hatred. When love prevails among believers, especially in times of strong disagreement, it presents to the world an indisputable mark of a true follower of Jesus Christ.”
Most churches given enough time go through times of strong disagreement, but when that happens the gospel stops moving forward, and it is not until the church reunites, and heals that it begins to move forward again. This morning we are going to look at how a church experiencing division and how it moves forward.
A Worthy Life Defined (vv. 27-30)
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, 28 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. 29 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, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
(v. 27) “let your manner of life be” – “Behind our English versions of this phrase is a single Greek verb that has citizen at its core; to maintain a standard of conduct befitting a citizen, to behave in a way that enhances the reputation of one’s city.” Or “as citizens of heaven, behave in such a way . . .” This entire city was established by retired Roman soldiers and the colony of Phillipi was given to them as a reward for their winning a very strategic battle. These citizens considered their citizenship in the Roman empire to be very important – so Paul is playing off of this common understanding of the people regarding the importance of citizenship.
Paul writes to the church in Phillipi, to live a life that is “worthy of the gospel of Christ.” John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God in his love for us, sent Jesus to endure all that went along with the crucifixion, so that we can live with Him in eternity. Now, in light of that level of sacrifice live a life worthy of that level of sacrifice. How does a person even begin to live that kind of life? Not that we have earned it or deserved it or were worthy of it, but the free gift was given – live your life as though you understand the gospel’s value and the expectations of Jesus for you.
Jesus in Luke 14:25-33 is talking with the crowds about what it means to be a follow of Jesus, what is expected of them, “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Discipleship requires repentance (of sin) and obedience (following Christ’s commands).
So in order to be a follower of Jesus you have walked away from everything, you are now a follower of Jesus and there clearly is the expectation that you are apart of a/the church; so what does this worthy life look like? “Paul defines three specific aspects of their life as citizens: 1) that you are standing firm in one spirit, 2) striving side by side for the faith of the gospel 3) not frightened in anything by your opponents. These three phrases unpack the obligations of good citizenship (or church membership)” and what it means to live life in a way that is worthy.
“Standing firm in one spirit” – Standing firm is a military term, where soldiers have to hold a line, they cannot fall back, or lose ground to the enemy. As the enemy advances, the gospel doesn’t lose ground. The church was facing persecution and potential imprisonment – because of their advancing the gospel. It would be very easy just to stop, stay at home, focus on each individual’s concern. If this happened the church would splinter.
“striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” – “striving side by side” is a translation of “one psyche, one soul” When the soldiers would fight side-by-side they are fighting as one person, one unified unit. – as though they are the same man. Christians are not striving as individuals, but as a unit together. When Christians fight with eachother, unity is lost, ground is lost, and the gospel loses. Striving also indicates effort, working hard, putting in the work. Christians working/serving, with the same mind, for the faith of the gospel. Working toward a common goal.
Bellevue Baptist Church Exists to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ.
Our working, striving, and serving in our church is so that the gospel can move forward – we hold the ground, so that no ground is lost, and when the enemy advances against us, we are not afraid.
Adopted by the Nazi Party in the 1930s, Hitler’s infamous “sieg heil” (meaning “hail victory”) salute was mandatory for all German citizens as a demonstration of loyalty to the Führer, his party, and his nation. August Landmesser joined the Nazi Party in 1931 and began to work his way up the ranks of what would become the only legal political affiliation in the country. Two years later, Landmesser fell madly in love with Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman, and proposed marriage to her in 1935. After his engagement to a Jewish woman was discovered, Landmesser was expelled from the Nazi Party. Landmesser and Eckler decided to file a marriage application in Hamburg, but the union was denied under the newly enacted Nuremberg Laws. The couple welcomed their first daughter, Ingrid, in October 1935. And then on June 13, 1936, Landmesser gave a crossed-arm stance during Hitler’s christening of a new German navy vessel. The act of defiance stands out amid the throng of Nazi salutes. August Landmesserstood alone amongst evil.
“not frightened in anything by your opponents.” – The word used here for frightened is same used for horses startled or frightened on the battlefield. Christians as we stand side-by-side, striving for the gospel, we are “not to run from any battle, back down from any attack, compromise anything, or concede in any way.”
(v. 30) The church is also engaged in the same “suffer for his (Jesus’) sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict” as Paul. The church were suffering from and engaged in the same conflict as Paul. Their partnership with Paul in advancing the gospel, has now brought them the same struggle Paul had.
A Worthy Life Explained
A Reminder of the Blessings of Unity (vv. 1-4)
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Paul now continues his urging the church to be unified, by reminding them of what they experience when they are unified; 1) encouragement in Christ, 2) comfort from love, 3) participation in the Spirit 4) affection and sympathy. As a church, when you see storms of arguments and disagreements growing on the horizon, remind each other that if this (whatever the things of the day is) causes disunity, then the whole church loses these four things. If you value the joy, love, and encouragement that you have at church then;
(v. 3) “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” – Jesus helps us understand this when he says in Luke 14:8-11 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
We maintain unity through humility and compassion for others.
(v. 4) “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We are not wired to put other’s interests above our own, to consider others of more value than ourselves. Our natural tendency is to put yourself first, and to look after your own self-interests. So, where does a person find this kind of mindset? The answer is the gospel – Jesus gave himself for the salvation of others. We are His disciple – therefore, we give ourselves for the salvation of others.
Jesus’ Example (vv. 5-11)
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Paul uses Jesus’ incarnation (Jesus as God taking on human flesh, being born into this world) as a way of showing us what he means by humility and relating to others.
The one who “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father – Jesus has the right to do what he wants, to follow his own self-interest (far more right than we have to say, “I’m going to do this, or I believe that this should happen).
But what does this highly exalted one, this one whose name is above every other name do? What is the example that Paul is pointing to? “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Instead of holding on to “grasping” his rights, authority, privileges as God the Son, he followed the leadership of God the Father and humbled himself by taking on human flesh and becoming a human being. The Exalted One, stepped down from His throne and did what he was told, and endured horrific torture and disrespect to purchase the salvation for humanity. If Jesus was willing to humble himself, so should we.
A Reminder of the Seriousness of What the Church Does (vv. 12-17)
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(v. 12) “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” – Paul is very clear that we don’t earn our salvation, we don’t work for it, or achieve it by works. The context helps us to understand what Paul means, this whole passage has been focused on unity within the church and how that advances the gospel. In the verses following (not grumbling or disputing), again follow this idea. The working out salvation is given in the corporate sense. Just like earlier the church is striving (working hard) to advance the gospel, here the church works (extended effort).
“The entire church, which had grown spiritually ill (2:3-4), is now charged with taking whatever steps are necessary to restore itself to health, integrity, and wholeness.” It is a call for the whole church to rebuild social harmony – and if everyone is focused on themselves and their personal desires, conflict will only continue. That restoration comes when the church serves one another. Stop having attitudes and using words that tear at the fabric of the community.
Everyone has work for unity within the church.
Paul also adds the words, “with fear and trembling.” This phrase indicates the weight and gravitas, the importance of what the church does. We are partners in the gospel – what we do is eternally important. So we approach that seriousness and responsibility with “fear and trembling.”
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Grumbling and Disputing wrecks the unity and joy of the church. Don’t you want to finish the race blameless and innocent, without blemish? We are to “shine as lights in the world” The light we shine is the hope of Jesus Christ and power of the cross. We must work hard so that nothing gets in the way of that happening.
 Dennis E. Johnson, Reformed Expository Commentary, Philippians (Phillipsburg, New Jersey; P&R Publishing, 2013) 89.
 For more on this topic see https://www.gotquestions.org/cheap-grace.html, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, published in 1937. In that book, Bonhoeffer defined “cheap grace” as “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline.”
 G. Walter Hansen, 95.
 Hansen, 98.