Philippians 1.27-30: Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel

After reporting on his bold witness and great success in promoting the gospel despite powerful opposition, Paul turns his attention to his readers.  How will they respond against their opposition?  What will their response say about their commitment to the gospel?

27 Whatever happens, as citizens of heaven live 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, [a] striving together with one accord 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 on 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.

Paul says that all of life should be lived according to the following edict: “One thing … live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (my translation).  This command serves as the headline and introduction for the ethical instructions that follows (2.1-18) and perhaps for the entire remainder of the letter. All of life is to be lived under the gospel of Christ.

I’m really enjoying G. Walter Hansen’s commentary.  He understands and articulates the big ideas so well.  I’m going to lift some of his words here:

Paul does not impose a long list of rules; he presents the person of Christ.  The good news of Christ, the story of Christ, is the rule for the community of believers.  That is why, at the center of this ethical section (1:27-2:18), Paul sets forth the narrative of Christ (2:6-11)… Jesus is the exalted Lord of all and that this Lord of all emptied himself, humbled himself, and was obedient unto death on a cross.  The gospel of Christ provides the motive and the pattern for all Christian behavior.[1]

Christianity is so radical and freeing—we are not given a list of do’s and don’ts but the person of Christ.  He is our law.  I’m really excited to look at his example in the following weeks.  May we grow more and more into his person.

For this community, living worthily of the gospel will specifically entail “that you stand firm in the one Spirit… without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” (1.27-28). The Philippians likely face similar persecution to what Paul experienced in Acts 16, as well as similar opposition to what he’s currently experiencing (1.30).  They can take encouragement from Paul’s success and courageous witness before the palace guards and Roman authorities (see previous posts).  They need not be frightened by the threat of persecution, imprisonment or any other harm that they might potentially face.

“… striving together with one accord for the faith of the gospel” (1.27). The Philippians (along with Paul and believers everywhere) are in the same struggle.  If they want to be victorious, they must form a united front.  Put negatively, internal division will not help their cause.  Believers must stand together, as one. 

English words have to be supplied in order to make sense of the Greek in verse 28.  One plausible translation lends this reading, “although to them this is a sign [of your] destruction, it is [really] a sign of your salvation—and that by God.”  To me, this makes more sense than the translation we find in most of our English Bibles (compare with TNIV above).[2] The misery and trouble the opposition inflicts upon the Philippian belivevers—perhaps with the support of the governing authorities—suggests to them that they have the upper hand.  But the oppressors are unable to perceive the true reality: The believers of Philippi will be vindicated by God.  Again and again we see that suffering for the believer is followed by vindication.  Just look at what happened with Jesus after suffering on the cross, which we celebrated last weekend.  We’ve already discussed how we have been given not just the grace of believing in Christ, but to suffer for him as well (1.29).  As we become more united with Christ we will know both his suffering and resurrection.  This is the Christian life.

Although we could make lots of applications from these verses, we’re going to hold off until the following weeks.  For now, live worthily of the gospel of Christ.  Stand together.  NDS

[1] Hansen, Philippians, 93-94.

[2] Ibid., 99-101.  This seems to be somewhat of a minority view, but I find it convincing.  Virtually all of the English Bible translations supply “of their” as the modifier of “destruction” (so the TNIV above, “that they will be destroyed”).  But why would the oppressors view the Philippians’ faith as a sign of their own destruction?


2 Responses to Philippians 1.27-30: Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel

  1. Allison Scherer says:

    I love it, babe. May we keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

  2. MAS says:

    I think it interesting that there is discussion about “of their” & “that they” when talking about destruction. But what I find more interesting is to discuss the word destruction! Paul says to stand firm and not be freightened by any who oppose you. Then what is the destruction? I think, and have thought this since being a little kid in Sunday School, that the destruction refers to the demise of other theological thought. The early Christians died for their beliefs, unafraid, and did not try to overthrow the Roman system of government but rather their belief system. After a while their persecuters
    had to wonder – how can they stand this – unafraid? Who is this God and Christ? What does he teach that is so strong that these people, while they do not want to die, are not afraid to die and yet do not try to overthow us? How is it that the more we persecute them, the stronger their movement? Thus this is how they finally saw their own destruction and eventually submitted to it. Mark

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