Summary: As citizens of heaven we must fight together for the faith, stand together with one spirit and one purpose, and not be intimidated in any way.
Stand, Fight, and Don’t Run Away
Oct 24, 2010 Phil 1:27-30
Only some of you here today have experienced military service. Only some of you know what it really means to go through basic training, to be put in a squadron, to be taught how to fight as a unit, where your very lives are in the hands of a person next to you. Thankfully, only some of you have ever actually been in the situation where a physical battle is raging, bullets are flying, and your group is actually under attack. For those few of you, you have a better opportunity to really understand the passage in Philippians which we look at this morning.
The rest of us will try to imagine it, from the best frames of reference we have. Perhaps a sports team, where the people really came together as a team; or maybe a workplace team on a project where things really clicked, the personalities meshed well, and you accomplished more than you imagined; or maybe a family that came together through some time of crisis and really supported and cared and needed one another on a far deeper level than everyday life. Keep that experience in mind as we approach this morning’s text.
But first a question: last week we studied Phil 1:27a – “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” Now, without looking ahead, let’s brainstorm for a moment about what that means as we live it out. How do we “live as citizens of heaven”? What does it mean to “conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ”? Ideas?? call them out…
As I read Philippians 1:27-30, recall that place in our lives when we faced an obstacle or a goal as a united group, and we experienced some amazing things.
Phil 1:27-30 (NLT):
you must live as citizens of heaven,
conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.
Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are
standing together with one spirit and one purpose,
fighting together for the faith,
which is the Good News.
Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies.
This will be a sign to them that
they are going to be destroyed,
but that you are going to be saved,
even by God himself.
For you have been given not only
the privilege of trusting in Christ
but also the privilege of suffering for him.
We are in this struggle together.
You have seen my struggle in the past,
and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
Outlining the Passage:
I’ve put the passage on the screen in an outline format rather than a single paragraph. In the original, it is actually all one sentence, and I’ve laid it out in such a way that I hope to help us understand how it is organized: It begins with the “above all”, calling us to recognize the importance of that which is to come. Then the main topic – “live as citizens of heaven, conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” We spent all of last week on those words, so what I want you to see today is where Paul goes next: he tells us how to do that. He answers for us the question, “what does it mean to live as a citizen of heaven?”, by listing three specific ways we are commanded to do that, which you can see in the outline. Let’s take them one by one.
How do we live as citizens of heaven? 1. “stand together with one spirit and one purpose”:
It starts with a stand. “The command to stand firm was ‘used to indicate the duty of the soldier in battle, or to describe the taking of a position vis-à-vis that of an adversary’. Like soldiers on a battlefield, they must not yield an inch of ground no matter how hard their adversaries press against them” (Hansen, G. W. (2009). The letter to the Philippians. Pillar New Testament commentary series. Grand Rapids Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing. p. 96. Internal quote attributed to Geoffrion, The rhetorical purpose and military character of Philippians.). We have our first military-type word and idea. Living as a citizen of heaven means we take a stand for something and we determine that we shall not be moved, and we stake our very lives on that.
Now, we are in no way alone in this, we “stand together with one spirit and one purpose”. What on earth is powerful enough to bring people together into true unity – people from different cultures and languages, rich and poor, highly skilled and handicapped, broken and whole, old and young – what can bridge all this great diversity? What is powerful enough to overcome any differences, disagreements, or competing perspectives? How about the “Good News about Christ”. I believe virtually every division in the church, and even in our own church, has either been directly caused by or at least made significantly worse by something else becoming more important than the “Good News about Christ”. This is the “one purpose” Paul talks about, for which we stand firm.