Summary: Are we equipped to stand in difficult times? This exposition of Philippians 4:1-3 examines Paul's instruction for standing firm. We cannot do it without the right mindset. We cannot do it without unity.
We are in a study of Philippians; our text today in Philippians 4:1-3. In the previous three chapters Paul has emphasized the importance of standing firm in the face of persecution and other difficulties. In chapter one he exhorted: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries . . .” (Phil. 1:27-28).i He followed that admonition with instruction about the mindset that would enable them to do that. In chapter two he points to Christ’s example, and in chapter three he presents himself as one following Christ’s example. Standing firm during times of adversity requires a certain kind of thinking. It requires humble dependence on God. It requires respect and unity with other believers in the body of Christ. It requires an active, passionate pursuit of the right goals in life.
Now in our text Paul again explicitly states that directive to stand fast in one spirit. Follow with me as I read Philippians 4:1-3 from the New King James Version.
“Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. 2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.”
Philippians 1:27 and 4:1 serve as BOOKENDS on this theme of standing firm in difficult times. Paul is aware of the pressures the Philippians are experiencing from within and without. In their own community there is some conflict developing. Additionally, they are experiencing persecution from the world around them (Phil. 1:28-30). Paul’s concern is that they remain steadfast in their service to the Lord.
We are living in difficult times, and there are indications the times may get even more difficult. The ungodliness of this nation is bound to bring judgment. Over 60 million babies have been murdered since Roe v. Wade.ii The Supreme Court ruling in 2015 legalizing gay marriage was a direct rejection of God’s boundaries on human relationships.iii Activities like that have brought judgment on ancient civilizations and they will bring judgment on America.iv In addition to all that, many are departing from the faith that was once and for all delivered to us by Christ and His disciples. The Christians at Philippi were living in perilous times, and so are we. That’s why Paul’s instruction in this epistle is particularly relevant to our lives right now.
I want to address in our text Paul’s
(1) Exhortation to Stand Fast
(2) Exhortation to Maintain Unity which is essential to standing fast.
I. Exhortation to STAND FAST.
Philippians 4:1 begins with the word “therefore.” It is a translation of the Greek word hoste. It connects the directive to stand firm with the theological/practical instruction previously given.
Scripture is always punctuated with a “therefore.” Sometimes it is explicitly stated as in our text. In other cases, it is implied in the narrative. In the story of David and Bathsheba we are simply told the consequences of David’s sin.v The implied “therefore” is this: If you don’t want consequences like this in your life, resist temptation. Don’t do what David did. Learn from his mistake.vi
Theologians get into trouble when they study the Bible as an intellectual pursuit, rather than applying the “therefores” to their own life and behaviors.vii James warns, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). How do extremely intelligent people fall into horrific false doctrine? They deceive themselves by failing to allow the word to correct their thinking and behavior. A love for the truth includes a willingness to embrace its admonitions and corrections.viii In his letter Paul has been moving toward this “therefore” (this directive to stand firm) in our text.
We are in battle that is unavoidable: the battle between good and evil. Standing firm against the tide of vil requires intentional, diligent effort on our part. Paul addressed this in Ephesians 6:10-14 when he said,
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore. . . .”