How often have you felt your world was out of control? Today’s church faces multiple challenges, but this is not new. The church in the Roman Empire confronted obstacles, just as we do, and Paul’s instruction to the church at Philippi to stand for Christ still can bear fruit in our church today. So, how do we stand firm for Christ?
We Must Follow the Pattern
Paul reduced the question of Christian behavior to its simplest term—an example. He boldly told listeners to follow his example. Paul was more than a life-size model. He was a Christ-size model. He told the church at Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
Paul knew that some believers at Philippi also lived “according to the pattern we gave you.” Their entire conduct of life was consistently faithful in following the Lord. We have the testimony of Scripture, which informs us what life in Christ should be. It presents the pattern we must follow regardless of our circumstances.
We Must Face the Problem
The greatest hindrance to an effective church ministry is not the external opposition, but the internal defections. Paul warned the Philippian church that within its own fellowship false teachers could arise. Regardless of whether these false teachers were Judaizers or those who held to an incipient Gnosticism, any teaching contrary to sound biblical doctrine could corrupt the church.
Paul wept as he warned the church concerning these foes of the gospel. He did so for two reasons. First, the church itself was in danger if it listened to the false teaching. Second, Paul knew the destiny of these false teachers was destruction.
Three descriptions of these false teachers are given. First, Paul identified the deity they serve as their own sensual appetites. It referring to more than mere gluttony. It stressed the gratification of physical senses and delight in these actions. Next, Paul emphasized the disgrace they bore. While they may have prided themselves in their freedom to indulge, their unbridled actions actually were shameful for true believers seeking to glorify God. Finally, Paul pinpointed the disposition they bore. Their minds were oriented toward earthly matters rather than heavenly matters. This statement formed a stark contrast to what Paul said next.
We Must Anticipate the Prospect
The foundation for what we anticipate is that “our citizenship is in heaven.” Residents of Philippi lived there as colonists, but their physical citizenship was in the distant imperial city of Rome. In a more glorious way, Christians live on Earth, but our true citizenship is in heaven.
The United States currently has ambassadors in almost 200 countries around the world. An ambassador technically represents the president of the United States. Ambassadors are under the jurisdiction of the State Department and answer to the Secretary of State. In a similar way, Christians are ambassadors of Christ to Earth (2 Cor. 5:20), and we are responsible to Him.
Christ, who is our Savior, is coming again. When He comes, He will “bring everything under His control.” He also will transform our bodies. We will experience the change of corruption to incorruption, of dishonor to glory, of weakness to power, and of a natural body to a spiritual body. We will be like Him. Therefore, we should purify ourselves now to be pure like Him (1 John 3:3).
We Must Pursue the Precept
Paul reminded the believers at Philippi of his feelings for them. They were his brothers and sisters in Christ, whom he loved and desired to be with in fellowship. He exhorted, warned and encouraged them because of his love for them. He issued a final imperative as he concluded his emphasis: “Stand firm in the Lord.” Paul challenged the Corinthians to stand firm in the faith (1 Cor. 16:13). Faith makes us look to the Lord, because only He can give us strength to stand.
Similar to the Philippians, we must stand for our Lord, keep our hearts and minds centered on heavenly things, purify ourselves from all sensuality, and be loyal only to Him.
Larry Overstreet, adjunct professor of ministry at Piedmont International University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.