Gracefully Truthful


Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
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Philippians 1:27-30

27 Just one thing: As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel, 28 not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your salvation—and this is from God.

29 For it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are engaged in the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.

The Original Intent

1) Why did Paul choose to use the phrase “citizens of heaven?” (verse 27)

The church in Philippi was started by Paul. (Acts 16:11-40) For additional context surrounding the writing of the letter, Trevin Wax’s commentary provides studied insights. When studying Scripture, don’t hesitate to use the assistance of trusted biblical sources to  help you! (The Gospel Coalition)

Although a small town, Philippi was proud of its recent Roman history and was “very Roman in its self-perception.” Nearly twenty five percent of the town consisted of Roman war veterans and the town held a strong pride in its Roman connections. Near the end of his first chapter, we come to the first instruction (imperative) Paul provides in his letter, “As citizens of heaven, live your  life worthy of the gospel.” (verse 27)

Paul used the pride Philippians had in their Roman citizenship and turned it around, reminding Christ-followers in Philippi that they were first and foremost citizens of heaven. (verse 27,Philippians 3:20) As Roman citizens took pleasure in living a life worthy of Rome, so the church should take pleasure in living daily lives worthy of the gospel.

We know the Philippian church took the gospel seriously because earlier in the letter, Paul recognized both the prominence of the gospel in their lives, and the advancement of it through his sufferings. (Philippians 1:4-5, 7) “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” Paul declared as he made it clear that everything about his life, ministry, and even his persecution and death hinged entirely upon Christ alone. (Philippians 1:21)

The Philippian church knew they represented their true Leader, God Almighty, while living on earth. It was imperative they lived in a manner that reflected their belief in the gospel message, the grace Christ continually provided, and the truth that one day they would live eternally with God in their true homeland.

The Everyday Application

1) Why did Paul choose to use the phrase “citizens of heaven?” (verse 27)

What does it mean to be a citizen of a country? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “citizenship refers to a person’s allegiance to a government in exchange for its protection at home and abroad.”

I am an American citizen and as such I have certain benefits (a term Americans refer to as rights) and responsibilities under our constitution. The Philippians embraced their Roman citizenship recognizing both its benefits and responsibilities.

Likewise, God calls all believers past, present, and future to a different and higher citizenship than our earthly one. We are citizens of the kingdom of God and this citizenship calls us to live lives that are foreign to those around us. The kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom where we consider others as more important than ourselves, (Philippians 2:3) and believe we are blessed when we have been humble, merciful, and even persecuted for righteousness sake. (Matthew 5:3-12)

The gospel provides us with grace, and flowing out of that grace is a supernatural desire from the Holy Spirit to please our true Leader, living out His calling in our lives. When we don’t live in a manner worthy of our heavenly citizenship, we willingly repent of those actions through the blood of Jesus and begin again to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. (1 John 1:9)

We also wish to invite others to join us in our heavenly citizenship. In his song, “Land of My Sojourn,” Rich Mullins captured the tension between our earthly life and heavenly citizenship:

Nobody tells you when you get born here
How much you’ll come to love it
And how you’ll never belong here
So I call you my country
And I’ll be lonely for my home
And I wish that I could take you there with me.

The Original Intent

2) What does it mean to stand “firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel”? (verse 27)

Paul wrote Philippians from prison and acknowledged the shared experience of persecution and imprisonment for the gospel with Philippian believers. (verses 28-29) In the midst of this hostility, he urged them to “stand firm”. This phrasing alludes to a military call, urging a stalwart decision for a battalion to collectively stand their ground in the face of opposition and persecution. “One spirit” is an interesting phrase and deserves more attention than can be given here.

Although this phrase might mean unity, Trevin Wax’s Philippians commentary argues that “spirit” references the Holy Spirit and “is parallel to ‘stand firm in the Lord’”, which is mentioned later in Philippians 4:1. Theologian, Gordon Fee, also favors this interpretation. The same phrase is used elsewhere by Paul referring to the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18, 1 Corinthians 12:13) Thus, Paul is instructing believers to stand firm in the Holy Spirit.

Next, he instructs them to be unified by telling them to be “in one accord.” The picture developed here is once again of Roman soldiers, but this time marching together in lock step toward one goal. They were to put aside their non-essential differences and work together in unity.

Finally, he writes “contending together.” The Greek word used here is made up of “syn,” and “athleo” from which we get the word “athlete.” Paul appealed to the Roman love of sports and, according to Kenneth Wuest (Precept Austin), uses “synathleo” to refer “to an athletic contest in which a group of athletes cooperates as a team against another team, working in perfect coordination against a common opposition.”

Therefore, Paul is instructing the Philippian church that in the midst of opposition they are to stand firm in the Holy Spirit, marching toward the same goal while competing together against their common opposition. 

The Everyday Application

2) What does it mean to stand “firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel”? (verse 27)

As we have seen, the Greek word for “contend together” is an athletic term referring to a team competing in unity. We can conclude that we also are to be both on offense and defense as we contend collectively together for the gospel. Peter reminds us to be ready to give a defense for the hope within us in gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Paul charged Timothy (and us) to “preach the word” being ready whenever the opportunity arises. (2 Timothy 4:2) Earlier in 2 Timothy, Paul urged Timothy to commit to faithful men the words Timothy heard from Paul. (2 Timothy 2:2) This can be frightening, but we must remember that we are not to be “ashamed of the gospel.” Why? It “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

The gospel is the power of God for salvation! Our work in God’s Mission is not to save people, but to share the good news of salvation and redemption found in Jesus Christ; it is God’s power alone which saves. We share Christ crucified, buried, and raised and leave the saving work to the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

Paul reminded the Corinthian church that believers are servants who share the gospel and each has a role given by the Lord. One plants the seed, another waters, but it is God alone who gives growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

We also must continually be growing in our knowledge and understanding of God’s word because He tells us His word equips us for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) We do all of this in community together as united believers in Jesus, standing firm in the Holy Spirit, in one accord, laying aside non-essential differences for the sake of advancing the gospel, knowing the results are in God’s hands. 

The Original Intent

3) What is Paul intending to convey in saying, It has been granted” to the church to “suffer for” Christ? (verse 29

The kind of suffering Paul refers to here is not general suffering faced by humanity because of sin’s effects, but suffering specifically for sharing the gospel and living according to God’s call of holiness.

Paul stated that his imprisonment was because he was “in Christ.” (Philippians 1:13) Rather than complain about his situation, however, he was joyful that his imprisonment was advancing the gospel. Paul’s joy came from two outcomes of his imprisonment. The first was that the whole imperial guard and others knew that his imprisonment was because he was in Christ.

The second was that faithful brothers in Rome became more confidentto speak the word fearlessly” because of his imprisonment. (Philippians 1:12-14, Philippians 1:18-20) This is the opposite of what we think would naturally happen. We would think other believers would be more frightened, similar to the apostles’ fear after Jesus’ death.

Those men hid in the upper room, frightened the Romans would come for them next. However, once Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they were changed men, fearlessly preaching the gospel in one accord. (Acts 2:14-40, Acts 3:11-4:4, Acts 4:15-20)

This same Holy Spirit worked in the hearts and minds of the believers Paul speaks of and they became more confident to preach Christ “fearlessly” because of Paul’s imprisonment. (Philippians 1:14)

Paul reminded the Philippians their opponents were not just opposed to them, but to God Himself, which is much more frightening. Yes, God granted them salvation and suffering, but both were given in grace and victory only through the strength of the Holy Spirit. 

The Everyday Application

3) What is Paul intending to convey in saying, It has been granted” to the church to “suffer for” Christ? (verse 29)

Have you ever wondered if you would be able to endure suffering for the sake of Christ? Do you hear stories of sisters and brothers in other countries who are persecuted for the gospel and wonder, “Would I stay faithful to God under those circumstances?”

I firmly believe that if you have acknowledged to God that you are a sinner and have accepted His gift of grace and salvation through the shed blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ then yes, you would endure. If we are called to endure and persevere until the end (Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:13), doesn’t it make sense that the Holy Spirit who lives in us (1 John 4:13) would also provide us with all the grace we need to endure suffering? (1 Peter 4:14, 2 Peter 1:3)

Jesus said, “So when they arrest you and hand you over, don’t worry beforehand what you will say, but say whatever is given to you at that time, for it isn’t you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13:11) We have the Holy Spirit abiding in us and we know God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness at all times. (2 Peter 1:3)

Not only does God work in and through us, but His grace towards us is extended through our brothers and sisters. Paul wrote that we are to intercede for one another as well as encourage and build each other up. (Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:11).

We need fellow believers in our lives. We need the church around us and regular gathering around His Word and for worship to nourish and strengthen us. (Hebrews 10:25) We need each other to accomplish the mission to which God has called us. 

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