In these passages, St. Paul is encouraging the believers of Philippi to apply their faith in Christ to their social life. It is clear that God’s intention is that believers should have an active influence for good in society (See Matthew 5:16). If we avoid society by locking ourselves into a round of safe Christian activities and meetings, we cannot influence our world for God.
Read Philippians 1:27-30 & 2:12-18
1. Contending for the Faith
(I) Even though Paul was unsure of the outcome of his imprisonment and impending trial, he was concerned that – whatever the outcome – his friends at Philippi should continue to live for God.
(II) He exhorts them to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The word which he uses (translated as “conduct yourselves”) refers to our lives as citizens or members of society. It would include such areas as our attitude at our workplaces, honesty, cooperativeness, financial management, our contribution to the well-being of society, etc. Too often the idea of Christian testimony or lifestyle is linked to just a few restrictions (e.g. not smoking, not drinking), whilst ignoring much larger and weightier matters.
(III) Specifically, Paul addresses the need for unity (“standing firm in one spirit, contending as one man…”). Working together as Christians in cooperation and mutual respect is a crucial part of our witness in this world. Bickering Christians, no matter how “holy” they might be in terms of dress or other externals, are the worst possible testimony to the world.
2. Shining in a Dark World
(I) God does not want us to become stale in our Christian life or to slip backward. Rather were told to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12)
(II) Note that we are not told to “work for our salvation.” Salvation is a free gift of God, but it takes a lifetime of learning, labor, making the right decisions, and sacrifice, to mature in our salvation experience. It is God’s plan that we work together with him to develop into the godly people he saved us to be – mature in thoughts and actions. (Philippians 2:12)
(III) “Fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) remind us of the gravity of the responsibility placed upon us. We are to have a sense of holy awe concerning the God whom we live for, and a sense of horror concerning sin. After all, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
(IV) In the midst of a society that is corrupted by sin, the life of the Christian is to provide a striking contrast – compared to stars shining in the night sky (Philippians 2:15). As an area of our conduct of specific concern, we are told to “do everything without complaining or arguing.” (Philippians 2:14). In a society where contention, strife, criticism, slander, and all kinds of negative attitudes are everywhere, how striking it is to find someone who has a pleasant attitude and who speaks words that are edifying and gracious.
(V) Knowing that his disciples at Philippi were living this kind of transformed life, radiating the gospel from their lives and witness, Paul could rejoice that the purpose of his evangelistic ministry had been accomplished (Philippians 2:16-17)
3. Being a Godly Example
(I) One of the characteristics of mature believers is their positive influence on others. Most of us have followed the example of a more mature Christian. Paul was not afraid to set himself as an example in his pattern of life for others to follow (Philippians 3:17; 4:9)
(II) Paul was also deeply saddened and wept as he considered those “Christians” whose present lifestyle made them actually enemies of the cross (Philippians 3:18-19). “The Cross” speaks of death to the sinful self, but there were people whose god is their stomach, whose glory is in their shame, and whose mind is set on earthly things. In other words, their priority in life was merely sensual gratification. We should take these words to heart because it is speaking there of those who had started out as Christians. Today we live in a society where we are bombarded by invitations to sensual gratification in a manner almost unimaginable in the time of the Apostle Paul. Both the eastern (Bollywood) and the western (Hollywood) varieties are hostile to developing a Christian worldview and thought life.
(III) We are a different type of people. Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 1:27). This does not mean that we are to wash our hands of the world; rather it means that the rules and standards and norms by which we live are not those of this world, but of the Kingdom of God.
(IV) Living a Christian life which is an example to others does not refer only to “witnessing” in the narrow sense of talking about God. Our thoughts and life will govern our words, our decisions, and our actions. Thus we are to think about whatever is true, right, pure, lovely, admirable or excellent, or praiseworthy. Whether the topic is religion or politics, the environment or the family, this principle is applicable. When our thoughts are pure and positive, our words and our actions will follow. How can we be a light for the gospel at home, at work, in the neighborhood, and in the nation?
St. Paul encouraged the Philippians to apply their faith in Christ to their social lives in his epistle to them. It is obvious that God’s aim is for believers to have a positive influence on society. We cannot influence our world for God if we isolate ourselves from society by engaging in safe Christian activities and meetings.
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