Paul wrote in Philippians 1:28, “And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.” The most important thing for any human being is the salvation of the soul. If your eternal destiny is settled, then anything else that can happen to you is of little importance in comparison. Jesus said, “What shall it profit a man, should he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?” In this passage Paul is talking about the difference between the saved and the lost. He used the word “adversaries.” We are not their adversaries because we are interested in their benefit in coming to know Christ as Savior. But they are our adversaries because they oppose us.
There is a difference between the saved and the lost in this world. The lost do not understand the saved, and the lost are not of the same spirit as the saved. In spite of the antagonistic and negative attitudes that the lost people sometimes display against us, Paul reminded us that we should not fear them. We shouldn’t fear anything. God is on our side. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” The unbelievers are the ones who should fear, but they should not fear us. They should fear being cast into the lake of fire forever and ever. They should fear going out into eternity still under the guilt of their sins.
The believers have been saved by faith through Christ. This salvation includes the wonderful eternity that awaits us in heaven, but it also involves something that is not so pleasant. The Bible says in Phil. 1:29-30, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” There is a price to pay for believing in Christ. The servant is not greater than his Lord. All that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Don’t be unwise, but understanding what is going to sometimes happen to you and the reason that it’s going to happen. Jesus was nailed to a cross. Paul was chased all across the Mediterranean and more than once was beaten and cast into prison.
In Philippians 1:30 Paul spoke of a conflict. The Christian life is not a stroll in the park. It’s a battle, a war, a struggle, and a conflict. There is a war raging in this world. It’s a war that will rage until Jesus Himself returns to the earth to trample out the grapes of wrath to win the final victory over the forces of evil. The Bible says in Rev. 14:14, 16, 19 and 20: “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud sat one like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle…And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped… And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.” It is good to know what the final outcome will be, but until that day comes hopefully you understand that you are called to be a soldier in the battle. If not, you are probably not prepared, and the enemy of your soul will bring you down very easily. Jesus warned Peter that Satan desired to sift him like wheat.
Of course, anything that God asks you to suffer for Him, He is going to reward you for doing so both in the next life and in this life. The rewards in this life are spiritual in nature. The rewards are especially in regards to what a person will grow to become in character, the opportunities that one is given to glorify the name of God, and the influence that one is permitted to have in the spread of the gospel. If you are given a time of the suffering of persecution, you might want to remember the things that Paul spoke of here at the start of Philippians chapter two. He said in Phil. 2:1-2, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies; Fulfill ye my joy, that you be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
If you are a Christian who walks with the Lord in this life, one of the worst things that you will experience is the persecution that will come against you from unbelievers at times. But Paul is saying that there are things that God will do for you to make up for any such sufferings. He listed four things: consolation in Christ, comfort of love, fellowship of the Spirit, and bowels and mercies. In the phrase “consolation in Christ,” the word that is translated “consolation” literally means that one is called along side of you to comfort you. In this case Jesus Christ Himself is said to be with you, accompanying you to comfort you in whatever you are suffering. There is a comforter sent from God who can comfort you in any sorrow.
In the phrase “comfort of love” the word that is translated “comfort” is a word that emphasizes the fact that someone is speaking to you in order to comfort you. Of course, they are speaking words of love because we are told that this is the comfort of love. Everyone needs to be loved. Everyone likes to hear from their lover the words, “I love you.” If you are suffering, you can find great comfort in listening to what God has to say to you. He is saying, “I love you.”
Paul said that there is a consolation in Christ, a comfort of love, and a fellowship of the Spirit. “Fellowship” speaks of unity and joint participation that is based upon common interest. True Christianity is not a list of rules and regulations. It is a vital relationship through the Spirit of God with the eternal Father and His Son. Some human beings may reject you and cast you out of their company, but God has received you. Learn to get the social interaction that you need from God through the Spirit, and you will not be so much bothered by the attitude of human beings towards you.
We may be persecuted at times, but we have four great things from God to help in our times of suffering. We have consolation in Christ, comfort of love, fellowship in the Spirit, and bowels and mercies. The phrase “bowels and mercies” refers to the most intense of emotions that go deep into the soul and being. When we suffer God cares about us deeply. He understands. He cares. He considers our condition with great compassion. When Mary and Martha lost their brother, Jesus wept. When the Lord Jesus Christ finally decides to return to the earth to take vengeance on the ungodly, it will be the prayers and the tears and the suffering of the saints that will compel Him to do so.
Because of these things that God does for us in a spiritual sense concerning our fellowship with Him, there are things that He wishes us to do for each other in our relationships with each other as believers. Paul said, “Fulfill ye my joy, that you be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Human beings are social creatures. We may suffer from the people of the world because of the way that they treat us, but we should receive comfort and acceptance from each other. We should love each other as Christ has loved us. Notice the emphasis on unity. Four phrases are used: all of which are important to creating and maintaining unity. Without these things instead of unity, there will be division. The four things mentioned here that should characterize the relationship of believers with each other are: being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, and being of one mind.
Paul continues with his theme of Christian unity in Philippians 2:2-3 where he says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” It’s not only important what we do, but why we do it. We should not do anything through strife. “Strife” refers to opposing, battling, or competing with other Christians. Human beings naturally compete with one another. Some competition is necessary such as the competition between good and evil, but there is a lot of competition that is very negative. If you compete in a negative way with someone who is supposed to be your team member, then it will hurt the team. We live in a highly competitive society. If you are not careful, you will be doing things through a spirit of “strife” in regards to other believers, and the effectiveness of the team will suffer from it.
Another thing that can hurt the team is “vainglory.” “Vainglory” speaks of having too high of an opinion of yourself. This refers to vanity, the wrong kind of pride, and high-mindedness. It refers to a person evaluating themselves and thinking that they are better than others. Of course, vainglory will hurt unity because a person who has this kind of attitude will treat others and talk to others in a way that they should not. They will talk down to others and look down on others. The word “vain” means empty. If you do things through vainglory and have this kind of extremely high opinion of yourself, then your opinion is really empty because you have the wrong opinion. God is the only one who should be held in such high esteem. To God be the glory, not to man. We should think and speak things that elevate God, not ourselves.
In order to help preserve unity we are told very clearly what attitude we should have towards other believers. “Let each esteem other better than themselves.” According to this verse treating others as equals is not enough. We should look at others as being better than we are. If we do that, we will not have a problem with strife and vainglory. You have heard the old saying, “Learn to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” In other words, be sympathetic to the situation of others. Something very similar to this is said here. “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” We are selfish if we only look at things from our own personal viewpoint. There is always another way of looking at things. We should be understanding and considerate of the way that someone else looks at things. If we are not, we will not contribute to Christian unity the way that we should.
In case we are having difficulty in understanding how to have such a selfless attitude towards other believers, we are given the perfect example to follow. That’s one of the great challenges of the Christian life, the fact that we are given such a high standard to aspire to. Philippians 2:5 says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” An important thing to notice about this verse is the first word, “Let.” It speaks of our own will, our own decisions, and our own choices. When we are selfish, we choose to be selfish, and we are held accountable for our choices. There is no excuse for doing things through strife or vainglory. There is no excuse for esteeming yourself more highly than others. There is no excuse for not following the example that Jesus gave to us. Do not fool yourself. By the grace of God you have the power to make the right choice.
The Bible says about Jesus in Philippians 2:6-8, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” We have been asked to humble ourselves in our relationships with other believers. Jesus did so to a much greater degree than we have been asked to do. Notice the contrast to where Jesus was before He humbled Himself to where He was after He humbled Himself. Before He humbled Himself He was sitting on the throne of divinity in all of the wonderful majesty and power and glory of heaven, but He let it all go in order to come into a world of woe, and then to suffer and die for you and me.
In some mysterious way Jesus let go of the prerogatives of divinity without losing the nature of the divine. Notice the phrase that is used of Him, He “thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” He is equal with God because God the Son is equal with God the Father. The phrase that says that He “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” means that He thought it not a thing to be clutched at and grabbed at to be equal with God. He did not have a hold of it so tightly so that He was unable or unwilling to let go. That would be selfish. Too bad more believers do not follow this example of Jesus. There are too many who hold on to positions and places of power within church organizations in such a way as to violate the example that Jesus gave. If Jesus had been like them, He would have never left the throne in glory to come into a world of woe. We will sing His praises forever that He did let go and did come into this world to die alone for you and for me.
Copyright; 2001 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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