Only let your conversation [or, behavior] be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 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. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. (vv. 27-30)
The word conversation, as ordinarily employed by our forefathers, was of far wider scope than as generally used by us today. It meant not only the talk of the lips, though it included that, but it took in the entire behavior. The apostle’s exhortation is to the effect that the whole manner of life of the people of God should be in accordance with the gospel of Christ. No more important message was ever committed to man than the word of reconciliation, which God has graciously entrusted to His people in this present dispensation of His mercy to a lost world. That gospel tells of the divine means of deliverance from the guilt and power of sin. How incongruous, then, if the testimonies of those who undertake to proclaim it with their mouths deny its power in their lives! A walk worthy of the gospel is a walk in the energy of the Holy Spirit. It is a life surrendered to Him, whose Lordship that gospel declares.
But it is not merely our individual responsibility to walk worthy of the gospel that the apostle here presses. He has rather before him assembly responsibility. He desires to hear of the affairs of the Philippians, that, as an assembly, they stand fast in one spirit with one mind, cooperating vigorously for the faith of the gospel. Nothing so mars gospel testimony as contention and self-seeking among God’s people. Where jealousies and envyings come in to hinder the fellowship of those who should be standing together heart to heart and shoulder to shoulder for the truth of God, the effect on the world outside is most lamentable. This is particularly so with the unsaved members of believers’ families. Nothing is more harmful to them than to find out that their elders are not commending the message they profess to love by unitedly standing together for the Word of God.
Is there not something here that deserves the careful consideration of many believers in the assemblies gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ at the present time? Have we not allowed personalities, bickerings, and strife to greatly mar and hinder gospel testimony? On the other hand, it must be confessed that some, possessing evangelistic gift, have ignored, to a very marked degree, the importance of assembly fellowship in gospel testimony, launching forth often without the prayerful endorsement of older, more godly saints. They are afterward surprised and grieved that they do not find heartier cooperation on the part of assemblies whose judgment they ignored to begin with. The evangelist is the Lord’s servant, and, therefore, is not subject to human dictation, but, on the other hand, fellowship involves mutual responsibility, and evangelists need to remember that gift is not necessarily piety nor does it always carry with it good judgment and sound wisdom. Therefore the importance of cultivating humility on the part of the servant, if he would have the hearty fellowship of assemblies in his work.
When there is this lowly, subject spirit manifested by the evangelist, and vigorous cooperation on the part of the assembly, God can be depended on to work in mighty power to the salvation of lost souls, and the blessing of His people; and this, to the enemy, is a condition he most dreads. Where an assembly is walking in love and exercised about the Lord’s things in this scene, they need not fear the attacks of evil powers, natural or supernatural, from without. These unholy hosts read their own doom in the happy fellowship of the saints of God and see in it a proof of the truth of the Lord’s words, “Upon this rock I will build [mine assembly]; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The thought that many have in mind in reading this Scripture seems to be that the assembly of God is as a city besieged, beleaguered by the enemies of the Lord and carrying on a defensive warfare, though with the pledge of eventual victory. This, however, is far from fulfilling the picture presented by our Lord. An invading or besieging army does not carry the gates of its cities with it. It is hell, or hades, the realm of darkness, that is being besieged by the forces of light who are carrying on, not a defensive, but an offensive warfare, and to them the promise is given that “the gates of hell shall not prevail.” This is the “perdition” spoken of in verse 28.
Such fellowship as that which the apostle brings before us, cannot be fully entered into apart from suffering, but this is to be esteemed as a privilege by those who fight under the banner of the risen Lord. It is given to such, as it were a guerdon greatly to be desired, in behalf of Christ Himself, not only to trust in Him as Savior, but manfully to toil and suffer, that His name may be glorified in the scene where He Himself was rejected and crucified, and over which He is soon coming to reign.
How blessedly and how fully had the apostle entered into this! With what joy did he endure and suffer that Christ might be glorified! Yea, at the very time of writing this letter he was the prisoner of the Lord in a Roman prison, while saints at Philippi, some of them at least, were living in comfort and slothfulness, and some even stooping to quarreling among themselves. The apostle’s words in verse 30 would prove, surely, a home-thrust to such as these, stirring heart and conscience, as they contrasted their easygoing lives with the sufferings of Christ’s dear servant, who was in prison because of his unselfish devotion to the Lord he loved. May we learn to walk in the same spirit, and mind the same things!
Christ, the Believer’s Example, and the Lowly Mind