Commentary on Philippians, 1:28-30 (Suffering for Jesus)

“27 Only let your life as citizens be worthy of the gospel of Christ, that whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one soul striving together for the faith of the gospel;
28 and in nothing terrified by your adversaries, which is for them a sign of perdition, but of your salvation, and that from God;

“terrified”  (Gr. pturo – 4426)

Only here in the New Testament.

Alarmed, startled, scared.

Describes the uncontrollable stampede of startled horses on the battlefield. The Philippian Christians were not to be terrified of their adversaries and respond like an uncontrollable stampede of alarmed horses.

“adversaries”

Those who oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Like Paul was (Acts 16:11-24), the Philippians were being persecuted by opponents of the Christian faith. These opponents could have been Jews or pagans, or both.

“sign”  (Gr. endeixis – 1732)

Proof, demonstration, evidence.

Preceptaustin:

Sign (1732) (endeixis [word study] from endeíknumi = show forth <> en = in, to + deíknumi = expose to eyes and give proof , make known by visual, auditory, or linguistic means) (also translated “omen”) means a pointing out (particularly with the finger) or a proof. It is “evidence marked and manifest.” (Eadie) It is something that points to or serves as an indicator of something else and hence is synonymous with a sign, an indication, evidence, verification. It describes the means by which one knows that something is a fact. It is something that compels acceptance of something mentally or emotionally and thus serves as a demonstration or a proof.”

“perdition”  (Gr. apoleia – 684)

Destruction, ruin, to perish.

Does not mean annihilation. The Bible does not teach annihilation, but eternal suffering as the consequence of sin and rejection of the only truth that can save (Matt 25:31-46; 2 Th 1:5-10; ; Rev 14: 9-11; Rev 20:10-15).

What was this “sign of perdition?” It refers to the opposition between Christians and non-Christians, between light and darkness, between truth and the false. The fact that our adversaries oppose Christ, Christians, the truth, etc., is a sign or the evidence that they oppose the only means by which they can be saved from perdition, and that is faith in Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, the faithfulness of Christians to endure under such opposition, is a sign or the evidence of their “salvation,” that they belong to Jesus, for whom they are suffering persecution.

The sign for Christians is the endurance of faith, which is demonstrated by non-terror. Those who profess Christ, but do not endure in their faith, but give in to the opposition so not to suffer, they demonstrate either a false faith or a weak faith that does not hold up, but ultimately denies faith in Christ. 

I believe we see in this verse conditional eternal security. Saving faith is an enduring faith, one that remains true and unwavering throughout one’s life. In other words, our salvation is conditioned on a faith that continues, and in this case, in the midst of persecution from adversaries of the gospel of Christ (vs. 27)

Our salvation rests completely in Christ (“and that from God”), but it’s faith in Christ that saves. The means of salvation is faith in the Lord Jesus and what He accomplished for us on the cross. If one’s faith weakens to the point of denial of Christ under severe persecution, I believe it results in a forfeiture of salvation (2 Ti 2:10-12; Ti 2:11-14; Jude 1:4; Rev 2:13), as the next verse indicates:

“29 because to you it has been graciously given on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf;”

“graciously given”  (Gr. charizomai – 5483)

A gift of grace, a grant of free favor or kindness.

Suffering for Christ has been given to believers as a gracious gift. Just as salvation has been given to us as a gracious gift, so is suffering on behalf of Christ. Persecution and suffering for Christ, on any level, goes with the territory. As Jesus said, “if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:20).  

Therefore, we should not find it surprising when persecution comes our way, nor should we shrink from it, for it’s part of our calling. If we do shrink from it, and deny Christ to spare ourselves from suffering, then I believe we forfeit our salvation. For both salvation and suffering are given as gracious gifts, and go hand in hand. 

Can one’s salvation be restored after denying knowing Christ? Yes, as long as one doesn’t continue down that path. There’s always forgiveness upon confession and repentance. What if someone continues to deny Christ whenever faced with severe persecution? I think we would have to conclude that the faith that person professes must be a false faith. 

This conflict is a matter of light vs. darkness. It’s the truth and light of the gospel that Satan rebels against. The devil doesn’t fight against that which is false, but only against the truth. Thus there’s always going to be this spiritual warfare between light and darkness, and it’s the people of this world that Satan uses against the followers of Christ. He entices them to move against us (Acts 2618; 2 Cor 2:11; Eph 6:10-16; Col 1:13; 2 Ti 2:25-26).

In America, the seeker-sensitive church dominates, with it’s shallow easy-believism, and its people-centered: “what can God do for me” philosophy. But the reality is, true discipleship comes with a cost. Being a Christian is not about how God can bless me and make my life more comfortable, it’s about being a follower of Christ and submitting to His will. It’s about serving Him. It’s about identifying ourselves with Him. This identification can mean severe persecution and suffering, and we must all be prepared for that. 

Though the name of Jesus is a name “above all names” (Phil 2:9), it’s a name that is hated in this world. Yet we are to identify with that name because we are not of this world, even as Jesus is not of this world (Jn 17:14). It’s a wonderful honor and blessing to be associated with that glorious name. Therefore, there should be no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed because of our identification with that name, but is to be embraced out of a sincere love for the One who bears that name. Furthermore, we should abandon fear, and trust God for the grace to endure.

“30 having the same conflict that you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”

“conflict” (Gr. agon – 73)

Generally any struggle or contest.

Originally referred to a place of assembly, and also a place where athletic events were held. The word developed to refer to any kind of conflict.

“that you saw in me”

The conflicts (persecutions) that Paul is talking about, was something that the Philippians had seen first hand. At least in part, Paul probably has in mind what is recorded for us in Acts 16:11-24. 

“and now hear to be in me”

They had probably heard of Paul’s current conflicts in Rome via messengers and other travelers (Phil 2:19-28).

If people persecuted Jesus, they would also persecute Paul. If people persecuted Paul, then they would also persecute the Philippian Christians, for “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his lord” (Matt 10:24; Jn 15:20). In this case, Paul was their teacher, so if they persecuted him, then they would also persecute those who followed his teaching. 

The true focus of persecution is always Jesus. How ironic that people should persecute the Creator and Ruler of the universe. One day they will bow before Him and confess Him as Lord (Phil 2:9-11).