Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Big brother is watching! Was Paul unnecessarily controlling as he told the church in Philippi how they should live and that he would see or hear about what they were up to? Of course not. He knew that this fledgling church would face challenging times and needed to be prepared for it. God’s grace and forgiveness is freely given but their and our response is to live a holy life.
And central to this is that they are to stand firm in one Spirit. On a recent visit to Rome we visited the Church of St Ignatius of Loyola. It was a real gem in many ways. But in particular there was an amazing model built by an Italian cabinet maker. He started it when he was 70 and completed it when he was 98 shortly before he died. Around the model there were churches from the five continents. But as you raised your eyes there was a huge dome representing the whole Church of Jesus Christ. The creator was making the point that there are many expressions of Church but they are only part of the whole and that Christ’s Church is so much bigger than our own little churches. It also recalls Jesus’ prayer that his followers would be one.
It was important in Paul’s time as it is today that the church doesn’t divide and fragment. He sees this as central in the Gospel is going to be proclaimed. And he warns that they will meet opposition and describes it as a privilege if they suffer because of their faith. Paul should know as he has been imprisoned for his faith. Together, Paul in Rome, and the believers in Philippi stand in solidarity as they witness to Jesus.
Help us to stand firm…
to stand firm with our fellow believers
to stand firm for what is right
to stand firm against opposition
to stand firm when we suffer
to stand firm in living and proclaiming the Gospel.
But we can’t do it by ourselves.
We need your help and the encouragement of each other. Amen
The Rev’d George Watt, minister of Reigate Park United Reformed Church
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