Neglected Passages in Preaching and Teaching: Philippians 1:27-30

There was a time when I heard yet one more preacher on the radio bring up the case of the woman at the well from John 4, and I groaned inwardly when I heard him start yet another take on this incident. It seems to me like many pastors nowadays overuse this passage to make some point. Shortly thereafter I came up with a list of passages that I think would wake many congregations up with a start, as they would say to themselves, “I’ve never heard anyone preach on that before!”

One of those passages is Philippians 1:27-30: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and se you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm, in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved – and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are now going through the same struggle that you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”

I’ve only heard a pastor preach on this passage once in my life, and it was at my explicit suggestion. Yet it is very germane to the current situation in which believers find themselves in a postmodern, often explicitly anti-Christian culture nowadays. It’s more important to believers to stand together for the gospel now than ever before in my lifetime. Intimidation, marginalization and vilification are the tactics more than logical argument than ever before. And it’s about time that Christians stood together for the truth of the gospel more than ever before.

This passage also brings to light the reality that suffering for Christ, in terms of suffering rejection, legal harassment, injustice and even martyrdom, is part and parcel of following Christ. One of the extraordinarily strange things, in light of all that the New Testament says about persecution by rejection, slander, ostracism and rejection by multiple authors, is that believers in our day seem to think that any believer who is being given a hard time by unbelievers has something wrong which they are responsible to fix – in other words, the believer who does not fit in with the world without Christ is a fix-it project for other believers. The New Testament is firm that the opposite is true – that it is the world without Christ which is wrong in the first place. And the believer who is being given a hard time by the non-believers in his or her life is more likely doing something right – following Christ — than something wrong.

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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