"Do Not be Terrified by Your Adversaries" Page 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Philippians)
by John Lowe
Title: Do Not be Terrified by Your Adversaries
Scripture: (Philippians 1:28-30, NIV)
(28) 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. (29) For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, (30) since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
In this short passage the message Paul has given us is, “Don’t be alarmed by your opponents.” Certainly, nobody blindly runs into a fight; but then, no true believer should deliberately avoid the enemy. In these verses, Paul gives us several encouragements that give us confidence in the battle:
1) These battles prove that we are saved (v. 28).
2) The presence of conflict is a privilege; we suffer “for His sake.” In fact, Paul tells us that this conflict is “granted” to us―it is a gift (v. 29).
3) Others are experiencing the same conflict (v. 30).
Although Paul is confident that he will see the Philippians again, this confidence comes from Paul’s love for the congregation and the fact that he knows that they still need him as their pastor. Thus, Paul begins his section of pastoral instruction with “whatever happens. . . (v. 27)” Paul recognizes that he is not in control of the situation but humbly acknowledges God’s sovereignty. Paul acknowledges that he may come to see them or he may only hear about them (either in prison or in death), but he nonetheless desires that they live lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ. They are to stand in unity as the body of Christ, the church. This is the important internal evidence of a life worthy of the Gospel. The external aspect of this life is seen in the effect that the true Christian community has on the pagan world around it. Paul is calling the Philippians to stand for the faith of the Gospel. Yet this affect on the world outside the church can only take place once the church is true to its calling to unity and faith in the Gospel.
(28) 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.
Who are the opponents “those who oppose you” mentioned in verse 28? They might be Jews who are opposed to the Gospel. More probably they are heathen antagonists; members of a violently hostile element at Philippi. In any case, the fearlessness of the Christians would be to them “a clear omen . . . of their destruction”; and it sent the message to the adversaries that their attempts to thwart the Gospel were futile and could only lead to their own destruction. Such enemies would see that the strength of the Christians could come only from superhuman forces. They would say to themselves, reversing Paul’s question, if “God is against us, who can be for us?” And, noting the demeanor of the Philippian Christians they would concluded that God must certainly be “for” such people.
For, Paul continues, “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.” Clearly Paul’s readers had been undergoing persecution. Are some inclined to complain against their lot? Then, Paul says, let them realize that they are really favored persons! It is the Christian’s privilege to suffer for his Savior. Let him welcome this privilege. Is this hard doctrine for soft Christians? Yes, but no doctrine has a better endorsement in the New Testament, which, from the time that Christ called His disciples to take up the cross right to the Book of Revelation, insists again and again, “No cross, no crown.” Paul’s hope was that his deliverance from prison, and faithfulness in suffering would cause them to be fearless in their own proclamation of the Gospel so that they would not be terrified by their adversaries; and having observed Paul’s faithfulness in suffering, they would also be willing to suffer for Christ (vs. 29-30). When believers willingly suffer without being “terrified,” it is a sign that God’s enemies will be “destroyed” and eternally lost (2 Thessalonians 1:4-81).
“without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.”
The Philippians must not be thrown into a panic by their persecutors, but must face them without fear. As it would appear from Acts 16:132 that there were not enough Jews in Philippi to form a synagogue a minimum of ten men was required, this opposition must have come mainly from their pagan neighbors, whose devotion to the heathen cults would have been insulted by a faith which condemned all idol-worship. Paul says that such Christian fearlessness under attack provides these persecutors with a token which foreshadows their own doom but also points to the salvation of their victims. For in fighting against God’s people, they are bringing upon themselves that just recompense, which consists in “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-93).
“and that by God”
This shows that God is the author of the Philippians’ stability under suffering: their standing firm in contending and being unafraid comes to them “from God” even as Paul adds “and that by God” (v. 29).
1) “Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:4-8).
2) “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there” (Acts 16:13).
3) “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-9)
(29) For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him
“For”, Paul continues, “it has been granted more literally, it has been graciously conferred “to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.” Paul calls this “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). For some reason, many new believers have the idea that trusting Christ means the end of their battles. In reality, it means the beginning of new battles.
• "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
• “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
But the presence of conflict is a privilege we suffer “for Him.” In fact, Paul tells us that this conflict is “granted” to us―it is a gift! If we were suffering for ourselves, it would be no privilege; but because we are suffering for and with Christ, it is a high and holy honor. After all, He suffered for us, and a willingness to suffer for Him is the very least we can do to show our love and gratitude.