"Do Not be Terrified by Your Adversaries" Page 2 of 2 (series: Lessons on Philippians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

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. The privilege of suffering for Christ is the privilege of doing the kind of work for Him that is important enough to merit the world’s counterattack. Is this hard doctrine for soft Christians? Yes, but no doctrine in the New Testament, has a better endorsement 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.”

But may I ask you friend, what can be more honorable than suffering for the name of the Lord Jesus? This Jesus is the King of ages, the Prince of angels, the Lord of glory. His Gospel is the highest of all truth; it is the salvation of the world, the seed of life and immortality. For what better person, place, or thing could we suffer? Believers suffering is a gift of grace which brings power (2 Corinthians 7:9, 101; 1 Peter 5:10) and eternal reward (1 Peter 4:132).

Although Paul’s primary concern here is to insure his readers that it is no less a privilege to suffer for Christ than to believe in Him (Acts 5:413), his words also indicate that the prior grace of faith is just as much a gift of God: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). He says expressly, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ . . . to believe in him,” which necessarily implies that this movement itself is of our hearts, opening to the light of the Gospel, and receiving the truth that the preacher presents to it, is a gift of God, and not a work of nature . . . It is He who opened the heart of Lydia to attend to St. Paul (Acts 16:14). Paul plants, and Apollos waters; but neither one of them is anything. It is God that gives the increase. We are His husbandry, and His work (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7, 9)4. It is He who revealed His secret to Peter; it was not flesh and blood: “Jesus replied, ‘You are blessed, Simon son of John,e because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.’” (Matthew 16:17). “It is He who revealed His Son to Paul, shining in his heart, that he might enlighten the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15). “It is He who, according to His good pleasure, hides these things from the wise and prudent, and reveals them unto babes” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-9).

As for the privilege of suffering, Paul teaches everywhere that this is an essential part of the believer’s experience and the badge of authentic discipleship (3:105; Acts 14:22; Romans 5:3; 8:17, 35; 2 Timothy 1:8). This means that the persecution of believers is not an accidental event, which happens either by chance, or by the wickedness of men or devils alone. It is God, who guides the whole affair by divine intervention. He sees the rage of the enemies of His people. He knows their plans, He perceives all that they are contriving against the Gospel and could (if such were His good pleasure) break down both their plans and their efforts in an instant. He lets them alone, and by secret arrangements oversees their violence against every one of His servants, as His supreme wisdom identifies that which is best. He Himself selects the field where the combat is to be decided. He directs the weapons and the blows, and rules every action. He calls His warrior, and by Himself places him in front of the enemy.

1) “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you” (2 Thessalonians 1:9, 10).
2) “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).
3) “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41).
4) “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth . . . For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7, 9).
5) “I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Philippians 3:10)

(30) since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

“Besides,” Paul adds, I am in it with you “since you are going through the same struggle you saw (see Acts 16:19-24) “I had when he suffered whippings and imprisonment at Philippi (Acts 16:19-24), and now hear about his present imprisonment and trial at Rome (vs. 12; 2:25) that I still have.” They stand together in the great contest of faith to defend the Gospel of Christ against their common enemy. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15). Paul here thinks of the conflicts and suffering of the Christian life as a life which in its totality stands under the sign of the cross and in this sign caries the cross of Christ to victory.

Satan wants us to think we are alone in the battle, that our difficulties are unique, but such is not the case. Paul reminds the Philippians that he is going through the same difficulties they are experiencing hundreds of miles from Rome! A change in geography is usually no solution to spiritual problems, because human nature is the same wherever you go, and the enemy is everywhere. Knowing that my fellow believers are also sharing in the battle is an encouragement for me to keep going and to pray for them as I pray for myself.

Actually, going through spiritual conflict is one way we have to grow in Christ. God gives us the strength we need to stand firm against the enemy, and this confidence is proof to him that he will lose and we are on the winning side (v. 28). The Philippians had seen Paul go through conflict when he was with them (Acts 16:191), and they had witnessed his firmness in the Lord. As we face the enemy and depend on the Lord, He gives us all that we need for the battle. When the enemy sees our God-given confidence, it makes him fear.

Life, said Epictetus, is like an Olympic festival, and we are God’s athletes to whom He has given the chance of showing what we are made of. The Christian ought to be able to say that too, but even with more conviction. So Paul says, in effect, to the Philippians: “The battle is on for you and me. Let us do something wonderful for Christ.”

1) “When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities” (Acts 16:19)

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