I would say, “Happy New Year” except that we actually started this study of Philippians at the beginning of the Christian Year. (Advent is the first season of the Christian year.) For those really into Christian Calendars and Holy Days, the day our secular culture celebrates as “New Year’s Day” is actually the anniversary of the day Jesus was named and circumcised. See Luke 2:21-38. I mention this, in part, to acknowledge how the Christians in Philippi suffered some of the same difficulties that we suffer today. This lesson brings that out.
Christmas has probably distracted all of us from our normal routine. In addition, it’s Wednesday. So, we’ll look at a rather short segment and finish Chapter One.
Verses 27-30 are, apparently, a call to arms. The InterVarsity Press Commentary does point out a few interesting things. First, it informs us that these four verses are one long convoluted sentence in the Greek. And it gives a reason for Paul to write this way. Apparently, it has to do with how the written word sounds, as compared to the spoken word. For us, the translators have split this convoluted sentence in an effort to make it more understandable.
In the IVP commentary on verse 27 we find some further explanation of the political situation in Philippi at this time. In our culture, we have “Political Correctness” acting as a dictator, so I think we do have some empathy for their situation. The IVP does have some good comments about spiritual warfare and the Holy Spirit. There is also an explanation of the phrase “in one spirit” which might be helpful to you.
The comments on verse 28 are centered on dealing with the ‘emperor cult’. If I might interject a thought: this is where we as Christians can get into trouble. We can be arrogant in our defiance of the emperor, in our defiance of Political Correctness. Just because we know what chapter 2:10 says, just because we know we are saved, we must be careful in how we structure our defiance. While we must “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel” (NIV) we need to remember to be humble and gracious. For our goal is not that our attackers should reap the reward of Hell, but that they would repent and be saved.
Verse 30 does seem to confirm that the Philippians are suffering a persecution. That persecution is part of the reason for the letter. The IVP comments on verses 29-30 deal with their theological explanation of suffering. I doubt that our personal suffering is “taking up the Cross”. There is so very much more to “taking up the Cross” than suffering and suffering involves so very much more than “taking up the Cross”. If you need a place to start in understanding suffering for Christ, then this is a short introduction.
Please leave your comments and ask your questions. In these four verses we have touched on several very important topics. There are a number of wise people available to provide some answers. Your question/comment need not be ‘eloquent’, just honest.