What is the Sign of our Salvation and their Destruction? (Phil 1:28)
In Phil 1:28, Paul is encouraging the Philippian Christians to “conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ,” which means they will stand firm. The verb “stand firm” is modified by two phrases, “striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel,” and “not being frightened by your opponents in any way.” If our lives are to be worthy of the Lord, then we will stand firm in our faith, and that means we will be striving for the gospel with other believers while at the same time not being frightened by the opposition we will certainly encounter from this “warped and crooked generation” (Phil 2:15).
But then Paul says, “This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved.” What does “this”refer to? What is the sign that that we are being saved? What is the sign that they will be destroyed?
”This” refers not to any one word but to both ideas, “striving side by side” and “not being frightened.” When we persevere in our faith, when we are not frightened by the spiritual opposition all around us, people will see it as an indication that they stand condemned before Christ but also as an indication that we are being saved. Weird as it sounds, its the gospel truth.
It is a bit of a stretch, but in terms of application I think “opponents” can be enlarged to the “world.” As you and I stand firm in the face of the pains and evils of this world — like viruses — the world may notice. To those of us who believe in and trust the Lord, who stand firm in the face of trials, our confidence is an indication that we are being saved. But to those who are not part of the faith, our steadfastness is an indication that we are different and that they are perishing.
Paul makes it clear that “all wishing to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). Anyone who says otherwise is selling something. As we chose the narrow gate and the difficult path, our travels naturally change us so we are different from those still on the broad road to Perdition. We were changed at the gate, and changed people will live changed lives. But it is that very change, our steadfastness together in the face of trials, that gives us the confidence that we are being saved, and unfortunately they are not.
Those who preach that there is no suffering in the Christian life rob their listeners of the blessed truth, that “it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (v 29). “Granted” is an act of grace on God’s part to allow us to join in suffering with Christ, along with believing in him. (Both “granted” and “grace” are formed on the same basic Greek word.)
So during this pandemic, let’s be different from those who have no hope. Let’s be firm together in our conviction of the goodness and power of God. Let’s be steadfast as we trust God and not run in fear. People will see it, and some may ask why.
After all, as my wife says, what’s the worst that could happen? Answer that as a committed Christian who knows he or she is loved by a good and all-powerful God, who sees the beginning from the end, and does all things according to the counsel of his will.