(1)To STEADFASTNESS AND CONFIDENCE UNDER PERSECUTION (Philippians 1:27-30).
(2)To UNITY OF SPIRIT, based on humility and self-forgetfulness (Philippians 2:1-4).]
(27-30) In these verses St. Paul exhorts the Philippians to unanimous boldness and steadfastness, under some conflict of antagonism or persecution which threatened them at this time. Of the history of the Church at Philippi we have no historical record after the notice of St. Paul's first visit, and of the violence which he then had to endure (Acts 16:12-40). But in 2 Corinthians 7:5, written certainly from Macedonia, probably from Philippi, towards the close of the third missionary journey, we find St. Paul saying, "When we were come to Macedonia our flesh had no rest. Without were fightings, within were fears." (Comp. also 2 Corinthians 8:2 of the same Epistle.) It would seem, therefore, that the subsequent history of the Philippian Church corresponded only too well to the circumstances under which its Christianity first began.
(27) Let your conversation . . .--The original is here (as in the famous passage, Philippians 3:20), Use your citizenship (that is, of the kingdom of heaven) worthily of the gospel of Christ. The same word is employed by St. Paul in Acts 23:1 ("I have walked in all good conscience before God"), with an obvious reference to his citizenship in the chosen nation of Israel. Its use in this Epistle is suggestive--both as natural to one contemplating the great imperial city, and writing to the people of a Roman colony proud of their full citizenship, and also as leading on to that great conception of the unity of the Church in earth and in heaven, which is the main subject of the Ephesian, and in some degree of the Colossian, Epistle.
In one spirit, with one mind.--Rather, in one spirit, one soul. The phrase "in one spirit" may refer to the spirit of man, or to the Spirit of God. If it be intended to be strictly parallel to the "one soul" (which has no separate preposition in the Greek), the former sense is manifestly suggested. If, however, the words "with one soul" be connected, as is not unnatural, with "striving together," this suggestion falls to the ground; and the usage of this Epistle (see especially Philippians 2:1-7), and the other Epistles of the same period (Ephesians 2:18-22; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 5:18; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 1:8), certainly favours the latter interpretation. In either case "the soul" (as in the famous three-fold division of men's nature in 1 Thessalonians 5:23) is that element of humanity which is the seat of emotion and passion. (Comp. the "one heart and one soul" of Acts 4:32.) This element the Christianity of the New Testament, unlike Stoicism or asceticism, will not crush, but enlist, as it enlists the body also, in the free service of God.
Striving together for the faith.--Properly, with the faith. The faith of the gospel--the power of Christianity--is personified. The Philippians are to be combatants on the same side against the same foes (compare the use of the same word in Philippians 4:3). The metaphor seems drawn from the games, as is seen by the use of the simple verb in 2 Timothy 2:8, "If a man strive . . . he is not crowned, except he strive lawfully." In the exhortation to stand fast (comp. Ephesians 6:13-14) we have the element of passive endurance, here of active and aggressive energy.
that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs. The Vulgate Latin version reads "hear of you"; and so do the Syriac and Ethiopic versions:
that ye stand fast in one spirit; meaning either the Gospel, which is the Spirit that giveth life; so called because it is from the, Spirit of God, and that by which he is conveyed into the souls of men, and contains spiritual things: this is one, uniform, consistent scheme of truths; find in this believers ought to stand fast, and should abide by it, and never give up, or part with anyone branch of it; and so to do is one part of their Gospel conversation; for the apostle in this and the following things points out the several parts of that conversation he exhorts to: or else the holy Spirit of God is intended, who as he is the beginner of the good work of grace on the soul, is he also who carries it on and will perfect it; and therefore to him should the people of God look for grace and strength, to enable them to stand fast in the profession of their faith, to hold fast without wavering, and to persevere to the end; who is that one Spirit by which they are baptized into one body, and become fellow citizens with the saints: or the spirit of love, unity, and peace is here meant: true Christian love makes the saints to be of one heart and soul; and in this single affection to one another should they stand fast; brotherly love should continue, and all endeavours be used to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace; which is another branch of becoming Gospel conversation: the apostle adds,
with one mind, or "soul"; either signifying the same as before, or else that they should be of one judgment in the doctrines and ordinances of the Gospel, and abide therein; which is necessary to their harmonious walk and conversation together, as citizens of Zion:
striving together for the faith of the Gospel: by the "faith of the Gospel", may be designed the grace of faith, which comes by the Gospel; as the means of it, and by which the Gospel becomes useful and beneficial to the souls of men, and which has the Gospel for its object; for faith comes by hearing the word, and that is only profitable when it is mixed with it, and is that grace which gives credit to every truth of it, upon the testimony of divine revelation: now as the doctrine of faith is that which the saints are to strive for, the grace of faith is that by which they strive for it; by which they resist Satan, oppose false teachers, and overcome the world; and agreeably to this sense the Arabic version reads, "by the faith of the Gospel": though rather the doctrine of faith is intended, that word of faith, or faith, which is the Gospel itself, and which is often so called; and for this, in all its parts and branches, believers should strive; as for all those doctrines of faith, which concern the unity of God, the trinity of persons in the Godhead, the divine sonship of Christ, the proper deity and distinct personality of him and the blessed Spirit; and for all such doctrines as regard the state and condition of men by the fall of Adam, as that the guilt of his sin is imputed to all his posterity, the pollution of nature by it derived and communicated to them, that the bias of man's mind is naturally to that which is evil, and is averse to that which is good, and that he is impotent to everything that is spiritually good; and for all those doctrines which regard the free and distinguishing grace of God; of election, as eternal, personal, and irrespective of faith, holiness, and good works, as motives and conditions of it; of the covenant of grace, as from everlasting, absolute and unconditional, sure and firm; of redemption, as particular, and as proceeding upon a full satisfaction for sin to law and justice; of justification by the righteousness of Christ; of peace and pardon by his blood; of regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, as entirely owing to powerful and efficacious grace, and not to man's free will; of the saints' final perseverance, the resurrection of the dead, a future judgment, and eternal life, as the free gift of God: striving for these, as wrestlers do with one another, to which the allusion is, supposes persons to strive and wrestle against; and they are such as oppose truth and themselves unto it; as all such that deny divine revelation, or the authority of the Scriptures; that say that Jesus is not the Messiah; or that Christ is not the natural and eternal Son of God; or that deny his proper deity, his satisfaction and righteousness; that reject the efficacious grace of God, and the operations of the Spirit as unnecessary, to regeneration and conversion; that advance and plead for the purity of human nature, the power of man's free will, and ascribe justification and salvation to the works of men: all such are to be contended with and strove against, and that not with carnal weapons, but with spiritual ones, with the Scriptures of truth; by which a good warfare with them may be warred, and the good fight of faith fought with much success; and the whole requires great care and solicitude, earnestness, zeal, constancy, and courage: striving together for these, intends either striving with the apostle, and as they had him both as a fellow soldier, and for an example; or rather striving one with another, their ministers with their members, and their members with their ministers; the one by preaching, writing, and disputing more especially, the other by bearing a constant testimony to truth, and praying for the success of it; and both by dying for it when required; and so to do is to have the conversation as becomes the Gospel of Christ.