by Barry Newton
Although a champion of grace himself, Paul’s mindset appears so radically different from many a modern stereotypical preacher saturated with grace. Would the latter even imagine composing thoughts like those in Philippians?
Writing to the saved, Paul felt compelled, not to bathe the hearts of his recipients with a Christ-assured complacency, but to urgently compel a greater conduct from them.
Challenges continually erupt from this apostolic coach commanding conformity to the Christian standard: “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27); “continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence” (2:12); “let us live up to the standard we have already obtained” (3:16).
A sensitive reading of Philippians reveals Christian conduct ought to be driven by a focus riveted upon Christ and upon his loving mindset. Unfortunately, Paul’s letter reveals the reality of a world saturated by the enemy’s principles: “the former proclaim Christ from selfish ambition” (1:17); “everyone looks out for his own interests” (2:20); “many live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (3:18); “their mind is on earthly things” (3:19).
Simply put, in a world constantly calling Christians to conform to its code of conduct, Paul prescribed a pattern for Christian living. A pattern first exemplified in Christ’s selfless obedience to the Father to love others. A pattern his own attitudes and behavior had reflected, passing it along for imitation. A pattern calling for conformity to heavenly citizenship conduct.
Paul’s prescription to the Philippians had provided a solution for handling their problems of oppositional pressures. No wonder Paul anxiously awaited news of their welfare (1:27; 2:19). Would Christ shape these Christians in the midst of their crises? If so, unity, standing firm in the faith and rejoicing would triumph over grumbling and complaining.
Paul’s timeless message confronts us as well. We too must not be complacent. We too must strain toward what is ahead. We too must be shaped by the attitude which drove Christ to the cross.
Whether back then or today, embracing Christ’s way inevitably results in righteous fruit in spite of our circumstances.