The Philippians' Affairs: Exhortation to Steadfastness and Unity
Nothing can frustrate the advance of the gospel more, both in a Christian community's effectiveness in their witness for Christ and in Christians' individual lives, than internal unrest among believers. The gospel is all about reconciliation, and unreconciled people do not advertise it well. Paul recognized this much more clearly than contemporary Christians seem to, and thus he devotes enormous energy to this matter in several of his letters (especially Rom and 1 Cor). Philippians is no exception. In now turning from his own circumstances (v. 12) to speak into the circumstances of his recipients (v. 27), he urges them to get their corporate act together (with a common mindset and mutual love) for the sake of the gospel in Philippi.
The previous section was mostly narrative; this one is mostly imperative. If 1:12-26 is the stuff of a letter of friendship, this is the stuff of a letter of exhortation (see introduction). Nonetheless the essential matter in both sections remains the same. Christ was the heart of the preceding narrative (vv. 21-23); the narrative of Christ's humiliation and exaltation (2:5-11) is the heart of this passage. Christ thus serves as the pattern for the opening appeal--that the Philippian believers live "worthy of the gospel of Christ" (1:27--2:4)--and as the basis for the concluding appeals--that they live as "children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" (2:12-16).
Also laid out before us here is the evidence of opposition in Philippi (1:28), accompanied by suffering on their part (1:29-30; 2:17), plus the larger fact that their own community is not in full working order (1:27; 2:1-4, 12-16). For Paul, Christ is the obvious response to all of these concerns; hence he concludes once more on the note of rejoicing ("in the Lord" is implied; see on 3:1), urging them (2:18) to follow his own example in the face of opposition and suffering (1:18; 2:17).
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