“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
How much have we cheapened the gospel of Christ? If you asked most active, committed, American Christians what they thought the gospel was all about, you would likely get a well rehearsed answer highlighting the free salvation aspect. Read carefully, this passage is a good reminder of what the message is really about.
First, Paul encourages the believers in Philippi to live in a way that is worthy of the gospel. He is not teaching them that they have to work to earn favor or salvation, but a change in lifestyle is still expected. The gospel brings change and if a person’s life does not change when they believe a question is raised. Have they really placed their faith in Christ, or merely intellectually assented to an idea.
Next, he says he wants to see them “striving… for the faith of the gospel.” Once again, Paul is calling for believers to work! Evangelical believers sometimes focus so much on the mechanics of salvation that they fail to remember that there is a result of salvation as well. The gospel quickens people and gives them a reason for being. How can someone aware of their purpose not be compelled to fulfill it?
Finally, Paul teaches that works are merely one result of the gospel in a person’s life. The other is suffering. This is certainly not something that we proclaim in our normal condensed/altered version of the gospel message. In fact, most people have absolutely revised this part. You do not often hear people “selling” the Bible message by telling people that they will suffer for following Christ. That is the Biblical gospel message, however. Here Paul says that it is even a clear sign of the reality of the gospel in a person’s life.