Tag Archives: Philippians 1:27-30

Penultimate Rendering of Philippians 1:27-30

(September 18, 2017) 9:56 AM So here’s my penultimate rendering of Phil. 1:27-30.

Now the only thing that really matters is that you make it your habit to live as good citizens of heaven in a manner required by the Good News about Christ, so that, whether or not I’m able to go and see you in person or remain absent, I will be hearing that all of you, like soldiers on a battlefield, are standing shoulder to shoulder and working as one team to help people put their trust in the Good News. Don’t allow your enemies to terrify you in any way. Your boldness in the midst of opposition will be a clear sign to them that they will be destroyed and that you will be saved, because it’s God who gives you salvation. For God has granted you the privilege on behalf of Christ of not only believing in Him but also suffering for Him. Now it’s your turn to take part with me in the life-or-death battle I’m fighting — the same battle you saw me fighting in Philippi and, as you hear, the one I’m fighting now.

For a long time I struggled with what to do with Paul’s “striving together [Greek sunathlountes] in one soul for the faith of the Gospel.” Many commentators insisted that Paul was using an athletic metaphor here, one dealing especially with teamwork. But did the ancient Greeks have what we know as “team sports” similar to our basketball, volleyball, and football? Indeed they did. One such team sport was akin to our modern-day rugby. Another resembled field hockey. The Greeks loved sports. They felt that it distinguished them from non-Greeks.

Verbal aspect … civic, military, and athletic metaphors … objective genitives … all make for an interest paragraph, don’t you think? Please understand that Paul is not a military hawk, even though he uses military metaphors. We overcome evil not with evil but with good. We “love our enemies to death” says Fee, and he’s right. We are literally offering the “life-giving message” (2:16) to those who are dying.

Next up: Perhaps the greatest description of Christian unity in the New Testament (2:1-4).

Translating Philippians 1:27-30

(September 16, 2017) 5:12 AM Still working on my translation of Phil. 1:27-30. Here’s the latest iteration:

Now the only thing in life that really matters is that you live out your Kingdom citizenship in a manner required by the Gospel of Christ, so that, whether or not I’m able to go and see you in person, I will hear that all of you are standing side by side with one common purpose: to work together as one team to see people put their trust in the Gospel. Don’t allow your enemies to intimidate you in any way. Your boldness in the midst of such persecution will prove to them that they will lose and that you will win, because it is God who gives you the victory. For God has granted you the privilege, for the sake of Christ, of not only believing in Him but also suffering for Him. It’s your turn to take part with me in the battle I’m fighting — the same battle you saw me fighting in the past and, as you hear, the one I’m fighting now.

There are 3 themes here:

1) The church must act corporately and cooperatively (with one common purpose and goal) if others are to come to faith in Christ.

2) Since unbelievers are devoted to another “lord,” persecution and opposition will be inevitable. Hence boldness is required — a kind of uncommon courage that will prove to one’s enemies that they are headed for certain destruction.

3) The Christian life is a struggle, all of it, from beginning to end. If our Lord was crucified, should we expect any less? The path to heaven always leads through a cross.

What does this say to a 65-year old Greek prof? Today’s news is frightening. There are wars (Afghanistan) and rumors of wars (North Korea). International tensions abound. Increasing numbers of the elderly are putting an almost overwhelming strain on Social Security. I realize I am growing older. Some day my children will have to become parents to me. They should understand my joy is found in serving Jesus. Even though I feel nostalgia for the days gone by, I am living in the “now.” Yes, I need time for renewal and reflection, but I also want to be active. I want to remind my students (and blog readers) that partnership in the Gospel includes mutual suffering. Discipleship is always costly. If it isn’t costing us anything, then it isn’t discipleship. Christ is our only paradigm. By living the “cruciform” life, He showed us the way forward. It’s the path of downward mobility. It means having a genuine interest in others’ welfare. It means putting aside our own selfish interests. It means adopting Jesus’ definition of “rich.” (Farewell keeping up with the Joneses.) It may mean risking one’s life for the sake of Christ. It is not enough to be citizens of America. The Gospel proclaims only one Lord, who is the incarnate Savior. Nothing is more important today than living out a Christlike vision of the kingdom. The United States can never be the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom looks just like Jesus, and no amount of pom-pom waving will ever lead one person to salvation. To miss this central focus on the Lord Jesus is to miss the focus of the entire book of Philippians. Christ is the focus of everything God has done and everything He will yet do in this world.

Dear reader, may we “join together” this very day in “imitating” Paul by “walking” as he walked (Phil. 3:17). For, you see, “the only thing in life that really matters” is truly the only thing in life that really matters.

Philippians 1:27-30 – What Does an American Christian Look Like?

(Sunday, September 17, 2017) 2:04 PM What does an American Christian look like? We look like any other people outwardly. We don’t normally dress much differently from unbelievers. We don’t wear our hair differently. We don’t have secret handshakes. We don’t all drive the same model car. In the grocery store you’re unlikely to be able to pick out the Christian from the non-Christian. So what’s the difference between those who are born again and those who aren’t?

One again, Paul helps us out. In Phil. 1:27-30, he’s clear that one of the distinguishing characteristics of Christians is they suffer for Christ, or at least are willing to do so. This is a “given,” writes Paul, using a construction sometimes called the divine passive. Thus “it was granted to you to suffer” could be rendered “God has granted this to you.” This has always been the case. In every generation, those with a whole-hearted allegiance to the Gospel can expect to share in the sufferings of Christ.

The idea of suffering for Christ is not an unusual one for Paul. In the book of 2 Corinthians, not once but twice he lists the sufferings and trials that came to him for being a Gospeler. Here’s one of them (2 Cor. 6:4-10). At first blush there seems to be no rhyme or reason to Paul’s list.

But a closer look reveals some interesting patterns.

In the ISV, we tried to indicate the thought units as follows (please note the punctuation):

I see that Eugene Petersen also seemed alert to some of these patterns.

Note especially the following constructions:

  • “in hard times, tough times, bad times”
  • “when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed”
  • “working hard, working late, working without eating”

Brilliant! The point is that Paul didn’t just talk about suffering for Jesus; he experienced it. And because he stood strong in spite of sometimes fanatical opposition, he can exhort the Philippians to do exactly the same thing (“Don’t be intimated by your opponents in any way”).

I once saw a bumper sticker with the words “Things Go Better with Christ” — a takeoff on a Coke commercial. That’s not always true, of course. In fact, if I understand Paul correctly here, God never intended things to “go better with Christ.” Thousands of Christians around the world (yes, in 2017) are undergoing extreme suffering for their faith. You can’t live uncompromisingly for the Gospel and not have some scars to show for it. By saying yes to Christ, we have to comparatively¬†say no to everything else, including our comforts and safety. Paul doesn’t mean that we go out and look for trouble. He’s simply saying that my love for Christ should be infinitely deeper and stronger than my love for my own life.

Once again, in Philippians we see Paul at his very best. He rejoices and give thanks in everything, including his own sufferings and hardships. What a remarkable example he is for us. May God grant us courage as we seek to live and speak the truth in love in our own communities and nations.