by Mike Ratliff
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. (Philippians 1:27-30 ESV)
Please read this article by my friend Ken Silva before continuing. Most of you know I wrote briefly about this the other day here, but as you can see, as we dig deeper into this, it can seem a bit like following Alice down that rabbit hole into Wonderland. In any case, I am going on record right now, as I am sure as no surprise to any of you, that what these people are doing has absolutely nothing to do with Biblical Christianity. They are not living a life worthy of the gospel of Christ. They are not standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. No, they are going after all sorts of extra-biblical religious manifestations and trying to intermix them with their Laodicean version of Christianity, which is not Christian at all.
Notice in the passage above that Paul’s call for believers to stand firm together in one spirit, with one mind striving side for the faith of the gospel. Notice that those who do this are to do so with no fear of anything that opponents of God’s truth try to do so say against them and the message of the Gospel, that is, the real Gospel, not the Laodicean gospel or social gospel. In any case let us look at the Greek word the ESV translates as “striving” in v27 above, which is συναθλουντες a present, active, participle version of συναθλέω or sunathleō, which is a compound word made up of ἀθλέω or athleō from which we get our English word athlete and athletics and means to strive or contend, to be a champion in the public games, such as wrestling, boxing, et cetera. This word pictures a completely dedicated, single-minded striving that would equal that of committed athlete.
As I have shared in earlier posts, in my younger days, I was a long distance runner. There was a period between 1979 and 1983 that I was running around 40 miles a week in training and then running in some race on weekends like a 10k, 5 miler, or 10 miler. That was what I lived for. I did it alone though. There was no teamwork there. The only time I ever involved anyone in it was when I had to go see my orthopedic doctor about my sore knee or something. In any case, it was all about my own personal commitment, but notice that this striving that Paul is talking about here is not like that at all.
He put the prefix συν or sun in front. This word means “together.” Paul adds the idea that Christians are to “strive and contend together, as a would a team.” As only a unified team can be effective, so must there be unity among God’s people, as the context indicates. Take a step back and look at what is really dividing up the visible church. It isn’t doctrine, that is, genuine Biblical doctrine. It is opinion, which is all about self-righteousness. If Christians would forget that junk and get onboard with listening to God’s Word instead of what men say and what their man-focused traditions say, then perhaps this lukewarm, Laodicean bottleneck could be flushed out.
For what are to be striving? It is not for who is right and who is wrong, but it is for “the faith of the the Gospel!” (Jude 3)
Soli Deo Gloria!