by Mike Ratliff
27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. (Philippians 1:27-30 NASB)
The growing apostasy of the visible church all around us can be alarming at times. In fact, there are times that those leading the way into that apostasy seem to “raising the bar,” so to speak, at a quickening pace with their efforts to turn their followers away from 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 together 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 NASB 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!