As Paul looks ahead he knows that the church in Philippi will have some rough days. After all, they were a group of religious radicals living in a secular environment. So as their leader he advises them, “Conduct yourselves is a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27). Then he points out several ways that this war of living expresses itself. The first and most important is that they “stand firm in one spirit.” Unity should be the most notable aspect of the church. Twice in his upper room prayer Jesus asked that his followers live in unity “so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:21; also vs. 23). Unity in Christ is the most effective means of evangelization. It is tangible evidence that its members have stopped living for self and are following the example of their leader who lived a life of concern for the other. That is so clear that one wonders why it even needs to be stated. Unity is the persuasive call to a more satisfactory life.
The second characteristic of true believers is that their unity expresses itself in striving side by side for the “faith of the gospel.” The term includes preventing any distortion of the message as well as bringing others to faith. Paul is fond of vigorous metaphors such as “standing firm . . . joining in combat . . . in no way frightened” – all three appropriate in gladiatorial combat. If the Christian faith is anything, it is a battle for righteousness. It does not appeal to the faint of heart. While it does not call for the sword in most cases it is also true that many have died for their faith. It was Tertullian who, in the second century, wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
A third characteristic of true believers is that they stand unafraid as they live out their faith. The NET has ”not intimidated in any way.” Who can deny a certain hesitancy about living out a principle that is important in one’s religious faith but unacceptable by the culture in which one lives? In today’s world a preacher might think twice about explaining with clarity what Paul is teaching in Romans 1 about a well-known sexual practice. Currently, in America at least, it would not get him in serious trouble with the controlling powers, but he would be “tried” in the court of public opinion.
Speaking in a contemporary church, I believe the apostle Paul would encourage us to display by the way we live the truth of scripture. It calls upon believers to lay down their concern for self and display to others how to live with integrity by placing the other first. They are to take a strong stand for biblical truth and not live in fear lest it not be received. There is a remarkable sense of freedom in taking God at his word and live accordingly