Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you must stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
Paul, The Apostle of Grace
In Philippians 4:1, Paul completes his exhortation to the Philippian believers, concerning righteousness by faith alone in Jesus alone and living with perspective, purpose,and purity, telling them “that is how you must stand firm in the Lord.”
There was so much “fake news” being communicated in the churches of Paul’s time concerning how a person becomes righteous before God that Paul wrote to churches explaining to them the truth of how to become righteous before God, which, as Paul taught, comes by grace through faith in Jesus. This understanding of righteousness by grace through faith was essential if believers were to stand firm in what the Lord had done for them to secure their righteousness, since so many preachers and teachers were trying to persuade them to seek righteousness in different ways.
These “fake news” preachers and teachers of Paul’s time falsely communicated that righteousness before God, which is standing before God completely forgiven and accepted, was earned solely through religious activity and morality or earned through religious activity and morality plus faith in Jesus. They were either discrediting the cross completely as the means to righteousness or they were diluting the cross partially by adding religious and moral requirements to faith in Jesus as the means to righteousness. However, Paul’s teaching on righteousness, which came directly from Jesus to Paul following Jesus’ ascension, was that righteousness is a free gift of grace from God received simply by faith in Jesus.
Paul clearly explained in Romans and Galatians that righteousness comes by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus and summarized it in Philippians 3:3-9 by explaining that any religious or moral efforts to make oneself righteous before God is nothing compared to knowing Jesus and receiving the righteousness that comes by faith. Paul used his own previous religious and moral efforts to demonstrate they were insufficient in achieving righteousness, and said the righteousness that is sufficient is the righteousness that comes from God himself and is received by faith in Jesus.
In Philippians 3:2, Paul called these “fake news” preachers and teachers of righteousness “those dogs, those workers of evil, those mutilators of the flesh!” He wrote the Philippians for the purpose of protecting them from and to warn them about these false teachers and preachers, as well as to tell the Philippian believers to watch out for them (Philippians 3:1-2).
In Philippians 3:10, Paul said he wanted to know Christ. Paul is telling us that a person can’t truly know Christ in a close, intimate way if they are depending upon their own religious and moral efforts to make themselves righteous before God. A person can truly only know Christ in a close, intimate way if they are depending upon him only for righteousness...which is the very reason he went to the cross...to lovingly take our sinfulness and then freely give us his righteousness. To miss this is to miss the whole purpose and point of the cross.
In Philippians 3:10-11, Paul said he wanted to “know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death, so that I may somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Paul knew he would suffer at the hands of the religious leaders of his time for teaching the true news of grace, that righteousness came by grace through faith, but he was willing to suffer and die as Jesus did for the cause of grace, and somehow, just as Jesus was powerfully raised from the dead, he, too, would be raised from the dead.
In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul wrote that he had not yet experienced the full suffering associated with sharing the good news of grace, the good news of the cross, the good news that righteousness came as gift of grace and was received by faith in Jesus, but he wanted to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”, which was sharing the good news of grace with people all over the world and starting grace-based churches in its cities (Acts 20:24; 2 Corinthians 4:15). He had not yet completed his mission of grace given to him by Jesus, which Paul referred to as his heavenly calling, but his goal was to forget his religious past of seeking righteousness through religious activity and morality, and press on, eventually receiving the prize from the Lord himself of completing his mission.
Paul, in Philippians 3:15, encouraged the mature Philippian believers to embrace his view of righteousness, and for those who could not, he was confident God would give them the revelation of righteousness, the righteousness that comes by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. In 3:16, Paul encouraged them to live out what they learned, even though they may not totally embrace his message of righteousness.
Paul, then, in Philippians 3:17-21, taught the Philippians how to live in a world of people who are living as enemies of the cross. Whether he is referring to the enemies of the cross being those who oppose the cross as the means to righteousness, or if he is referring to the enemies of the cross as those who are wasting their lives in living for the temporal pleasures, pursuits, and possessions of the world, we don’t know. But he does encourage the Philippians to follow those who follow his pattern of living, which we know was one of faith alone in Jesus for righteousness and one of living with an eternal perspective on life as he awaited the return of Jesus, which produced purpose for his life and purity in his life.
Paul concluded his thoughts in Philippians 4:1 by telling the Philippians how deeply he loved them, how he desired to see them, and how delighted in them. He then told them that what he taught them on righteousness would be how they stand firm against religious leaders seeking to discredit or dilute the cross concerning righteousness. He also told them that what he taught them about following his pattern of living would be how they stand firm among those who were enemies of the cross.
The same truth that Paul taught the Philippians about righteousness, which enabled them to stand firm, is the same truth we need to stand firm when preachers and teachers promote religious activity and morality as the means of righteousness. There are many preachers and teachers who dilute the cross by telling people they need to add religious activity and morality to faith in Jesus in order to be righteous before God. People are told they need to meet certain expectations or have certain experiences as a sign they are truly righteous before God. This could not be further from the truth. So stand firm in what Jesus did for you when teachers and preachers dilute the cross. Also, stand firm in a world where many waste their lives chasing after temporal pleasures, pursuits, and possessions by living with an eternal perspective, which leads to a life of purpose and purity as we await the return of Jesus.
NOTE: This is a continuation of my teachings through Philippians. To read my other teachings, click below: