Life-Study of Philippiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The basic concept of the book of Philippians is the experience of Christ. If we would have a proper understanding of Philippians 1 and the extraordinary expressions used in it, we need to see that the controlling concept, the governing factor, of the whole book is the experience of Christ. We should interpret Paul’s expressions not according to our natural understanding, but according to Christ. Virtually every point in this book is related to Christ and the experience of Christ.
In 1:27 Paul says, “Only conduct yourselves worthily of the gospel of Christ, that whether coming and seeing you or being absent I may hear the things concerning you, that you stand firm in one spirit, with one soul striving together in the faith of the gospel.” We need not only to stand firm in one spirit for the experience of Christ, but also to strive together with one soul in the faith of the gospel. To be with one soul for the gospel work is more difficult than to be in one spirit for the experience of Christ. This requires that, after being regenerated in our spirit, we be transformed in our soul, especially in our mind, which is the main part, the leading part, of our soul.
In 1:27 Paul charges the Philippians to stand firm in one spirit and to strive with one soul. Nowhere else in the Bible are the terms spirit and soul used together in this way. Concerning our standing, we need to be firm in one spirit; concerning striving together, we need to be with one soul. We need to exercise both our spirit and our soul. We exercise our spirit to stand firm, and we exercise our soul to strive together in the faith of the gospel. To strive here is to struggle, to work by fighting.
It is important to see that we stand in one spirit and strive with one soul. We need to differentiate between the prepositions in and with. In one spirit we stand; with one soul we strive. We stand before God, but we strive before man. Before God we must stand as a testimony, and before man we must strive together with one soul.
Actually, according to the grammatical construction of verse 27, standing firm in one spirit and striving together with one soul are not two separate things. Paul does not charge the Philippians to stand firm in one spirit and then to strive together with one soul. Rather, he charges them to “stand firm in one spirit, with one soul striving together.” Paul’s way of writing indicates that in order to stand firm, we need to strive. Striving is in fact part of standing. We stand firm in one spirit by striving together with one soul.
What is the difference between “in one spirit” and “with one soul”? Why does Paul not say “with one spirit” and “in one soul”? And why does Paul say “stand firm...striving together” instead of “stand firm and strive together”? Let me use a simple illustration. Suppose a father says to his son, “Eat quickly, using your fork properly.” This is different from saying, “Eat quickly and use your fork properly.” In the first command, using the fork properly is the way to eat quickly. In the second, eating quickly and using the fork properly are two distinct matters. Because of the background, Paul did not tell the Philippians to stand firm and strive, but to stand firm, striving together with one soul. Because the Judaizers were so active, it was necessary for the believers to stand firm and not be distracted, shaken, or moved. Such a firm standing was especially necessary during Paul’s absence. Paul, the one who could establish the believers, was away from them, but the Judaistic teachers, those who were preaching contrary to God’s economy, were at hand. This was the reason that toward the end of chapter one Paul charged the believers to stand firm. However, if they were to stand firm, they would have to strive together with one soul. Apart from striving, they would not be able to stand. Therefore, in this case striving is not a thing separate from standing. Rather, striving is the standing in actuality.
If we today only stand but do not strive, eventually we shall be shaken by the opposition or moved by it. It is not adequate simply to encourage others to stand firm. I repeat, in order to stand firm, we must strive and fight. Striving is the way to stand. Actually, to strive is to stand. Another way of putting it is to say that in order to have a defense, we need to be on the offensive. If we do not know how to go on the offensive, we shall not have an adequate defense. If we would defend ourselves, we must take the offensive against Satan. The point here is that defense requires offense. This is the reason that in 1:27 Paul does not make standing firm a separate matter from striving together. Instead, he indicates that these two matters are one.
In some places the churches are standing firm. However, they are not doing much striving. If these churches do not begin to strive and fight, eventually they will be shaken or moved. All the churches need to be aggressive. By striving in this way, they will be able to maintain their stand. But if the churches do not strive, sooner or later they will be shaken and moved.
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