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‘Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel’ (Philippians 1:27)
To live as citizens means that we ‘strive together as one for the faith of the gospel’. The ‘faith of the gospel’ was and is still under attack. Paul’s strong words to the Galatians make this point very clearly,
‘I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! ’ (Galatians 1:8)
People are happy with a church that feeds the poor and does good works, and many seek to make this the basis of their unity. These things are very important, however, a church is nothing if it loses the foundation of the gospel message. Can you imagine visiting a hospital only to find that it had been turned into a hotel! They serve amazing food and cater to all your needs. Such a hospital may be popular with many, however, it has lost the heart of its existence, which is to heal people! This sick world needs a church that clearly offers the healing that only the gospel brings!
The church exists to make disciples who make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). This begins with believing the gospel message by which we come to know God, and then learning to apply and share the gospel message.
God urges us to ‘strive together as one for the faith of the gospel’. This is not passive! The words ‘striving together’ (sunathleó) means to engage in an athletic contest side-by-side. We are to vigorously co-operate in the defence of the gospel.
Are you and I making the gospel message the basis of our unity with God and one another? Are our personal and corporate prayer and worship saturated in the gospel message?
Paul summarised and defended the gospel in this letter as we read in chapter three,
‘Being found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.’ (Philippians 3:9)