Here in the next chapter we see Paul carrying his theme, dealing only with the objective truth, not subjective circumstances (which he is about to talk about). And by that I mean, Paul is not giving them a suggestion. He is not telling them what “ought to be” but really isn’t possible until we get to Heaven. He is not telling them this is one of many options, but is instead telling them what must be, and by implication, what should never be (despair). And we see this even through verses 1-3, which might at first be overlooked as they are “historical,” when in fact they add to the point.
“Stand firm in the Lord…” What does this even mean today? If we apply the thinking of the modern church to this statement, it cannot possibly mean what Paul intended, as “standing firm” implies a struggle which we must resist. The “modern church” (as I so politely title it) claims, through the “prosperity gospel” side, that we are never expected to face trials from God, but only the devil. Any struggle we get is purely from Satan, whereas God only wants the “best” for us here and now, and herein we see the desperation of the false teacher to make God our magical genie. But is it true? Must God fight against the devil in order to provide the “prosperous life,” or does He Himself cause distresses to fall upon us? Though the devil, or even simple life circumstances, might cause a good deal of struggle in our lives (and yes, even our bodies), where do these gain any authority to cause such pain to us? Has it ever crossed our minds, in the midst of the struggle, that perhaps it is God who causes this? “Heaven forbid!” one might respond (which is an interesting comeback). “Where would you get such a thought?” The answer? Job.
Before Job’s life went “down the drain” (as they say… or do they anymore?), we see a picture in Heaven. The great hosts of Heaven stand before God, and the devil himself is included. When asked where he has been (by God Himself), he responds “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” Now, some might automatically think “Satan is looking for someone to torment!” Which is somewhat true, but look at the next question. “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Who asked this again? God. Let’s put this into perspective then: God is suggesting the devil (the adversary!) torment Job, and particularly because Job is so upright! But this cannot be, right? The devil responds by essentially saying “He is only so good because you’ve given him so many good things. Take them away and he’ll forsake You.” But note how he says it will come to pass in verse 12: “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” Can he possibly mean that God would destroy all that Job has, including his family (seen the latter part of the chapter)? The Lord does not rebuke him, but instead affirms what he claims by giving him authority to do as he claims. “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” (vs. 12) In other words, take all that he has, simply don’t hurt him. “But his health wasn’t taken, see?” one might respond. Ah, but the health is taken…
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.’ So the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.’” – Job 2:1-6
And so we see God do what many today might consider “unthinkable,” that is, taking away Job’s health through the devil himself, leaving him only his life, which some might consider worse, because he only gets to experience the pain all the longer. And so Job goes through what many could never describe, indescribable pain and suffering, and that by the permission of God. Why? “Why would God allow such a thing?” For the same reason He allows us to suffer and lose all that we have. They are called “trials” not simply because they are painful, but they also are used to prove whether we truly believe what we claim. I may say “I love Jesus!” all I want, but this means nothing if it is never proven. Jesus Himself affirms this in many passages, such as Matthew 16:24-26, where He says “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Do we think this is a vague, general statement, or a specific requirement? If you are not willing to suffer what Job did for the cause of Christ and His Gospel, you are not worthy of Him, and should turn away, otherwise it will only be the worse for you in the End (2 Peter 2:21).
And so here we see Paul telling the Philippians to “stand firm in the Lord,” because they expected the trials they have faced and would face even further (and they, Paul, Silas and the Philippian Christians, did face them, as seen in Acts 16:6-40). And Paul refers to these Christians as his “joy and crown,” thinking highly of them because they stood firm in the faith, not giving into despair. And he urges specific members of this church to live in harmony in the Lord (vs. 2), because these two had “shared” in his struggle for the Gospel, along with many others. Paul even clarifies (with certainty, I might add) that they are some who will be found to be the Lamb’s Book of Life (imagine being told by an apostle such a thing!).
And adding to this, he states something that makes the modern “Christian” cringe, because it seems to simple, and yet impossible (save for a select few), and so unrealistic: “Rejoice!” Now take careful note, as this is very important: This is a command. The effort is seen to make this clear, as he reaffirms it, saying again “rejoice!” This is not a suggestion, nor is it vague. It is a clear, undeniable command. “Ah,” some may respond, “but back then they didn’t know about the physical condition of depression, and so this does not apply to that.” Oh really? Has it ever occurred to any that, perhaps, there is a reason that it is impossible to find an exact Greek or Hebrew parallel to the word “Depression” as far a physical condition is concerned? Either the writers of the Scriptures (who were directly inspired by the eternal Holy Spirit) were ignorant of such bountiful knowledge that we now possess, or perhaps when Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” he is commanding it, regardless of our physical condition? Again, you cannot ever find a justification for depression in the whole of the New Testament, nor can the Old Testament be used to defend it, since it was a “shadow of the things to come,” which the New Testament reveals to be Christ and His Gospel, who appointed these apostles for the sake of preaching the Word and writing these Epistles, and which distinctly command us to “Rejoice always!” There are not given exceptions nor excuses, and the command is both repeated and implied throughout the whole of the New Testament. And yet, for some reason, this doesn’t matter to Christianity today. Instead, we write these off as impossible commands that are never truly expected of us all the time, but are instead passive suggestions which we must adhere to from time to time. But you will never find this in Scripture. You can find it in modern philosophy, and even science, but if you cannot truly prove your stand through the Scripture of God, but instead find the exact opposite throughout the New Testament, you are to disregard or reinterpret the other information, because the Scripture is the mold, not the jello.
To be continued in Part III