One Spirit, One Faith, Many Opponents

by Tim Challies

There was a time when believers often spoken of the Christian faith using military language. “Onward Christian Soldiers” may sound antiquated now, but not long ago it was known and loved. Yet martial language is quite common in the New Testament, and Paul relies on it to communicate key realities. He describes Christians as being like soldiers in a battle. Their heavenly nation is under attack and they, as its citizens, must rise up to protect it. Wave after wave of enemies is coming toward them and they must resist. They must stand firm. In the opening chapter of Philippians he tells these Christian soldiers there are three things they must do if they are to remain undefeated in this great spiritual battle.

Stand Firm in One Spirit

First, they must stand firm in one spirit. We don’t know the exact circumstances at the time of this letter, but we do know that this church faced regular opposition from opponents of the Christian faith. In fact, Christians across the Roman Empire were often under persecution from the local governors and even from the Emperor himself. Perhaps some of the members of this church have been hauled off to prison and some have been killed. Perhaps they are all beginning to see their freedom curtailed. One way or another, they are suffering because of their faith.

So what are the Christians to do under these ongoing waves of attack? Paul says to “stand firm in one spirit.” Stand firm pictures a group of soldiers who will not budge, who are not going to give an inch of ground. They’re going to stand firm in the spirit of unity. It might be clarifying to capitalize the “s” in Spirit so we see that he’s talking about the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who brings unity to Christians. As Christians, each of us indwelled by the Holy Spirit. It’s not some abstract idea that binds us all together as Christians; it’s not a common interest or hobby; ultimately, it’s a person. The Spirit is our unity. So what Paul is telling these people is to remember that they share a common bond with one another. The Holy Spirit of God indwells each of them, giving them the deepest possible kind of unity…

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One Spirit, One Faith, Many Opponents