Paul explains that a positive Christian testimony is a bright shining star in a dark and lonely world. He wants all his readers to be joyful stars. Paul instructs us not to be grumbling complainers, but to be enthusiastic 03 vainwitnesses of the Good News of Jesus. In the first part of Philippians 2:16, He wants us all to “hold fast” to the good news, the Word of life! We are not to be beguiled, frightened, or coerced away from the joyful spirit of Christ. He’ll finish his sentence in this passage with the exhortation to be positive and joyous. He wants them that way, the verse goes on to say, “so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

This is a very difficult phrase to understand in its context. It’s a personal note that almost seems out of place. One commentator even suggests that Paul’s emotions got the best of him and his thoughts got away from him. I have trouble reading the phrase like this if I hold strong to the divinely inspired nature of God’s word. I have to agree with Gordon Fee who says, “… this final phrase is to be understood primarily in response to their ‘shining as lights in the world as they hold firm the word of life.’ However that may be, Paul tied the effectiveness of his apostolic ministry (as to whether it was “in vain”) to the way those in the church in Philippi lived out their calling with one another.” It really is about how we live together with the cause of Christ as our banner.

I can’t help but think of Paul’s disappointment with several of the churches he planted. Critical, negative, grumbling spirits were the bane on Israel as Moses attempted to lead the people to the Promised Land. Critical, negative, grumbling spirits have been the bane on the church of Christ from Philippi to Peoria to Philadelphia to Blair and beyond. They have been found in every generation and in every culture. They are the bull dogs, or wolves, that Paul warns the Galatians about. They come to spy out the liberty of a joy-filled assembly and to bring happy, free spirits back into bondage to their own interpretations of the law. On the other hand they are the McChurch worshipers of the 21st century who leave their church to go down the street to find a church more to their liking. Once more, let me quote Kent Hughes. He says of these divisive people, “They impede their own souls and the souls of their brothers and sisters in this matter. They are undertows to the body of Christ. So if you are one of these people, understand that when you finally stand before your Savior, you will answer with shame.”