Calvary Road Baptist Church


Philippians 1.30

What it must have been like to be a Christian in the Roman colony city of Philippi. You may remember that the church was founded in the midst of turmoil. Lydia was one of the first converts.[1] Being a foreigner, the Romans did not mind the intrusion of strange beliefs into their city, so long as foreigners were the only ones affected. However, when the slave girl was converted, depriving her masters of their income from her soothsaying, then the fur began to fly.[2] Paul and Silas were beaten and cast into prison and then released the next day, for fear they would demand the heads of those who had beaten them, since Paul was an uncondemned Roman citizen.[3] Pleaded with to quietly leave the city, Paul and Silas did leave, knowing that the Roman officials would lay low for a while and cause no trouble for the new Christians lest they be held accountable for what they had done wrong.[4]

It all worked out well. Peace and tranquility in the city. Regular financial support sent to the Apostle Paul wherever he happened to be.[5] Then came word that he had been arrested in Jerusalem. After that came word that he was imprisoned in Caesaria. Then, after many months of confinement, they had been told that Paul was aboard a ship bound for Rome and a face-to-face encounter with Caesar. That meant freedom or death. All along the Philippians had been genuinely concerned for Paul, had prayed for him, and had even sent him money whenever the threadbare congregation could scrape together enough money to send to him. During that entire period of time in their lives, though finances were tough, it had been much easier for them to live for Christ and serve God than it had been only a few miles away in Thessalonica, where persecution was quite severe.[6] However now, as Paul draws closer to his confrontation with the emperor of Rome, things have changed in Philippi. Opposition has flared up. Persecution had broken out all over the city, not just occasionally. Christians are losing their livelihoods, losing their friends and families, and in some cases losing their homes. And for what? For telling sinners of a Savior Who came to save them from their sins.

This letter to the Philippians is Paul’s response to recent developments affecting those in the church, developments having to do both with the intensified persecution they were facing from without, and also some troubling developments within the church’s membership. Notice what Paul writes about the Christian congregation’s conflict in Philippians 1.30. Stand and read that verse with me: “Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” Two things about this conflict Paul makes mention of that I urge you to consider:


Listen closely to what this verse says. Perhaps it does not presently speak to you. Perhaps the things that I will call attention to are not at all a part of your life, presently. However, it may be that this verse will eventually come to apply directly to you. There are three ways in which the church member child of God comes to experience the Christian conflict, and all three ways are almost certainly to come upon you, sooner or later. Let me relate them to you, not in the sequence Paul lists them in this verse, but in the likely sequence that these experiences will come into your life:

First, you hear of the experience of conflict. Notice the phrase, “and now hear to be in me.” There is no excuse for the church member who is a child of God not knowing, to some extent at least, about the experience of Christian conflict. To be sure, not everyone in the Philippian church had seen Paul beaten for the faith. Not everyone had been saved long enough to have gone through rough times themselves before peace reigned for a while in the region. However, we can be confident everyone had opportunity to hear what had transpired. The same is true with you. Maybe you have not been through it. Maybe you have not seen others go through it. However, you have surely heard (or if not heard, had the opportunity to hear) what happens to God’s choice servants elsewhere for simply being faithful to Christ. Recognize, then, that the conflict we are engaged in is not a part of the Christian life. My friends, it is the Christian life.

Second, you see the experience. Reading Paul’s words again: “Having the same conflict which ye saw in me.” Long before the Philippians had experienced the rigors of Christian conflict they had seen others experience it. Remember, these people lived in that Roman colony city where Paul and Silas were beaten to within an inch of their lives and cast into a dungeon. Many had seen what opposition had cost those committed Christians. They knew what physical courage was required, at times, just to go to church with other believers.

Finally, you have the experience of conflict. Paul writes, “Having the same conflict which ye saw in me.” The Philippians, at the time of Paul’s letter, were right in the middle of it. They were experiencing conflict first hand. Are you? Do you know what it is like? Have you felt it? Are you feeling it? Is it a part of your life? I am not talking about hard times, here. Saved and lost alike experience hard times. What Paul writes of has to do with the exigencies of life that are directly related to being a Christian. Are you one of those saints of God who has been around the block enough times to be able to say, “I’ve been there”? The Philippians had not been able to say that . . . until now. Brother? Sister? Someday you will be able to say, “Now, I know what it is like to be seasoned in Christian conflict.” I say that because Paul writes to Timothy, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”[7]


There are two things about this spiritual conflict Paul refers to here that most so-called Christians in the United States have quite simply lost sight of:

First, this conflict is common. That is, it is the same conflict for everyone. Notice what Paul wrote: “Having the same conflict which ye saw in me.” Too many people in Philippi thought that what went on in Rome was Paul’s problem and what went on in Philippi was their problem. Not true. Perhaps you are resigned to the notion that what goes on in Jerusalem is Bro. K’s problem and what goes on in Zambia is Pat Coleman’s problem, and that it is only the problems in the San Gabriel Valley affecting you in a felt way that are your problems. Not true. Paul’s precise words were “same conflict,” not “same conflicts.” He was not saying that their conflict was just like his. He was pointing out to them that their conflict and his conflict are the same conflict. My friends, there is only one conflict, and it is the same one for each and every one of us who know and serve Christ.

In addition to the conflict being common, you need to know that the conflict is combat. Good gracious sakes alive. This is war. The Greek word Paul uses for “conflict” here refers to a struggle between gladiators or athletes.[8] Gladiators in Paul’s day didn’t swing from ropes and knock folks down onto padded mats, like they did several years ago on television shows that were watched by mental midgets. In Paul’s day gladiators killed each other. In one wrestling match, a victor won by using all his strength to dislocate the ankle of his opponent while his opponent was choking the life out of him. He was awarded the victor’s laurel wreath crown posthumously.[9] Understand that what was going on between contestants in the conflict Paul describes by the particular Greek word he selected reveals it to be considerably more than our modern conception of a contest. It is a war by another name. This is for keeps.

If you really do know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are signed up for the duration of the conflict in a spiritual war. If you have not seen others engaged in this conflict, or heard of others engaged in this conflict, then you will soon find out from personal experience what this conflict is really like. In First Timothy 6.12, Paul urges Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.” In Second Timothy 4.7, Paul, at the end of his life and ministry, tells that same Timothy that he had “fought the good fight.” Therefore, what Philippians 1.30 is all about is informing those church members that they, too, were engaged in a conflict that they needed to fight in. What happens to the Christian who will not fight the good fight of faith, but who chooses to be a simpering wimp who gets emotional and mopes all the time about how hard life is? What happens to the child of God who forever considers the Christian conflict someone else’s problem to deal with? Find out for yourself. As for me, I do not want to know what happens to that kind of bird. I cannot stand the thought of being that way. The Christian conflict is my fight to engage in, and I trust that I will be on my Savior’s side, to fight to the end to advance His glorious cause. I hope the same goes for you.


Almost sixteen years ago, I conducted a man's memorial service at Forest Lawn Covina Hills. I remember that so many church people and friends of his were there that folks were lined up outside the chapel, with his high school track coach even showing up. The reason I bring that up is because after that memorial service, as we were about to go to where his remains were interred, we had to wait for a long procession of cars coming from a funeral in Pomona. It seems that a young man attending Fresno State had come home for the weekend. As he was standing in his mother’s drive way with his uncle, having been home only twelve hours, and looking forward to graduating from college that June, he and his uncle were shot to death by an unknown assailant and a young man’s life was cut short. My friends, sometimes it seems like we are experiencing war here at home, but in other places it is real war all the time. When that man died, what used to be Yugoslavia was a region being torn apart by civil war. Afghanistan was in the middle of a civil war. Albania was ripping apart because of a nationwide pyramid scheme gone bad. Our missionary Pat Coleman, now in Zambia, used to serve in Zaire until civil war broke out in that country. When Jim Hoops died, there was civil unrest in western China, among the Muslim population. It was revealed that President Clinton received financial contributions from a businessman in Indonesia and, in turn, agreed to sell fighter planes that were used by Indonesia to annihilate the tiny population of East Timor, an island north of Australia. Of course, this was all before 9/11. The next president did the same thing in a different place, and I fear the next president is doing it, as well, in a different place. Does it seem like the world is at war? Does it seem like our country, at least the cities, are at war? Consider this: The warfare that you see when you watch the evening news, whether it be in your neighborhood or in neighboring countries, is not really the important warfare. More important to mankind, and more important to you individually, is the spiritual conflict that is raging.

A few minutes ago, I explained the Apostle Paul’s attempt to encourage the Christians in Philippi to enter the fray and recognize their role as soldiers of the cross in the conflict. However, to you who are unfamiliar with this whole subject of spiritual conflict, it is needful that I provide for you an overview. There are two ways in which a conflict can be analyzed, whether it be a war between nations or a spiritual conflict.


Looking at a conflict strategically means that you look at the big picture. It means you take in the entire lay of the land, the entire theater of operations. You consider all the various factors that enter into achieving victory. Folks, there is a spiritual conflict that has gone on since Satan’s rebellion against God that began shortly after the creation of Adam and Eve. It is a war between the forces of God and those who are opposed to God. Consider three things about this great conflict considered strategically:

First, it is a conflict against spiritual foes. In Ephesians 6.11-12, the Apostle Paul informed those church members that they should,

11     Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12     For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Even a cursory reading of this passage should convince you that Paul was not speaking about a conflict between humans, but rather a conflict between Christians on one side, fighting for God, and spiritual beings, demons and fallen angels, on the other side. To remove all doubt about who opposes us in this spiritual conflict, listen to what Peter writes in First Peter 5.8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Did you notice what Peter wrote, telling us who our adversary is? He wrote, “your adversary the devil.” Friends, I and others who know the Lord Jesus Christ are engaged in spiritual conflict. Our adversaries are not those of you who are not saved. Scripture never refers to unbelievers as any Christian’s enemies. No. Our enemy is the devil. There really is a devil.

Second, it is a conflict with spiritual tools. This fight is not a fight that is fought with either brains or brawn. This is a spiritual conflict that can only be engaged in with spiritual tools. Consider Ephesians 6.13-18:

13     Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14     Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15     And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16     Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17     And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18     Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.

People who try to outsmart this enemy, who try to out muscle this enemy, can only fail. Thankfully, our God, for Whom we champion this cause, has equipped us well to prevail.

Third, it is a conflict for spiritual prizes. First Corinthians 9.24-25 reads:

24     Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

25     And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

Likening the Christian conflict to a race, in this passage, Paul points out that we do not do what we do to gain some prize that will not last, whether it be a wreath of olive leaves that will wilt, or a pot full of money. No. Our effort for Christ’s sake anticipates rewards up in heaven.


Three things for you:

First, this conflict is a conflict “against” you. At least, that is how it is oftentimes perceived by you and me. Are you not likely to get really touchy when I point out that you are a sinner in the sight of God and that you can do nothing that pleases God, can do nothing that is good, can do nothing to save yourself from your sins? I am not actually attacking you, just telling you the truth from God’s Word. However, you are likely to respond as though you are being attacked; like I am against you. Or you act like I am attacking you when I point out that though you claim to be a Christian, you are in all probability lost. I base this on my experiences dealing with people, even with evangelicals, not in an attempt to put anyone down or criticize, but to speak the truth so that you will face the reality of your lost condition. What is the typical reaction when I do this? Anger. Consternation. Some feel intimidated. Others are dismissive. In every case, you feel that I am against you. However, I am not against you. No genuinely saved person is against you. My conflict is not against any human being, but against spiritual foes. I am commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ, however, to deal with lost people and seek to bring you to Him. I am engaged in a battle of wills, if you will. Not my will against your will, but your will against God’s will. Therefore, so long as you resist attempts to lovingly bring you to faith in Christ, you only highlight your lost condition in the sight of God.

Second, this conflict is with the gospel. Paul wrote to the Corinthians these words: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”[10] Here is my contention: The only tool by which I can deal with you to bring you to Christ is the gospel. That is why Paul points out that those who do not keep in memory the gospel have believed in vain, and are not saved. What am I to think of your relationship with Christ when you do not remember the gospel? What am I to think of your personal salvation if you do not remember the elementary principles of how you were supposedly saved? If you do not understand the gospel, there is a troubling likelihood you are not saved. If you will not allow me to talk to you and discover whether or not you understand the gospel, how can I have assurance that you are saved? The Bible teaches, and I have discovered by experience, that genuinely saved people typically love to subject their testimony to scrutiny. They love to let people listen to and carefully examine their story of how they were saved. Why? Two reasons: First, they really do think they are saved, and are not fooling themselves. Second, if they are not really saved the Bible way, they want to find out what the problem is and fix it fast. How does one examine his testimony to see if he really is saved? There is only one way. Compare what happened to you with the gospel. There is only one way to be saved. There is only one gospel to preach. Either you are saved by believing the gospel or you were not saved. That scrutiny, my friend, can only occur one on one, face to face, with an open Bible. Don’t get me wrong. You can be saved right where you sit right at this moment. That said, when it is time for examination, to subject your testimony to careful scrutiny, to give an answer for the hope that lies within you, it is one on one with an open Bible.

Third, this conflict is a conflict for your salvation. I and other believers are engaged in a conflict for the souls of men. Not our souls, since we have already trusted the Savior and are saved. It is your soul’s salvation, my friend, that is my concern. You see, the Bible declares that you were born in sin, that you are dominated by sin, that sin has perverted and distorted your perception, and that sin literally controls every aspect of your life. Since sin is a moral defilement, a putrefaction of the soul, you cannot approach God and will not go to heaven when you die because of your sin. Your nature is so contrary to God that you actually commit specific acts of rebellion against Him called sins. Don’t deny it. Here is your dilemma. Sin has separated between you and your God, so you cannot cry out to Him for mercy with any guarantee He will hear you. We know that God heareth not sinners. Also because of your sinfulness, you cannot approach God, because He is holy. Since you cannot save yourself, and since you cannot appeal to God to save you, you stand in need of Someone who can bridge the gap between you and God. You need Someone who can do for you what you cannot do for yourself. You need Someone to deliver you from your sins.

Is there a war going on? You’d better believe there is. It is a war between God and the devil. It is a war that has already been won by Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. The outcome is sure. You see, when the Lord Jesus Christ suffered, bled, and died, and then when He was buried and rose again the third day, He won the war. He gained the victory. Therefore, the victory is mine, because Jesus is my Savior.

So, why does the fighting continue, though the war has been won? There are skirmishes and battles that must be fought until the Lord Jesus Christ comes to wage the final, decisive battle. These skirmishes and battles are for the souls of individual men, and a skirmish is being fought right this moment for your soul, my friend. Paul wrote, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men.”[11] I engage you for the purpose of presenting the gospel to you. If God’s people pray and wield their weapons of spiritual warfare effectively, then perhaps you will be persuaded that what we speak is true, that you are hopelessly lost, and that only Jesus can save you from your sins. Then, persuaded, you will flee to Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinful men’s souls.

That is the conflict Paul talked about to the Philippians. That is the fight he fought and urged Timothy to fight. That is the conflict that has been raging here today. The only question is, what is the outcome? Will you come to Christ or no?

[1] Acts 16.14-15

[2] Acts 16.16-22

[3] Acts 16.23-24, 35-38

[4] Acts 16.39-40

[5] Philippians 4.16

[6] 1 Thessalonians 1.6

[7] 2 Timothy 3.12

[8] J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle To The Philippians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1953), page 107.

[9] Arrachion of Phigalia - A heroic and at the same time tragic event took place at Olympia, when the pankratiast Arrachion from Phigalia died during the game. Arrachion being in a difficult position, when his opponent grabbed his neck, managed to make him raise his hand (the sign of defeat) by twisting his leg, while himself was dying. Arrachion, though dead, was pronounced the winner. He won three times at Olympia (572/568/564 BC).

[10] 1 Corinthians 15.1-2

[11] 2 Corinthians 5.11

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