Philippians 4:1, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.”
Human beings bear a great deal of dignity by virtue of the fact that we are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26–27). Yet the marring of this image in the fall also means that we give ourselves over to many indignities. One manifestation of this reality is our willingness to abandon truth when the going gets tough or when we simply tire of fighting the spiritual battle. Thus, we find many encouragements in Scripture for the Lord’s people to stand firm and not to waffle regarding their reliance upon God for salvation. Moses, for instance, encouraged the Israelites to stand firm against the Pharaoh and not to give in to the temptation to forsake Yahweh and return to slavery when the chariots of Egypt cornered Israel at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:1–14). Later in Israel’s history, Isaiah called the people to stand firm in the truth of their covenant Lord and not to trust in worthless idols (Isa. 46).
Consequently, the Apostle Paul, standing in the same prophetic tradition as the great leaders of God’s people Israel, calls throughout his epistles for his audience to stand firm in the Lord. Philippians 4:1 is one place where Paul issues this call. Knowing that the Philippians might be tempted to look to their own righteousness or follow those who perverted the gospel, the Apostle patiently and consistently reminded his original audience of the great truths of justification by faith alone and the ethical demands of the good news of Christ Jesus in chapter 3. But he also knew how likely it is for those who profess to be God’s people to waver on such matters, so he wrote Philippians 4:1 as a way to make it crystal clear that the responsibility of those called by the Lord is always to stand firm upon the rock of Apostolic and prophetic revelation. In other words, believers are always to plant their feet firmly in what has been revealed in sacred Scripture.
Standing firm “in the Lord,” as Paul has already said in Philippians 1:27, entails us “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Essentially, this means that we rely on what the Spirit of God has given to us for our edification in His Word, urging one another to do the same. We need the help of other believers to persevere in faith, and the Spirit will surely use our gospel admonitions to ensure that His people remain committed to His truth.
Reformed theology has always taught that God works through means, using secondary agents to keep us in the narrow way of Christ. We are familiar with His use of the preached Word of God and the sacraments to accomplish such things, but the Spirit also works through people as we minister one to another. We all need to be active in Christ’s body that we might encourage others to stand firm and to receive such encouragement for ourselves.