“Shine as God’s Stars in the World”
Philippians 1:27 – 2:18

Today’s Scripture reading is on the long side when it comes to taking it apart and explaining verse by verse. However, I chose these verses together because they are a series of imperative statements that Paul gave to the Christians in Philippi and in essence we can say he gives to us today. 

First I think it is important for us to understand the word “imperative.” If you have forgotten what you learned in your high school English class, imperative is a mood in which the sentence is written, and this mood would mean “giving an authoritative command,” telling you “to do,” something.  
Paul begins this section, 1:27, with an imperative for those in Philippi to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of their heavenly citizenship. He states how that should be done: 1) standing fast in the one Spirit,  2) contending as one person for the gospel, and 3) not to be frightened, in any way by the opposition.

Then in Chapter 2, Paul gives a list of imperatives that demonstrate how Christians are defined, 
They are united with Christ
They receive comfort from God’s love
They have fellowship with the Spirit
They have tenderness and compassion
If all of the above….
Then….they will be….
Like-minded, in the same love, spirit and purpose
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit
In humility consider others better than themselves
Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others
If that list didn’t get the two ladies,Euodia and Syntyche, who were at odds with each other, thinking, Paul continues with –

Our attitudes should be the same as Christ Jesus. Here Paul poetically describes the basis for his existence. Whatever else the Christian faith is, however one attempts to live it out, the central focus for Paul and for all Christians should be Christ. This is why Paul can say, “for me to live is Christ.” 

In verse 12, Paul reminds the Philippians, and us, that yes we are to work at being like Christ, but not to forget, in verse 13, God wants us to succeed more than we do, so to remember, “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His purpose.” 

Paul expounds with yet another imperative, in verse 14. This one has a  specific application to those in Philippi and to us today. Paul urges them to

 1) do all things without murmuring and arguing. 

Paul then writes a purpose clause, which answers the question, “Why?” or “For what purpose?”

For what purpose?

That they be seen as “the blameless children of God” and thus “shine as stars,” in a pagan world,

“holding firm the word of life.” 

What a striking image. “Shine as stars,” in a pagan world. Tiny bits of light in a dark sky. 
Paul’s conclusion of this section of the letter, is a transition that returns to the narrative about his affairs and their affairs which was broken off when he started this section in chapter 1, verse 26. 

Paul has a theme going with returning to his ministry. His desire is to be back on the mission field.  As he writes this letter to the Philippians, it is full of echoes of the Old Testament, which is unique to this letter. Paul’s use of intertextuality is again seen in verse 14, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,” is directly from Exodus, relating to the grumbling of Israel in the desert. 
To set the comparison straight, because Israel was grumbling with God and Moses, and the Philippians were not grumbling with Paul and God, Paul adds “or arguing” as with each other. 

Verse 15, gives the purpose behind Paul’s imperative. Paul wants them to be recognized, not as grumblers and arguers, but as “children of God.” What do children of God look like? First, they are “blameless and pure.” Here Paul is referring back to Genesis where God begins the renewal of the covenant with Abram, Genesis 17:1, 

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.

The description of “blameless and pure” is directed more towards one’s heart, with the sense of innocence, or of observable conduct which no one can find fault. 
Then Paul uses the phrase, “children of God without fault” which goes back to the book of Deuteronomy 32:5, 

“They are corrupt and not his children;
    to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation.”

Paul twists the phrase into an opposite in regard to the Phippians, as they ARE indeed God’s children, now if they would only stop their internal bickering, then they would be seen without fault. 

Paul realizes it is a difficult request, as the Philippians live in the midst of a “warped and crooked generation,” where grumbling and arguing are the norm. Paul also uses these words to describe what he presented back in 1:28, when he wrote about “those who oppose you.” Remember, at this time, the city of Philippi was loyal to Caesar as “lord” and loyalty to any other type of lord was not acceptable. Therefore, Christians were constantly up against the law of the day. 

Now that Paul has reminded the Philippians exactly who they were, he continues with his intertextuality by referring to Daniel’s apocalyptic vision to describe their role in pagan Philippi, “shine among them like stars in the sky.” Paul reminds them they are to be 
clearly distinguishable from, and 
in opposition to, 
the world around them. 
They are to be doing this as they 
“hold firmly to the word of life.” 
Basically Paul desires that their behaviour be distinguishable so that their evangelism, 
the spreading of the gospel, 
will not be hindered by their internal bickering. 

The eschatological context of Daniel seems to have directed Paul into a language of futuristic tone. 
With some of the same language, Paul takes the conclusion of his affairs that he discusses in chapter 1, verses 25-26, and brings himself back into the picture. Just as in verse 26, Paul is not boasting about anything he has done, but he is boasting about what Christ has been able to do through him. Paul completes this thought with one of his favorite images, that of the games and of manual labor. Life for Paul has the features of a race with an eschatological prize at the finish line. This race for Paul is not completed without labor. Paul wants the Philippians to understand that his “prize” is not a personal one, but will be having the Philippians and others with him in heaven. Paul is hoping this will be an incentive for those Christians, in Philippi, to “obey by working out their salvation while he is absent from them,” verse 12 of chapter 2. 
Paul completes his imperatives, as usual, on a positive note. Even if Paul and the Philippians are to undergo similar difficulties for the sake of the gospel, Paul’s imprisonment and the church in Philippi’s struggle with the government’s decree to worship Caesar as lord, yet, Paul will rejoice. Then he asks them to rejoice along with him. 

This verb is again, written in the imperative. It’s not a suggestion, it is a command. Paul has shifted from his concern for their “progress and joy regarding the faith,” found in chapter 1, verse 25, to declaring it is necessary that they experience joy in the midst of their suffering. 
Paul is not stating, “You are going to have joy, whether you like it or not.” As if the idea of joy in suffering meant a delight in feeling badly. 

Rather the joy Paul is suggesting is the joy in knowing their future is predicated on the unshakable foundation of the work of Christ, both past and future. Paul is not commanding they have joy in their circumstances, but they are to have joy in their place in Christ, which places them above their circumstances. Paul asks them to step back for a minute, take a new perspective, look through the darkness and notice the twinkling stars, the sign of hope, the sign of joy. 
Today’s Scripture contains more than we can grasp in twenty minutes. However, if we step back and not lose sight of the forest for the trees, there are some significant points to be discovered. 

First, this section refers back to the original imperative, The Message puts it this way,

“Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed!”

Let’s admit it, many of us are prone to doing just that. Much like the Philippians, we live in a society that sometimes thrives on bickering, second-guessing, grumbling, and disputing. Paul spent a great deal of time on this subject, because as God’s children living in a very fallen, twisted world it is tough. Not only our personal behavior but our Christian corporate behavior, especially in how it is reflected in our attitudes toward one another, goes a long way in determining how effectively we “hold firm the word of life.” The word of life here is referring to our evangelism, and for Paul evangelism was the bottom line. The purpose for all we do and say. 
If Christians are bickering, how are any different from the world around us? Definitely not “stars shining in the darkness.” 

Secondly, if the book of Philippians does anything, may it impress on you the need to have “joy” in the midst of all circumstances. After eight years of having daily, constant headache pain, I learned how to hold on to Jesus, and have joy. I wasn’t feeling joyful, I was feeling pain, but I learned how, by placing Jesus first, above my pain, above my finances, above my position in life, above my circumstances, I realized the one thing the world could not hurt, remove or damage, was my relationship with Jesus. He was mine and I was His. That is joy, thus I began signing my name, Joyfully, Marilee. 

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul continues to speak of “joy” in the midst of “suffering.” 
It is important to recognize what Paul means by suffering. Eight years of a constant, daily pain can be seen as suffering, but this is not the type of suffering Paul is referring to in this book. He is also not referring to a suffering one may experience when they are suffering because they are right, all else be damned. The suffering Paul is writing about is the suffering experienced as the direct result of 
trying to bring others in on the joy, 
being a light, 
in the darkness and 
suffering for doing so. 
That type of suffering still exists, when we commit to sharing the gospel in our present, very pagan world, which like the world for the Philippians, it is not a friend to grace or sympathetic to our confession that only Jesus is LORD. 
Today, I look out on a congregation of stars, coming to worship today to be recharged, so they can return to the darkness and shine in the world. And as you do, be prepared for suffering, yet, remember, there is no where you can go, that Christ isn’t there to cheer you on, and don’t forget to hold firmly to the word of life. 

Let’s pray. 

May your light shine for Jesus.