“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” (Philippians 4:1 ESV)
Most Christians have a favorite Bible verse. But have you ever considered if God has a favorite passage of Scripture?
There is one verse from the Old Testament referenced in the New Testament more than any other—some 27 times. That verse is Psalm 110:1: “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’”
Cited in all four Gospels, Acts, and in multiple epistles, the 110th psalm provides a glimpse into the heavenly conversation at the ascension of the Messiah, when he sat down at the right hand of God the Father and received from him all authority over creation (see also Psalm 2:6-12 and Matthew 28:18). This cosmic rule continues until the final enemy, death itself, is vanquished by the reigning Christ (1 Corinthians 15:24-26). Concerning this precious text, evidently of great importance to the Holy Spirit as he guided the pen of the New Testament authors, the prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, remarked: “How condescending on Jehovah’s part to permit a mortal ear to hear, and a human pen to record his secret converse with his co-equal Son! How greatly should we prize the revelation of his private and solemn discourse with the Son, herein made public for the refreshing of his people!”
It is not a stretch to suppose that Psalm 110 and texts like it were swirling in the mind of the apostle when he wrote to the Philippians concerning “the power that enables him [the Lord Jesus Christ] even to subject all things to himself” (3:21). Christ reigns from heaven, and thus believers are to set their minds on the priorities of his kingdom, pressing on to the prize of the beatific vision (vv. 14, 20). His conquest is so exhaustive that even the fallible bodies of his people are to be renewed and rendered immortal like his (v. 21).
Shifting from indicative to imperative, Paul enjoins his readers to walk in light of this reality: “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved” (4:1). Note his tender, affectionate language. Invoking six terms of endearment in one breath, Paul is bracing them for the difficult conversation to follow, in which he will address conflicts in the congregation. Yet he is not merely compensating for these hard words; he is moved with genuine love for the church, his “joy and crown.” A decade earlier, he had written to another church: “[W]hat is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? . . . you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). When Paul was to stand before the Lord, his work among the churches would be its own reward. His disciples are the winner’s wreath with which he is to be crowned at the end of his race.
With this pastoral warmth, Paul admonishes the Philippians: “stand firm thus” (4:1). His summons to confident endurance echoes the letter’s thesis: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ . . . standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (1:27). Paul’s aim is that his readers would lock arms, hold their ground, and press forward in their gospel mission. Building on his previous exhortation, he now appends his oft-repeated formula: “in the Lord.” The church perseveres in her mission not in her own strength or initiative but in the power of her Lord. John Gill comments: “Christ is the only foundation where they can stand safe and sure; and such as are rooted and grounded, and built up in him, are established and stand[.]” As willing subjects united in salvation to our all-conquering King, we are to stand and strive in the certainty of his total victory.
We must heed Paul’s call for confidence. The fourth-century church father John Chrysostom concludes that the hope of Christ’s subjection of all things to himself—from the angels and demons to death itself—is “sufficient to raise up even the most sluggish and indolent.” Since the New Testament reminds us nearly 30 times that the Lord Jesus Christ is gradually stomping his every cosmic foe into the dust, surely the God of the Bible intends for us to take notice. The Great Commission will be finished and the nations won (Psalm 22:27), the gospel will pervade the peoples of earth like leaven permeates dough (Matthew 13:33), and the knowledge of God’s glory will cover the world as water covers the deep (Habakkuk 2:14). Despite the chaos and godlessness of the present age, the people of God have great cause for boldness indeed. Let us stand firm thus in the authority of the Lord.
Thank you for the encouragements you have provided in your Word. Grant me to apprehend the greatness of Christ’s power over the world as he presently reigns and extends his dominion. Embolden me in his knowledge so that I may stand firm in obedience and proclaim your Word to those around me.
In Jesus’ name,
- Ask God to work godly perseverance in your family and your local church.
- Pray for brotherly affection to be exemplified in your relationships with spiritual authorities in your life.
- Intercede for evangelists, pastors, and cross-cultural missionaries, that they would abound in boldness in preaching the gospel of the lordship of Christ.