Friday 30 October 2020
I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.
When thinking about an illustration for this week’s message, I did consider the Emperor penguin who survive the Antarctic winter by huddling together to conserve heat and stand strong in the extreme wind. But the illustration whilst good, doesn’t go far enough to explain fullness of what I believe God wants to say to us.
God calls us as Christians, and as a church to Stand firm together, but Paul who wrote this probably had in his mind the picture of Roman soldiers, as he was chained between two Roman guards. He had already written encouraging Christians to put on the full amour of God in another letter to the Ephesian Church.
The Roman military were highly successful because of their tactics and organised formations. One of them was called the “testudo” or tortoise formation (which they had nicked from the Greeks) which was just like a tortoise shell made with shields. It was highly effective as a defence because of the way it interlocked together with shields overlapping leaving only very thin gaps Each solider, had to deeply trust the soldiers next to them to do their part. They became interdependent. When they all were in their place, it was difficult to break up this formation, so the soldiers could stand firm together and resist attacks, defend and hold their ground. But…. It was also an offensive tactic as it enabled the soldiers to advance, with confidence until they were in position to attack, often the formation would break open to unleash a heavy weapon, and then after it had been fired the formation locked again and moved forward taking new ground.
The verse above has deep pastoral care at its heart, as standing firm together means interlocking in fellowship, bound in love, praying, supporting and encouraging one another. This passage encourages deeper unity and humility as means of this interlocking. But it also shows that we must also strive together, as a team or part of a formation for the Faith of the Gospel, your brother and sister Christians needs you to lock into formation with them, so we all stand firm together, and then together can continue to move forward in Faith for the Gospel even facing the most difficult trials. Let’s make no mistake one of the pictures the New testament paints of the Christian life is that of being a Soldier engaging in warfare in the Spiritual realm, as we have a triple formidable alliance against us of Sin, the world and the Devil. We stand firmer when we are together, and advance further with the love of Christ burning passionately in our hearts.
Philippians 1 v 27-2 v 4
While the world changes, the cross stands firm.