Continuing – the reason that Paul gives for this is also quite interesting, for it might not be what we would have expected. Notice that his concern doesn’t revolve around any legal concept, as so many teach, but rather one of testimony. Paul tells them that if they behave in this way, he will know that they are standing firm; he states this as though their manner of living were a sign of some sort. The Philippians should stand firm fearlessly, in the face of any opposition… but who would oppose good behavior?
Then, in the latter part of verse 28, Paul comes right out and tells them that the way they conduct themselves, particularly in the face of opposition, is a sign to the world that they will be destroyed, while the followers of Christ will be saved by God. Have you ever thought of behaving yourself as a sign before? Have you ever thought of it as a sign that those who don’t behave well will be destroyed? Maybe not. Throughout the epistle Paul seems dedicated to helping the Philippians “order their common life in a manner worthy of the gospel.
In response to their withdrawal from the various civic and religious institutions of Philippi, the Christians in Philippi would have faced various sorts of opposition. These might take economic forms in terms of being fired from one’s job or having one’s business boycotted. It also appears that at least some Philippian Christians found themselves in jail for the same reason Paul did: for advocating customs “which are not permissible to us Romans.” We simply do not know how many Philippian Christians were subject to persecution both official and unofficial. Paul speaks of their suffering for Christ’s sake in 1:29, but does not divulge any details.