Please Help Us Keep These Thousands of Blog Posts Growing and Free for All
And in no way frightened by your opponents, which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that from God. (Philippians 1:28)
Paul finishes his statement by using a Greek term (πτύρω pturō) meaning to frighten or scare. It is a strong term that pictures the terror of a panic-stricken horse. He is encouraging them not to be terror-stricken in the face of the opposition they have (and will) meet. The believer’s courage in the face of opposition is proof of their salvation and the ultimate destruction of those who oppose Christianity.
Paul says that their striving together in love and confidence would provide a sign (evident token or proof) to those who were working in opposition to the message of Jesus Christ. The word used for sign carries the idea of a legal proof obtained by analysis of the facts.
His use of the concept of destruction and salvation brings with it the understanding of eternal salvation and destruction. Apparently, we have witnessed that not all believers are delivered in this life from those who oppose Christianity. The writer of Hebrews makes mention of this truth in chapter 11:32 – 40 with references to the Old Testament examples.
Hebrews 11:32-40 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, brought about righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 Others received their trial by mockings and scourgings, indeed, more than that, by chains and prisons. 37 They were stoned, they were tried, they were sawn in two, they were slaughtered by the sword, they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated; 38 and the world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and mountains and caves and dens of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a testimony through their faith, did not receive the promise, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.
God gives believers the ultimate victory. Eternal life in the eternal kingdom. As the preacher has said, payday isn’t always on Friday. God will always settle His accounts.
More in-depth Insights
And in no way frightened by your opponents. Early Christians and Christianity had just gotten underway but had already acquired adversaries or opponents. The Jewish religious leaders were undoubtedly opponents from the start. They had Jesus executed, Stephen stoned to death, and the apostle Paul traveled to persecute and lock the Christians up before his conversion. There were Jews there who would be likely to oppose them. (cf. Acts 17:5) The Jews felt that Christianity was some little apostate religion started by a false teacher and now an organized religion that converted thousands of Jews. And Rome hated the Christians, as they shunned and spoke out again the failings and vices of paganism. In Philippi, about 49-52 C.E., Paul himself had suffered greatly. (Acts 16) Paul was beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, but he spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house, so the jailer and his household became Christians (Ac 16:19-34) As Paul was now imprisoned in Rome awaiting trial by Emperor Nero, writing this letter to the Philippians, 60 or 61 C.E., Jewish leaders said regarding the early Christians: “But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for concerning this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” (Acts 28:22) Here again, some form of severe suffering was going on among the Philippians. There is no account of the specifics of how this opposition to them was motivated. So, Paul is telling them not to be shocked or frightened by anything that the opponents can do. The Philippians need to preserve in their Christian integrity, in spite of all the opposition which may come upon them. As Jesus said, “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13), and these adversaries, certainly, will be destroyed.
Which is a sign of destruction for them. Which would be the sign of their destruction? What is this evidence that will result in these adversaries being destroyed? The relative pronoun (ἥτις hētis) is likely referring to the persecution that had been going on for some time and would likely continue long after this letter. The persecution now facing the Philippians and that it was going to continue for the unfreeable future is elliptical (i.e., omitted). Paul said, “Which is a sign of destruction for them.” A contextually identical sentence would be, “This persecution is a sign of destruction for them.” The words “this persecution” can be omitted because the readers understood what Paul was referring to from the actual events of what was happening. Thus, the Philippians can brace for ongoing persecution and opposition, but they now know it will not prevail. This persecution would be a sign that the perpetrators would be destroyed in the end. It would be evidence of their own salvation. They had one thing the persecutors did not, the Savior, Jesus Christ, which assured those having a righteous standing before God would be saved if they endured to the end.
And that from God. The persecution from their adversarial opponents is evidence that God will intervene in the future, and those who have maintained their integrity to the end will be saved. One sign that a Christian is a friend of God is the hostility of the wicked toward him, and he shall be saved if he maintains his Christian integrity until the end.
 Consider John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House, 2002).