“Therefore, my beloved and longed for brothers, my joy and my crown, be firmly committed to the Lord, my beloved.”
The message that Paul leaves us with in this verse is simple, but profound. He begins with another display of affection for this church. He speaks of them being the object of his love and of his longing — his desire, as he said before, is to be with them face to face, not at a distance. He calls them his joy and his crown, which may seem a bit odd to us at first, for we usually see Paul applying this kind of language toward Christ, not men. That said, these Christians in Philippi have embraced Christ through the message of the Gospel brought by Paul. In addition, they have been faithful in aiding Paul in his ministry and they are continuing to uphold Paul in prayer. Thus, it should be no surprise that they have earned a special place in Paul’s heart…thus his words of affection. The notion of a crown is that of the garland a runner might earn for running a race well. Paul has done just that as he awaits his execution in prison. Then the verse closes with a reference to the people as beloved (while we could read this final “beloved” as applying to Christ, context seems to dictate that it again applies to the people of Philippi).
We are left with one instruction, then, in this verse. “Be firmly committed to the Lord.” You could render this also as “stand with conviction in the Lord.” Both would convey the same notion. Those things that are right and true and given to us by God are things that we must stand upon and stand for — even fight for when necessary. I am sometimes accused in the broader community of holding too fiercely to those things that I believe to be revealed in Scripture — things that some people would call “Evangelical Truths” in some circles, though the word “Evangelical” seems to be thrown around so often today that I venture that many can no longer define the term. I have sometimes been told that I am too narrow in my position that there is salvation in no other person than in Jesus Christ alone. To those who so challenge me, I ask, what would the Apostle Paul have to say?
So, beloved, be firmly committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and to everything that our Lord has spoken and taught. Further, be committed to everything that our Lord has revealed, which is the entirety of the 66 books of the Bible. Do not back down from these things, for as Peter remarks, Jesus is the only one that has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). If Jesus alone has the words of eternal life, why would we bother listening to others? Stand firm in what is true and do not fear the criticisms of those who would water down the truth. They are of this world and will not listen to us because we are not…our homeland is in heaven.