In this expression, we find the apostle is taking a keen interest in the saints and their progress in the things of Christ. It is not the idea of being nosy, trying to find out about secrets in their personal affairs, but rather he is concerned about their standing and unity in the gospel. Their unity was of great concern to the apostle for he knew that there were other assemblies having problems in their unity with one another. For example, to those in Corinth he writes, ‘Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment’, 1 Cor. 1. 10. The expression ‘perfectly joined’ may be better rendered ‘perfected’, or ‘furnished completely in the same mind and judgement’.
But what really is the apostle’s concern in this? It certainly includes the aspect of being firm in standing for the faith of the gospel despite those who are opposed to it. However, there is another important factor that may often be overlooked, and which causes the enemy to rejoice; that is the saints fighting among themselves. Hence the reason for the apostle’s concern that they should strive together (labour together; united together) in their stand for the gospel of Christ. As Jude writes, ‘Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints’, Jude 3.
Sadly, many an assembly testimony is marred by bitter fighting, envying, and strife among the saints. It was ever the Lord’s desire that we should be one, even as He is with the Father, John 17. 21.
Boldness in the face of opposition condemns those who are the instigators of the trouble, for God will judge them at the right time, as well as in the coming day. More than that, it gives evidence of the salvation that is ours, which is yet to be manifest in that future day. The enemies of Christ will be destroyed, and we will be saved.
In His upper room ministry, the Lord had forewarned, ‘If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you’, John 15. 18. And so, the expression here in verse 28, ‘an evident [pointing out] token of perdition’. This expression is used in law of a writ of indictment; a demonstration or proof that their adversaries will be without excuse in that day of judgement.
Hence, we can take encouragement from the Apostle Paul as he wrote to the believers at Thessalonica in view of their persecution, ‘Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day’, 2 Thess. 1. 5-10.
When Christians stand strong against intimidation, against the world, the flesh and the devil, it shows those spiritual enemies that their ultimate destruction is certain. When our spiritual enemies fail to make us afraid, they have failed completely because they really have no other weapon than fear and intimidation.
Furthermore, when Christians are not in any way terrified by their adversaries, it is also evidence of their own salvation. In the Lord, we can surprise ourselves with our boldness. Even though there are those who oppose us, we are not only exhorted to pray for them, but to also show kindness to them in order that we may ‘heap coals of fire’ on their head, Rom. 12. 20.
Paul himself knew the experience of what they themselves were going through and could sympathize with them, ‘Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me’, v. 30.
The very fact that we are saved is a wonder in itself and we must never lose sight of the fact that it is entirely of the grace of God. The day we heard the gospel of Christ and trusted Him as Saviour and Lord, we were made the children of God by faith, John 1. 12. And, as Paul states in Ephesians, ‘In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise’, 1. 13. That salvation will one day be fully realized at the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, but in the meantime, the Lord is preserving us in the midst of many trials which we face. Additionally, God is working His sovereign purpose in each of our lives so that we may be conformed to the image of His dear Son.
The context of ‘salvation’ here is not that of the salvation of the soul, but rather that of deliverance from the problems that were evident among them. The apostle has already emphasized that they should exemplify the mind of Christ and that nothing is to be done through strife or vainglory, vv. 2, 3. The constraints placed upon each believer is that we should not only exemplify Christ in His humility in being a servant, but also in showing love to all saints.
In other words, the apostle is saying, ‘Make your salvation real in your life’! The lessons learned from these things is evidence that God is working out His own sovereign purpose in our lives. The idea here is to go on walking by the same rule, and minding the same thing, as he exhorts and gives of Christ, vv. 5-11; himself, vv. 16-18; Timothy, vv. 19-23; and Epaphroditus, vv. 25-30. God, who, in wondrous grace saved us, made us His own, has an end product in view, and that is that we will ‘be conformed to the image of his Son’, Rom. 8. 29, and that we should ‘not be conformed to this world: but … transformed by the renewing of … [our] mind, that [we] may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God’, Rom. 12. 2. Therefore, our lives should show all that is of His heart and desire, as Paul states in Ephesians chapter 2 verse 10, ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’.
In much the same way, the writer exhorts the Jewish believers as follows: ‘But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises’, Heb. 6. 9-12.
Furthermore, we should be thankful for that which God is doing in our lives, remembering that it is not only for our good, but also for His glory. We also notice that the apostle states that we be blameless before the world, in order that we be not ashamed before the Lord, when He comes, 1 John 2. 28.
May the Lord help us in our daily walk with Him to exemplify and glorify Him in all our ways, and to take courage that the day will come when He will say to us, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant … enter thou into the joy of thy Lord’, Matt. 25. 21.