Philippians 1 v 27-30
Up to this point Paul has been telling the Philippians about his own situation in prison and what he was experiencing. Despite all the affliction, his attitude was one of joy and confidence in the Lord.
With verse 27 Paul begins a series of practical exhortations concerning the Christian life. He begins to encourage and to move the Philippians towards certain things that they ought to do.
The first exhortation we find in this passage has to do with conduct worthy of the Gospel.
In our society we see people meticulously obeying and carrying out conduct worthy of fear – conduct worthy of the threat, ample to counter what they are being threatened by. That’s what it means to have conduct worthy of the Gospel. May our conduct also be ordered according to the Gospel, and not only according to the dangers and depravity that we see around about us.
Covid-19 orders our conduct, as do the dangers on the road. That is well and good, but there is something else that ought to order our conduct, and that is the Gospel.
We need to understand what it means to have conduct worthy of the Gospel.
- Some general observations regarding the word conduct:
a. What Paul meant.
The blessed King James translation reads “Let your conversation be worthy of the Gospel.” In the Greek text it literally means ‘behave as citizens’. To those at Philippi this word would have had special meaning, because of what the city was, a Roman colony. Most of the citizens there were transplanted citizens from Rome, retired soldiers who were expected to behave in line with Roman rules.
Paul applies this term to the life the Christian. The fact about us is that this world is not the Christian’s home. We are not world people, we are heaven people. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Although we are on this planet, we do not have our citizenship here. That’s why the Lord tells us ‘love not the world, nor the things thereof’, because citizens of heaven are very aware of the treasure that they have in heaven – dwelling in the presence of the Lamb without blemish, slain before the foundation of the world and the God who spoke all into existence.
And so although we live on earth, we should not behave like worldly people. We are to behave as citizens of heaven.
b. Our conduct as citizens of heaven is to be worthy of the Gospel.
This implies that there is behaviour that is not worthy of the Gospel, and to act unworthy of the Gospel would bring shame upon it, just as a South African citizen who misbehaves in another country sheds a bad reflection on our country. The Apostle Peter would have us remember the importance of proper conduct as we sojourn on earth (1 Peter 2:11-12).
A scale that balances is worthy. If the Gospel is on the one side of the scale and our lives on the other side balances it then the scale is worthy. We can never repay Christ, but the point here is that if we do not behave in a worthy way we are living lives that are unworthy of the Gospel.
c. Our behaviour should be worthy with, or without the presence of other Christians.
Paul said ‘whether I come to see you or are absent’. He didn’t want their faith to be simply a cultural or environmental faith that is totally dependent on the culture or environment. We are to be worthy, with or without other Christians around – even in a very hostile environment.
Some of the signs of an environmental or cultural faith is praying in public but not in private and studying the Bible when at Church, but not at home. It’s a lack of personal closeness and dependence on God and the LORD Jesus Christ. It’s living in a godly way only when we’re seen.
Paul’s hope was that the Philippians’ behaviour as citizens was not dependent on his presence, but that they could do it without him. Our behaviour should not be dependent upon the presence of other Christians, but on the presence of Christ alone.
- Specific observations concerning our conduct:
a. It involves standing fast in one Spirit.
The lure of the world must not get to us, nor the deceitfulness of false doctrines. We must stand fast in unity. This lock-down has the potential to divide us.
Unworthy conduct occurs when there is a neglect of coming together.
b. Striving together with one mind.
It means working together with the congregation where God has placed us.
c. Not in any way being terrified by our adversaries.
Courage is evidence of our salvation (Mat 5:10-12). There are many times when we are privileged to suffer for the sake of the Gospel (Acts 5:41-42).
We find ourselves in the most troubling times when it is difficult to proclaim the Gospel from behind a mask. We need to be careful, but not terrified of this invisible adversary.
Is our conduct worthy of the Gospel of Christ? Are we behaving as citizens of heaven while we sojourn on this earth? If not, could it be that we have forgotten the privileges we enjoy by believing in the LORD Jesus Christ and even suffering for Him?