Saturday, 24 December 2016
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, Philippians 1:27
Paul has just penned his certainty that he will remain in his earthly body and continue with those at Philippi “for progress and joy of faith.” After this, he noted that this rejoicing would abound “in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.” Having said that, he now gives words of exhortation for them to consider.
He begins with “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” The word he uses for “your conduct” is politeuomai. It specifically means, “to live as a citizen.” Most translations make this word to indicate “conduct” or “manner of life,” but Paul was probably thinking more on the idea of citizenship itself. Thus, the NLT translates this verse as –
“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” NLT
The word is only used elsewhere in Acts 23:1 where Paul was thinking on the same terms. He was a citizen of Rome and had exercised his citizenship as a Roman to make an appeal for his case directly to Caesar. Therefore, he was living his citizenship in Rome, as well as his citizenship in heaven, in order to meet the goals of the gospel. This is certainly what he is thinking now, because he uses a variant of this word again in verse 3:20 where he says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…”
In this letter to Philippi, he is writing to a location mostly inhabited by Roman citizens. This is because Philippi was a Roman colony. He had even declared his own Roman citizenship there in Acts 16 –
“But Paul said to them, ‘They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.’” Acts 16:37
Understanding this, we can see that in his words to this group, he was reminding them that even if some of them were Roman citizens, they had a higher citizenship by which they should conduct their lives. He then explains the reason for this – “…so that whether I come and see you or am absent, that you stand fast in one spirit.” There was to be no division among them based on their earthly status.
Those who were citizens of Rome were to be in the same spirit with those who were slaves. The principle passes down to us today. We are to be united without regard to social status, fame, or any other lesser division. Rather, we are to be “in one spirit.” The spirit is the higher connection to God which comes through faith in Christ. A person who is not in Christ is “dead” in his spirit, but through Christ, the spirit is quickened to life and the connection to God is repaired to the state it was originally intended to be. In this spiritual connection, believers are to be united as one.
Further, he notes that they are to be “with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” The word translated as “mind” here is psuché. It refers specifically to the “soul.” As the spirit is the higher connection to God, the soul is the human connection to one another. In essence, we could think of Paul’s intent here as – “Let your spiritual connection to God be as one, and let your earthly lives strive together for the faith of the gospel.” There was to be a uniting of their spiritual and earthly efforts for harmony among one another, and for that harmony to be employed in their earthly conduct in order to build one another up in the faith.
Life application: There is nothing wrong with living out our earthly lives as citizens of the country in which we live, as long as we realize that our true citizenship is in heaven. The earthly citizenship should never be conducted without considering the heavenly. And this goes for personal conduct as well as interactions with other believers.
Lord God, though we live in this world and are citizens of various nations, in Christ we are one and we are to direct our lives first and foremost in regards to our heavenly citizenship. Help us to live out our personal lives in this way, and help us to conduct our personal interactions with other believers in this manner as well. Let us not divide our allegiance to You in ways which are not glorifying of You or which are not helpful to our fellows in Christ. Amen.