Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. Philippians 1:27-30
The Christian Life Should Be Exemplary
Paul addresses many complex issues in chapter 1. He forthrightly expresses his affection for the Philippians and advises them of his fervency in prayer on their behalf, whereas Paul is writing while in chains in Rome, he does not lament his circumstance. Instead, he rejoices in the fact that what happened to him is helping to spread the gospel. Paul acknowledges his dire predicament and stands ready to by a martyr for the sake of Jesus Christ. He reaffirms his spiritual kinship with the Philippians and looks forward to fellowshipping with them. By the time we get to the last four verses of chapter 1, Paul has become more resolute in his determination to live or die for Christ. Thus, in verse 27, he reminds the Philippians that whatever happens, either to him or to the Philippians, they must conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
As is his practice in all his letters, Paul chooses his words very carefully. Instead of using the Greek peripatein to express the idea of behavior that is worthy of the gospel, he uses the Greek poteuesthai- which he hasn’t used before- which conveys the idea of the Philippians living as citizens of the Kingdom of God. The King James Version has it: "Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." Nowadays, this is misleading. To us, conversation means talk; but it is derived from the Latin word conversari, which means to conduct oneself. In the seventeenth century, a person's conversation was not only his way of speaking to other people; it was his whole behavior. The phrase means, "Let your behavior be worthy of those who are pledged to Christ." (William Barclay)
Paul reminds the Philippians that they should not bring shame to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He wants their behavior (reputation) to be such that he would know they are representing Christ with dignity and integrity. Thus, he expects them to stand firm in the one Spirit. That means he expects to stand firm, unashamed, notwithstanding their circumstance, just as he is doing. Furthermore, he exhorts them to strive together. The phrase “striving together” comes from the Greek synathleo, which implies working together or laboring together. The idea is that of the Philippians working harmoniously to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, he reminds them that “they are to be bound together in one spirit like a band of brothers.” That unity will strengthen their resolve and give them the confidence to press forward in their evangelistic fervor. Thus, they will not have to be afraid of those who oppose them. Instead, they will cultivate cool, calm courage as a citizen of the heavenly Kingdom.
Paul maintains that such godly behavior or conduct will be convicting to unbelievers, and be an example that the pagans will be disgusted with their own way of life, and realize that the Christians have something they do not possess, and will seek to obtain it to save themselves. “Paul does not suggest that this will be easy. When Christianity first came to Philippi, they saw him fight his own battle. They saw him scourged and imprisoned for the faith (Acts 16:19). They know what he is now going through. But let them remember that a general chooses his best soldiers for the hardest tasks and that it is an honor to suffer for Christ. So Paul says to the Philippians: "since you are going through the same struggle, you saw I had, and now hear that I still have," let us fight the good fight and finish the race so we can get our crown.
It is not easy to live to the glory of God. As believers, we are often tested, sometimes persecuted, and always scrutinized as we strive to do the work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet we obligated to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That means we have to live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.
We have to stand firm in our faith as members of the body of Christ that are bound together for the work of the ministry until we complete the Christian race. We will go through and may even experience martyrdom. Yet, we live by faith and not by fear. We have to be bold in our resolve to proclaim the name of Jesus and live as citizens of heaven so that the pagans will see what it means to live to the glory of God.
Whether we like it or not, the Christian life is a call to suffer. We do not all suffer the same way. Indeed, some Christians suffer to death, while others go through oppression. Nevertheless, suffering is included in our service to the kingdom of God. Indeed, the idea of living a trouble-free Christian life is a myth.
The good news is that those who suffer from dignity, hope, and integrity for the sake of the gospel will get the crown that is reserved for them. In the meantime, we have to live as Christ lived and serve as he did so we can influence nonbelievers to give their lives to Christ. We have to stir up one another to do good works so we can show the world what a heaven-bound believer looks like.
Heavenly Father, may our lives bring glory to your Holy name so we can inspire nonbelievers to accept you as Lord and Savior.