Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Monday we didn’t get past the first phrase in verse 27, as we spelled out the meaning of Paul’s exhortation, he calling on the Philippians, and on you and me, to live lives worthy of the gospel.
There are two things that Paul wants the Philippians and you and me to get from this one-phrase exhortation: He wants us to see that we are to live as citizens of a heavenly kingdom, and second, that we are to live in consistency with the gospel.
I. Live as citizens of heaven.
When Paul says, “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ,” he is actually bringing to the Philippians’ minds the category of citizenship. You remember from yesterday that “conduct yourself” is a term that would have been commonly used when a civil leader would have said to the people, “Remember that you’re a citizen of Rome, and act accordingly. Realize your privileges and your responsibilities.” And Paul is deliberately using this terminology because he wants them to remember that they are actually citizens of a greater state and empire than Rome. He says, “You are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and you have the greatest privileges and responsibilities in the world.”
And you see how that directly applies to us. Paul is reminding us that we may have great privileges as American citizens, but that we in fact are at the same time citizens of a greater kingdom – a heavenly kingdom – and it is from that kingdom that we ought to get our marching orders.
The challenge is: will we live in such a way which is consistent with being citizens of this heavenly kingdom, or will we be conformed to the world around us? Paul is reminding us here that we as Christians have a permanent responsibility to a joint struggle that produces unanimity in the body of believers as we together struggle, battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and seek to walk in accordance with the gospel of grace.
That battle is with us 24/7. Do you realize how different the call of the kingdom of God is to our prevailing culture? Whether it’s in the realm of sexual purity…whether you will be sexually faithful in your marriage, whether you will be modest in the way you dress or in the way you encourage your children to dress, whether you will be careful when you are alone at your computer. It can even come up when we’re talking with friends over a cup of coffee, and the conversation turns to gossip. Will we conform ourselves to the ways of this world in order to fit in, or will we be different?
II. Live in the light of the gospel.
Notice his words: “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” That reminds me of Romans 12, when Paul is transitioning from that glorious doctrinal section in the book of Romans, and then he’s getting ready to exhort you to live as Christians:
“Brothers, I implore you [I plead with you, I exhort you] in accordance with the mercies of Christ that you will live in this way.”
Paul’s doing the same thing here. He’s calling you to live life in light of the gospel of Christ, which means at least four things: Undeserved mercy; Unwavering; Unity; and, Unfrightened.
Undeserved mercy; the Apostle Paul is calling us here to remember that the gospel is not about what we have done. The gospel is about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ that we would not and could not do for ourselves. The gospel is about a mercy given to us that we have not deserved by our own deeds. And that must have a controlling effect on our conduct.
Secondly, to live in unwavering commitment to the gospel of Christ. The gospel is our only hope, and so Paul makes it very clear in this passage we are to cling with it with tenacity.
Look again at verse 27. He says that whether he comes and sees them or whether he remains absent, he wants to know, “that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Paul wants to hear that they are absolutely unwilling to part with the gospel or to see it compromised.
Thirdly, notice Paul’s concern for unity. One of Paul’s themes in this larger section was that gospel humility creates a gospel unity in a local congregation. In the very phrase we are studying, that they are to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving together. The gospel has united us to one body and to one warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil and for gospel truth and blessing.
Finally, the Apostle Paul says, and he says this especially in verse 28, that we’re to be unfrightened. They were going to face people coming in who claimed to know more than the Apostle Paul did about God’s word and God’s plan and God’s gospel, but also they were actually going to be opposed by Romans as well.
Paul reminds them that their opponents oppose them because they oppose the gospel, which is a sign of their opponents’ ultimate destruction, and it’s also a sign of the Philippians’ salvation because they are clinging to the one hope that sinful men and women have – the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so Paul in this passage calls us to live like citizens of a heavenly kingdom, and to live in accordance with the gospel of Christ. May the Lord help us to do so.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 2:16 PM