“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.”
This verse begins with the word, “only.” It was used in Greek, just like it is used today in English – for emphasis. It emphasizes that this is the most important thing – If you don’t do anything else, do this. What is it? “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
A mother might tell her kids as they head out to play, “Have fun, only make sure you play safe.” Or she might tell a son heading off to school, “Have a great day at school only remember to study hard.” The word emphasizes what’s most important to do.
And in this case, it refers back to what was just written. In light of what I have just written, Paul writes, this is what is really critical. This only is what you ought to do.
And what is it? It is to make sure your “conduct” is right. If you’ve got an Old King James, the word is translated as “conversation,” but this really is our walk, not our talk. It is our “conduct,” making sure what we do lines up with what we say. And what should our conduct be? Our conduct should be “worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” In light of the context, this is the critical thing.
So what is the context? Last time, we finished looking at an internal debate between Paul and himself. If you remember, he was thinking about his future. He was under house arrest awaiting a verdict. He might live, or he might die. He might be exonerated and given his freedom, or he might be executed. And if you remember, the basic truth for him, as found in Philippians 1:21 was, “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” And so he really would have preferred to die and go to heaven which he said was far better. Philippians 1:23 shows his inner turmoil, “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”
But that isn’t what he concluded he should do. Duty demanded that he stay on earth, living on in his physical body so that he could minister to people. That is found in Philippians 1:24-25:
“Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.”
For us, the conclusion should be the same. Yes, it is better to die and go to heaven. To begin to experience that eternal bliss and fellowship with our Lord and Savior now would be infinitely better. But we have a job to do here. God has given us each a ministry and a spiritual gift. And until He calls us home, he expects us to keep on keeping on. In other words, to live out the first part of Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ.”
But then the question comes up, if I remain on planet earth living in this body, what does it mean, “To live is Christ?” How then, are we to live? These next few verses give us the answer.
So, what does the Holy Spirit teach us through Paul’s inspired words?
“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.”That’s a long verse, but the point is obvious. Right living is critical. And it is a theme that spreads throughout both the New and Old Testament. That word for “conduct” comes from the Greek word, “politeuomai.” Not that you need to remember the word, but did you see the English word, “politics,” come through?
I know in English, we understand that the word “politics” is a compound with “poly” meaning many, and a “tic” is a blood sucking insect. So “politics” means many bloodsucking insects.
But in Greek, the root word, “polis,” that this is built on is the word for “city.” So this idea of “conduct” involves being a good citizen of our city.
But if you are a believer, where is your citizenship? It is in heaven. Philippians 3:20 assures us, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
When Paul tells you: “Only let your conduct be worthy,” he’s telling you that if you are citizen of heaven, you ought to act like it. There is a certain standard of conduct that is expected of you. And the fact that he adds that this conduct should be “worthy of the gospel of Christ,” just confirms this conclusion since it is your faith in the Gospel – the power of God unto salvation – that makes you citizens of heaven.
Roman society, like Greek society before it, was very community conscious. The individual was subordinate to the state, and the person’s strength and energy were to be used to advance the interest of the state first. More than self-interest, the interest of the community came first. They had a great sense of duty and honor. Giving your life for your country was the highest ideal.
Now certainly we applaud our military for their willingness to give their lives for this country. They deserve our thanks and our praise, and we are grateful for the sacrifice they make on our behalf. They exhibit this kind of self-less conduct that shows country is more important than even their lives.
But, as a believer, you have dual citizenship. You are a citizen of this country, and you ought to act like a good citizen. But your real loyalty is to Christ. Your first devotion is to the one who saved you because your real citizenship is in heaven. So above all, you must make sure your conduct is appropriate for that country – for heaven - even though you still live on planet earth.
But even thinking about Roman or Greek society, a good citizen would not do anything that would bring disrepute upon their country. They would be careful to always be seen as a responsible and honorable citizen, or they might be removed from the list of citizens.
Now, obviously, we aren’t worried about losing our salvation if we don’t measure up. Thank God, that Jesus doesn’t work that way. We are secure in Him. Jesus said in John 6:39,
“This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.”Then, Jesus told His Father, in John 17:12,
“Those whom You gave Me, I have kept, and none of them is lost, except the son of perdition (Judas), that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.”
But, none-the-less, we still should be concerned that we not bring dishonor on our city – heaven - by improper conduct. If a Roman citizen would be concerned about dishonoring Rome. and we should be concerned about dishonoring the United States, how much more should we be concerned about dishonoring Christ?