Paul begins the next section of the letter to the Philippians by calling on the church to live a life worthy of the Gospel.
By living a worthy life, the church will stand firm in one spirit (v. 27-28). One’s “manner of life” (πολιτεύομαι) refers to being a good citizen. If someone was a Roman citizen, there were a number of expectations for proper behavior in the public forum. This refers to both a legal responsibility as well as conduct in public. By analogy, a “good citizen” in America pays their taxes and votes in elections, properly registers and insures their car, etc. You cannot call a person who refuses to pay taxes, breaks the Law regularly, or runs around burning American flags a “good citizen.”
“Manner of life” can be used as a metaphor for living in accordance with the Law. 3 Macc 3:4, for example, describes the way of those Jews who had kept themselves separate with respect to foods, but had gained a good reputation for various good works. But these differences were so significant that they fell under suspicion as “hostile and greatly opposed to the government” (3 Macc 3:7) and eventually the government oppressions the Jews because their “manner of life” was so different than the Greeks in Egypt (3:11-30). The same sense of the word appears in 4 Macc 2:8 where one whose “manner of life” conforms to the Law stands in contrast to a number of typical vices. Josephus refers to keeping the Law, but also paying the Temple tax and other civic duties (Ant. 12.142). The word appears in other Jewish literature to describe proper conduct of life with respect to the Law. It is not insignificant that the Jews in 3 and 4 Maccabees were perceived as hostile to their culture and were persecuted for their “manner of life”
To have a manner of life “worthy” of some ideal is a common way of expressing the goal of spiritual life in the New Testament. Perhaps this might be thought of as “live up to an expectation.” For Roman citizen, the expectation is to live like a Roman citizen should; for the one who is “in Christ,” they are to live worthy of the Gospel! Paul begins the second half of Ephesians with similar words (“walk in a manner worthy of the calling”); in 2 Thess 2:12 he encourages his readers to “walk worthy of God” (cf. 3 John 6); in Col 1:10, it is “walk worthy of the Lord;” in Rom 16:2, it is “walk worthy of the saints.” Deissmann reports this word was used on inscriptions in Pergamum (Biblical Studies, 248). Athenaios, a priest of Dionysus and Sabazius, is extolled as “worthy of god.” Whatever these priests did, they were considered good examples for other worshipers.
The goal in Philippians 1:27 is the Gospel of Christ. The one who is “in Christ” is not a citizen of Rome. Nor should they conform their lives to the Law quite like the martyrs in 3 and 4 Maccabees. Their loyalty is to the Gospel of Christ only. Everything the individual Christian or local church does ought to be viewed through the grid of the Gospel.
8 thoughts on “A Life Worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27–30)”
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
Sentence 2 in the third paragraph: “In 3 Macc 3:4, for example, it describes the way of those Jews who had kept…” Clumsy and wordy.
Better: “3 Macc 3:4, for example, describes the way of those Jews who had kept…”
It seems that the running common theme in all of Paul’s work is the gospel. As for what it means to be a “law abiding citizen” I would have to agree that it falls on the responsibility of the church to act in a way that reflects Christ even in legal scenarios. This consistent theme of Paul’s to live in the light of the gospel is evident everywhere. Several cases have been made for the subversive qualities of Paul and Jesus, but I think that this issue lies less in the refusal to obey the laws of the land and more in the allegiance to the gospel. This is an important distinction to be made. The important part was not simply avoiding those laws which contradict, but rather obeying and becoming loyal to the gospel always.
It is impossible for humans to live their lives always walking in a way that would please the Lord. However, that should not deter anyone, who has been sanctified through Christ, from trying to walk in a way worthy of the Gospel. Longenecker and Still mention that Paul was pushing for the Philippians to transform their actions, “until the culmination of of all things in Christ, the assembly should live steadfastly in unity,” (TTP, 207). Paul pushes the Thessalonians, as well as every group he addresses in his letters, to become more Chrsitlike, following His example as a united body in Christ. Paul also stresses that we are citizens of Heaven, or within Christ, and not just Roman citizens or Jewish citizens or Greek citizens, that all have been united in Christ if they believe the truth of the Gospel.
One of my favorite thing to note in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, was how clear Paul was in his language. Paul said that the most important thing Christian can do is to live a life worthy of gospel of Christ. My own understand of Paul when he says “worthy of the gospel” is that he doesn’t imply that as Christians we are capable of living the life of Jesus Christ. No one can life of perfection life Jesus Christ did. However what Paul is saying is that, as Christians who are saved by Christ we are to live through Christ. Jesus Christ is the gospel, he is the author of the gospel and has perfected it. A life worth of the gospel is marked by courage and suffering. The apostle Paul lived a life marked by both of those two character. Today’s Christians we seek to be loved by the world, than suffer in the hands of the gospel. John 15:18, states that “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you”. I have to examine my life and ask myself am I willing to die for Christ sake? Or I am willing to try to please the world, hiding in my faith.
I love when Paul teaches that it doesn’t matter what earthly citizenship we have, what matters is our heavenly citizenship. That puts clear how passionate we need to be to earn it, specially when Paul talks about not being “there” yet, but pressing on to whats worthy (Phi 3:13-16), and that is the kingdom of God. Through many times in his letters, Paul keeps pushing this topic to the churches he writes to. He keeps reminding them what is to be Christ-like and how we should forget what is behind, and just look to the cross.
I think it also goes to show that all believers should sift what they do through the grid of the Gospel as you put it. I was reminded of the disagreement that happened at the beginning of Philippians 4. Euodia and Syntyche for whatever reason got into a fight (maybe over who had a weirder name lol). They were dealing with eachother and maybe each thought they were right. TTP page 203 talks about how Epaphroditus was an example to these two women who were at one point at least amiable (Phil. 4:1-3). Christians were to be of one mind and one Spirit out of “…sacrificial, mutual, joyful service in the gospel” (203). They should, as fellow believers, make every attempt to live in on accord and not hold anything against each other. We as Christians can take this and apply it to our daily lives too.