Philippians 1:27–30 – A Life Worthy of the Gospel

CrossPaul 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. In 3 Macc 3:4, for example, it 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 oppressed 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 Maccabees 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.

So how does a Christian live a life worthy of the Gospel? Most will boil this down to a a few ethical demands (mostly related to who you can have sex with), but does that sort of legalistic religion really do justice to what it means to live a life worthy of the Gospel?

 

6 thoughts on “Philippians 1:27–30 – A Life Worthy of the Gospel

  1. “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”. Translated literally it means to “behave as citizens worthy of the gospel” (ESVSB, 2282). In the first century, Roman citizens had certain characteristics that distinguished them from other members of the Greco-Roman world. In the same way, Christians have a set of behaviors that set us apart from the rest of the world. For the Philippians, their status as Roman citizens was no longer the most important aspect of their life (TTP, 204).
    Paul expresses the Philippian’s citizenship in the overall attitude they should have, as well as the ethical instructions of how they should practically live out their citizenship (Long, 133). For this reason, I do not think it is wrong to have a list of ethical instructions to explain how to live in Christ. As Paul pairs his ethical sections in Philippians with the Christological hymn about modeling Christ’s mindset, so also we should balance our ethical checklist while keeping our minds in line with Christ (Long, 133). Paul’s list includes standing firm, contending together with other believers for faith and not frightened by the opposition that believers will face (Phil 1:27-28). These actions will enable believers to be worthy citizens of heaven.

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  2. When thinking of how we can live a life worthy of the Gospel, I think about David. David is a man that God describes as being “after his own heart” (Acts 13:22; Samuel 13:14). David was not a perfect man, but as we look at his life further, we can see that when he sins, he holds a posture of authentic repentance (Psalm 32;51 ESVSB). He always desires to follow God and do His will. David, the great King that inspires people to this day, was the same great sinner that committed adultery with Bathsheba and was involved in the murder of her husband Uriah. In that story, those two sins were not the only ones David committed. Firstly, he was supposed to be in battle; that was his responsibility as a King. In staying home, he was being ungrateful to God for the position he was given and was being an irresponsible King to his subjects. If we are looking at the duties of a citizen, I can imagine that the duties of a King far exceed those of a subjects’ responsibilities. Although this story is overused and retold over and over again, the concept of God’s forgiveness and love is still hard to understand. In that time, God’s wrath could easily be seen because God would kill them to fulfill his justice requirements. In 2 Sam 12:13, we can easily see that David was distraught due to his sin, and Nathan explains that God has forgiven David and thus will not kill him. In contrast to the story of David is the story of Ananias and Sapphira. The couple commits the sin of lying to the holy spirit about the total amount of money they were giving to the apostles. They were not stealing money from the apostles in the sense that the money belonged to the apostles. The couple sold land that belonged to them but kept part of the money from their land and decided to lie about how much they were giving away (Acts 5:1-11).
    As Christians, we like to believe that the good things we do serve as a means to make us holier. We also like to believe that one sin is greater than another in God’s eyes. If we look at the sins of David and the sins of Ananias and Sapphira using our moral lenses, we will all arrive to the same conclusion that the sin of adultery and murder far exceed the sin of lying. The biggest difference is their hearts. David held a heart of repentance and the couple did not. I believe that the only way to live a life worthy of the gospel is by renewing our minds and changing our hearts to resemble the heart of God (Rom 12:1-2). As humans, we will always sin, but if our hearts are in the right place, we will repent and let the Holy Spirit change us. Paul repeats the message, “follow God solely” over and over again. He lives this in his actions and preaches it to his students because he knows that God can change people who seek Christ. Paul calls the Philippians to “steadfastness in the face of suffering as well as to unity through humility” (Longenecker & Todd, 2014, 204). Here Paul calls them to be citizens of the gospel instead of just citizens of Rome. Paul has to struggle for the sake of the gospel and still in chains, Paul speaks to them about remaining in Christ (Philippians 1:27-30).

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  3. Living a life of a good citizen by the worlds standards is much different than that of God’s standards. The laws of the world are good to follow, for example not breaking laws, being honest, and paying bills, but those do not get you into heaven. Philippians 3:20 says that our citizenship is in heaven, which means that is where we should base our laws and values from. I look at it as I am a citizen of the United States of America, which means that I obey laws here. If I was from a country that allowed me to kill whoever I wanted, and I became a citizen of America, I know that this doing is know longer allowed and if I want to remain a faithful citizen, it would be wise to not do this act. The same is for those who are citizens of heaven, we are to act in a way that is acceptable to Christ, not of this world. To live a life that is worthy according to the Gospel is based off of the importance of Jesus in our lives. Paul says multiple times to rejoice in the Lord, always (Philippians 4:4). Philippians 4:8 also gives us a good idea of what living a life worthy of heaven would look like. This is based off of keeping our focus on things that are pure and from God, and acting upon the things that Paul as previously told them to do. Paul does not make it sound like there is a list of rules that we need to follow and check off along the timeline of our life, but instead we need to live a life that is focused on being acceptable to Christ every step of the way.

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    • I love the attributes and elements that you provided throughout this post in which made me think a lot. One thing that really caught my eye that you touched on within your post is the facet of comparing how the world wants us to live and how living worthy of God’s word is different. Such as, there are many things within the world today in which are deemed acceptable to everyone but contradicts that of God’s word. For example, the world really accepts that of sexual immorality. As individuals have multiple partners that isn’t really a pivotal part of being a “bad” citizen within the world we live in. However, according to God’s word we must understand the fact that one man should have one wife and one woman should have one husband (1 Corinthians 7:2). Therefore, as we live a life worthy of Christ we must be ready to understand that although something may be justified within the world we live in today as “alright” we must notice that according to God and the Gospel may not be considered justifiable. By being able to understand that the world may look down on the way we as Christians should act and consider us as outcast according to the way the world lives is vital to spiritual growth. Therefore, we must stand firm on faith and be steadfast in the way of the Gospel and not conform to the world’s ways (Romans 12:2). Another aspect that is a necessity to understand in order to live a life worthy of living according to the Gospel is that we must walk in the right way at all times. We can’t just live worthy on Sunday’s when we go into the church but most importantly all the time throughout our lives.

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  4. I think what it really means to live a life worthy of the gospel is to focus on what is really important to God. To be worthy of the gospel is to strive to be like God every second of our lives. Of course it is impossible and we will fail over and over again but to do everything with the right heart and with the motivation to please God is to be worthy of the gospel. Many people seem to think very legalistically about this topic, and I think that is a mistake because although rules are important, the focus should not be on strictly following these rules, but on setting our hearts on God and letting our actions fall into place. We focus too much on what other people are doing, and what steps we need to strictly follow in order to live a life worthy of the gospel, when all we need to do is have faith in a God and a desire to serve him in any way possible.

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  5. As we come to look at how we should live in this world we must establish that sense of identity of being a Christian. A pivotal part of being a Christian is that sense of living a life worthy of the Gospel. That idea of what is “worthy” is vital to understand because it helps us to identify what is actually important within our lives. It gives us that sense of self reflection in which we look at ourselves and notice the value of something. Therefore, as a Christian to live as God wanted one to live being worthy to the Gospel is the most valuable thing in their lives. To live as a Christian worthy of a Gospel one must first and foremost remember that although we reside on earth as citizens we must take heed to the element that we are really citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). Thus, since our citizenship is in heaven a way of worthy living of the Gospel is to make our focus point in life no matter the circumstances a reflection of citizenship within heaven. Although in many instances we are tempted to do things that contradict that worthy living according to the Gospel we must stand firm on faith and on the citizenship in heaven. For example, just as the philippians were considered Roman citizens within Philippi they were instructed to conduct themselves as roman citizens. However, as Paul planted that seed of the Gospel within the land of Philippi it had to become evident that they must leave that sense of roman citizenship in the past as living as a Christian was more important (Longenecker, pg. 204). He wanted them to be able to understand that living as a Roman citizen wasn’t a life worthy to the Gospel due to some of the elements within their Roman citizenship that contradicted the Christian way of life. For example, just as worshipping idols other than God.

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