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?


10 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.

  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).

  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.

    • 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.

  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.

  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.

  6. Paul calls the church of the Philippians to live a life worthy of the Gospel. Philippians 1:27-28 mentions that living a worthy life includes “standing firm in one Spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.” This is all “one’s manner,” meaning they are called to be a good citizen. A good citizen is not someone who refuses to pay taxes or breaks the law regularly. Maccabees gives an example of how manner of life can be used for living in accordance with the Law. The Jews kept themselves separate through their way of food, gained a good reputation through various good works.
    Having a manner of life that is worthy of expressing the goal of spiritual life that is shown in the New Testament could be thought of as having an expectation to live up to. I believe that as Followers of Christ we do have an expectation that is set on us. I believe that there is an expectation that comes form non-believers. This expectation is not the same as the one that other Believers have on one another, but this expectation is important to be aware of. I believe that the expectation non-believers have on believers is that they need to be perfect, they believe that because we have the Bible to guide us that we should know how to be the perfect people and we should not struggle. The expectations that Believers have on other Believers is a little more kind, whereas we see one another as servants of Christ who have the same goal in mind, which is to honor and glorify God through our actions—we know that sin exists and that the Lord does not expect perfection out of us. However, this does not give us an excuse to not walk worthy of God (3 John 6). A follower of Christ lives a life worthy of the Gospel by living as a suffering servant of Christ, living every day to honor Him. It is not just about the rules that we follow, it is about where our heart is at and the intentions behind it.

  7. In simple terms, living a life worthy of the gospel means loving our neighbors, being humble, and expanding the kingdom of heaven by evangelizing, but we are human after all. It is a given that if we want to live a life worthy of the gospel we have to learn of the word of God in the community which means going to church on Sundays, but we often forget about what goes on after church. One way I am trying to live a life worthy of the gospel is by trying to finish school to have my career in which I want to be the role model for children that might not have one. In a public school setting, I won’t be able to preach, but living according to the Lord is a great way in which I can evangelize to my students. I want to make it to heaven when the time comes and I also want to leave knowing I made a difference on earth. Something I will not do is conform to the expectations set by the church or peers that are not driven by what the Lord wants. I think many times it is easy to do what the Pastor tells you to because they seem like they know what they are saying, but if I want to live worthy of the gospel, I have to do my own reading and pondering and not just guide myself by what others say is right. I think that one of the things I always try to look out for is to live according to the word of God, but still relate and show the world authenticity. Before everything, prayer is most important and the Lord will guide us in our journey to living worthy of the gospel.

  8. After reading this post about living a gospel-worthy life, has me really thinking and reflecting a lot. I never realized it’s not just about rules but a complete change in how we think and act. The examples you used were very eye-opening, showing the challenges faced by early believers. I’m starting to see the depth of this concept and how it applies to my own life. After thinking about all of this, in my own life I will be trying to be better every day, making sure I do what God wants us to do. Like spreading his word, respecting others around me, and just living like He would. Obviously, we can never be perfect. But, just making sure you are trying to live a gospel worthy life, is a great first step.

  9. When talking about “living a manner of life… worthy of the Gospel of Christ” the first thing to think about is not what should I do or not do, but instead How can Christians live virtuous lives together by how they conduct themselves corporately as community, and as individuals by how acting in love through treating other believers and non-believers as they live out their everyday lives as God ‘s People.

    After Paul after saying how he is “hard pressed” (1:23) between going to be with Jesus or continuing to serve the church by overseeing their spiritual development, Paul wants to go to be with Jesus yet its “more necessary” to remain so to be able to help the church continue in its “progress and joy in the faith (Phil 1: 25, ESV). Paul then instructs for the church to “only live in a Mannor worthy of the Gospel of Christ” that this would be shown through how the church is to be “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel”” Paul continues in chapter2 for how life this life would be characterized by the churches willingness to stand even if under persecution or hardship. Living a life “worthy of the Gospel of Christ” is living in community with each other as the church loving each other through sharing in each other’s affliction and agree by having one mind willing to suffer for one another enduring as the body of Christ no matter what they face. It goes beyond mere forms of love to from a new deeper love connecting the believers through how they suffer, love, and endure together in their pursuit of becoming more like Jesus through how they live out their life daily together in unity in spite of any trial they face together.

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