By Barry Newton
What would a congregation feel if they grasped that the state of their corporate unity and fearlessness for Christ would reveal whether they were conducting themselves in a manner worthy of being citizens of the gospel? Would discovering one’s congregation to be inadequate be like salt in a wound?
Imagine the twinge of pain the church in Philippi felt. From without (1:28) and within (4:2) they had lived the hurt feelings and conflicts that fester fear and disseminate disunity. They would have recognized the need for Paul’s adamant admonition, “do everything without grumbling and arguing” (Philippians 2:13).
And now in his personal letter to them, their friend, the apostle Paul, had commanded the prescription, “conduct your lives worthy of being citizens of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). Paul informed them that achieving success in living out the gospel would require them to be united and fearless in contending together for the faith.
There is a distinction, however, in knowing the desired behavior and possessing an empowering solution. Paul provided them two keys.
First, Paul had chosen the verb form of citizen to command how they should live. Undoubtedly, Paul’s political metaphor would have achieved more than striking a resonant chord with Philippi’s civic pride in being a Roman colony. This military retirement city understood the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship.
Second, he immediately began to overtly teach them how an attitude of love should cause a Christian to look to the needs of others. If they would adopt this mind of Christ, then they would work out the implications of their salvation with fear and trembling. Accordingly he had prayed for them that their “love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” resulting in being “filled with the fruit of righteousness in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:9,11).
The path and prescription to living worthy of the gospel still stands.