Conversations and Conduct
My youth Sunday School class is studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and we have a theme verse for the book that we return to each week. Philippians 1:27 says, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;”. This verse holds so many lessons for how we are to live our lives and show off the Jesus in us.
Paul wrote this letter to a group of Christians that he considered close friends. He’d spent time with them, and he knew them well. This letter comes to us in the Bible from a God who knows us well, and hopefully, a God with whom we’ve spent time and have a close friendship. This verse (1:27) in Philiipians follows Paul expressing just how much he loves them and misses them (1:2-4); his confidence that the Lord will continue to grow them into His followers (1:5); his confidence in the supremacy of Christ – that to be with Christ in Heaven is the ultimate Goal of the believer (1:21); and his understanding of the call on his (Paul’s) life to continue to share the love of Jesus, regardless of his circumstances (1:24).
This verse is the shift in the chapter from the work of God in our lives, to how we respond to His work in our lives. Philippians 1:27 says, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;”. This verse begins with a punch, our conversation, or how we live, must be becoming of the gospel. Paul uses the Greek word, politeuomai, in this verse to indicate that this is about our behavior. Politeuomai is a Greek word used to describe how a citizen of a country, city, or town, behaves because of the laws they follow. This word is only used one more time in the New Testament, when Paul himself is standing before the Sanhedrin and says, “Men and brethren, I have lived (politeuomai) in all good conscience before God until this day.” This verse tells us that we, as citizens of Heaven, must live in a way that is becoming of the Gospel.
Paul then says that he wants their behavior – their words AND their deeds – to be something that he will hear about. He says, “that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs”. He’s asking that the way the Philippians live their lives be changed, and it seems that he’s asking for enough change that people are going to talk. However they were living before must not have been in alignment with the will of God, so Paul encourages a change. How they live, politeuomai, must be worthy of the Gospel.
Lastly, Paul calls out the community. Our words and behavior are impacted by those around us, even though the responsibility for the things we do and the words that leave our mouths lies solely with us. But, if we are in a community of believers, whose words and deeds reflect the Gospel of Jesus, it will be easier to become more like our community! “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20). So when Paul calls out the community – “that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;” – he’s asking for unity around the Gospel, and living like Jesus. Paul had witnessed some radical transformations in communities prior to his time with the Philippians (Acts 16). In Acts 4, we read, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common” (Acts 4:32). Paul asks that the Philippians hold tightly to the scripture, without wavering, through the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. And, he asks that in unity they strive, they make great efforts, to grow the faith of the community to expand the reach of the Gospel.
What does this verse mean for us? Exactly what it meant for the Philippians! As Christians, we’re called to live lives that are worthy of the Gospel that has been given to us. We can never give God an equivalent to what He gave us on the Cross, but we can live worthy of the gift. Our conversations and our conduct need to match the message of the Gospel, and be in alignment with God’s Word. Our lives should be something that people talk about – because God is just doing so much through our lives. They should be noteworthy! This doesn’t mean that we need to make the front page of the paper, but people should notice the Jesus in you enough to make note. Finally, we need to be in community! It’s hard to live transformed lives alone, without the accountability of Godly friends. We need a community for support and we need to be a community that also strives to bring the Gospel to others. This verse isn’t a simple one, but it’s powerful! We CAN live changed lives. The Holy Spirit in us gives us that ability. Exercise the power of the Holy Spirit to live a life worthy of Jesus’ precious gift.