BRIEF INTRO: These passages mark a change in focus from what Paul had written about in the first part of this letter. In the previous passages (12-26), Paul wrote about what had been happening with him (in prison). In verses 3-11, Paul had expressed his relationship (to) and thoughts (about) the Philippian believers, including his prayer for them. He was thankful to God for them because of their faithful participation with him in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was confident of God’s continued work in them and so-could-pray- with all confidence that they would “abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment so that they may approve the things that are excellent in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.” (10)
In verses 12-26, we looked at the last time we were together; Paul explained his situation and response. He was imprisoned, and there were Christians, some who were seeking to cause him additional distress, preaching Christ from envy and selfish ambition. Paul realized that God was using all of this in his ministry to the praetorian guards that were watching him and even beyond it, encouraging others to be bolder in their proclamation of the gospel.
Paul rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed regardless of the motives of the preachers or his circumstances. We saw that while Paul thought that he would survive his imprisonment to continue in ministry to them, he also knew that he could also die, but for Paul, to live was Christ and to die was gain (21), so either outcome would be deliverance for him.
As we come to verses 27-28 in this study, we find that Paul changes the focus (from himself) to the Philippians. The transition in vs. 27 is straightforward, and he now begins to address specific issues with them.
FOCUS ONE: Paul now begins to speak of their conduct, their behavior as “saints in Christ Jesus (as he called them in vs.1). Some people think and live as if their conduct after salvation is not that important; after all, they say, I attend church, read my bible and pray, so what’s the problem?
The problem is two-fold. First, and it should be evident to all of us, there is more to the Christian life than attending church, reading our bibles, and praying. All of those things are reasonable and necessary for a Christian to practice. Without them, we would be weak, immature, and cold in our walk of faith. But God is also concerned with how we conduct ourselves, not only inside the church but also outside. There is a particular way, now that we have been redeemed, in which we are to live our lives! Our New Testament is very instructive on this topic.
The second thing I would say is that our scripture is very clear about how we are to conduct ourselves as forgiven, Justified, and adopted children of the living God. Now, this may not be evident to us in reading our translations this morning. Still, I think as we look at this a little deeper, as we delve into the original language, we will see God’s clear intention (and that begins for us) by zooming in on the words “conduct yourselves.” What does that mean? Why is it so significant to grasping everything else Paul is saying to these believers in the following verses?
We find the answer to those questions by turning to chapter 3:20. Here we see in Greek a different form of the word we are looking at in verse 27 in our text. I want you to take special notice that our “citizenship,” and that is the critical word here, our citizenship is in Heaven. The term used in Greek is (pol-it-yoo-mah). Paul was very wise in using this word here, as he also was, as we will see back in chapter one, where he used another form from the same root word.
But first, try to imagine this. It is the year 1944, and Germany is at war with England. Now suppose you have dual citizenship in both Germany and England, and you are living in Germany. How will you be treated?
Conversely, suppose you have dual citizenship in Germany and England and live in England during the Blitz; how would you be treated?
In either case, you would be forced to renounce your citizenship in the opposing country and declare your loyalty to the country in which you found yourself in that dreadful time. There would be no middle ground.
They would have never allowed dual citizenship in Germany and England during WWII, and we cannot have dual citizenship in this world. They are diametrically and violently opposed to one another! We cannot belong to the Kingdom of God by living in Christ AND belong to the kingdom of darkness at the same time.
At this time in their history, the people of Philippi were living as (colonists) while their “citizenship” was in Rome. They had rights and privileges afforded to them as such, and with those rights and freedoms came rules, expectations, and obligations for them, as citizens of Rome, to respect and fulfill.
In the same way, Christians, you and I, if you have trusted in Christ for your salvation, live on this earth as citizens of the United States of America, and with that comes rules, obligations, and responsibilities. But we also have our citizenship elsewhere, in HEAVEN! We have “Dual” citizenship, if you will. One is temporary and fleeting, the other eternal and unchangeable! We live as citizens of America and are very proud of that citizenship. With it comes rights and privileges only Americans have, but also, with that being said, the place we now belong to, the place that expects our full allegiance, the place that accepts us as its own is Heaven, and that is all because of what Jesus has completed for us! We have a “homeland,” we have a king, we have rights and privileges afforded to us BECAUSE we are citizens of Heaven.
That is what Paul is saying in chapter three. But back in 1:27 (turn there), Paul uses the same word with a different ending to encourage these believers to live appropriately (here, he uses the word pol-it-yoo-om- ahee). These words “conduct yourselves” translate a political term that would mean a lot to the Philippian believers. These Philippians were proud of their status as Roman Citizens (Acts 16:12, 20, 21). The earlier members of this church in Philippi would remember that Paul used his Roman citizenship to bring about a speedy, dignified release from prison (Acts 16). So, this imagery is rich in its cultural background, and Paul pointedly uses the imagery to challenge these believers and US, as we read it, to live as those who have higher and vastly more effective citizenship, that one we read about in 3:20!
Church, this is important for us to understand because the word used here for “conduct yourselves” means “behave as a citizen.
A citizen of what? HEAVEN!
FOCUS TWO: Because these believers are citizens of Heaven (as seen in 3:20) and the Lord is their king, Paul encourages them to behave as a citizen of the king would behave! And take notice too, that Paul makes it very clear that they are to act this way whether he is around or not, whether he comes to see them or not (27).
But this is not the only place Paul speaks of their obedience. Look over at chapter 2, verse 12. Paul is acknowledging that they are obedient believers! They are not “men pleasers,” playing a game. No, they, he says, are even “much more in his absence”! In other words, Paul said there, and he says here, that citizens of Heaven are to be consistent in their behavior to honor their King, King Jesus, whether they are being watched or not.
Dear Christian, how is your behavior these days? Are you striving to live, God helping you, as a consistent, faithful, persevering citizen of Heaven? Are you conducting yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, as Paul here states?
Well, the “manner” in which Paul instructs these believers to live was undoubtedly a needed reminder. They were struggling with disunity (Euodia and Syntyche 4:2), false teaching (3:1), and opposition from within and without (1:28), so how “pastoral” of Paul to remind and encourage them with these truths.
So, with all that in mind, let’s dig into this a bit deeper.
FOCUS THREE: “(Only) conduct yourselves (imperative) in a manner worthy of the gospel.”
Paul has only one thing that he is concerned about here, “only” this, how these believers should behave.
I am going to quote someone here that is much more able in the Greek language than I am, and I am stressing the point here because it is so crucial to our understanding of everything else Paul says here:
“Now, this verb (conduct yourselves), I want to tell you four things very quickly about this verb. It is in the present tense. And the impact of this is that Paul is saying, ‘Every moment of every day you are to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel. This is to be your daily lifestyle’. So, number one, it is in the present tense. This is a permanent obligation. As long as you are on this earth, it is obligatory that you conduct yourself in this manner. Second, it is in the middle voice. And when they parse a verb, that means that the responsibility lies with every one of us. It is not active. It is not passive. It is in the middle, which means we must take the reins and assume this responsibility for ourselves. This is a decision that each one of us must be daily and continually making. No one else can make this choice for us.
This is not merely for (some) believers in Philippi. This is for (every) believer in Philippi, but it is also for every believer, in every church, in every generation, on every continent, in every place. Third, it is in the imperative mood, which means it is a command. It is not an indicative statement (narrative). It is an imperative /command. It is not a mere wish. It is not a desire that Paul has for them. This is a commandment from God, through the apostle Paul, that requires the immediate obedience of every believer who has citizenship in the kingdom of God.”
With that being said, Flip back over to Phi 2:12-13. There is something else that needs to be observed there in our study. “So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you both to (will) and to (work), for his good pleasure.”
There is a lot packed into those few verses, and we cannot think through it all in this study, but I want you to notice who is working in us (God) and the results of His work (will, work).
We cannot be obedient without God doing this work in us! That should be so encouraging, Christian.
“Friends, are you a citizen of the kingdom of God? Have you entered into this kingdom by the new birth, by trusting in Christ alone for forgiveness of your sins? Then if so, this is directed at every one of us.”