I had recently been looking through my library and found this long forgotten gem of a writing by Milton Vincent. I quickly skimmed through this one and decided that it would be helpful for my son to go through as a part of his schooling.
I was correct thinking that way but incorrect in assuming that this little primer had nothing of value for myself.
I had some free time the other day and saw this book laying on the shelf so I picked it up and read through it. I was happy that I did.
All of 97 pages, this gospel primer was a great source of encouragement, reflection, and motivation for me, an older man, in my walk of faith.
Endorsed by godly men such as John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, and Jerry Bridges, who’s own estimates of the primer saw it as a ” small but meaty overview of the gospel,” and a ” practical tool with a powerful effect.” Which can be ” literally life changing.”
As I read through the forward at the beginning of the book I was happy to read that the author wanted his readers to take their time with it. ” This book was written slowly. It savors of a slow cooking.. . Let it’s truths drip down deep.” In other words this book and the truths contained within will be found to be a spiritually useful book!
With that exhortation in mind, I continued. The introduction lays out the main purpose of Milton’s effort: “This book is a handy guide to help Christians experience the gospel more fully by preaching it to themselves each day.”
What a much needed exhortation. We often think the gospel saves, but struggle with knowing what to do with it once we are saved! I appreciate Milton expressing that fact because it truly is meant to be more than a once embraced truth to be converted, it actually is “offered to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness.”
Briefly in the introduction and then with greater detail in part IV, the writer shares how he came to the conclusion that the gospel is a much needed focus in the daily walk of a believer.
The first part of this book contains reasons to rehearse the gospel daily. In fact, he gives thirty- one of them designed to remind the reader of some valuable blessings which the gospel can render in the life of the believer who rehearses the gospel in faith each day.
The second and third parts contain: A Gospel Narrative in both a prose and poetic format. Both formats are written in a way that facilitates memorization and smooth recital of the gospel.
I really enjoyed how Milton wrote everything in sections I -III in the first person (I, my, me), because it helped me relate these truths to myself on a deeper personal level. I think it was very wise of him to do so because the truths he is relating come off the pages then as not only relating to his own experience, but also to the daily heart experience of others who meditate on what God in Christ has done for them as well.
I am thankful that the writer mentions often that this book is only a tool to “get you launched in preaching the gospel to yourself and rehearsing it’s benefits.” It is not meant to be a substitute for the gospel.
In part one he gives the thirty -one reasons to rehearse the gospel daily. Here are just a few headings:
1. The New Testament model 2. My daily need 3. The power of God 4. My daily protection 5. Transformed by glory 6. A cure for distrust 8. Freedom from sins power 11 Loving my brother and sister 12. My inheritance in the Saints 15. Cultivating humility 18. Perspective in trials 26. Hope of heaven 27. Mortifying the flesh with fullness
With each one of these headings the writer opens up how the gospel is affective in our lives in these ways. I also must note that every page has all the scriptures cited in which the truths expressed are located!
Part two offers A Gospel Narrative in prose. I found the layout of this very helpful for my own comprehension and application. He begins with our sin against God than moves forward discussing God’s work on our behalf and the resulting salvation that comes from it.
I personally think this section would be helpful in our prayer time. We can use one or two of these truths to pray different things than we normally might. We can pray biblical thoughts by using the scripture citations on the bottom of the page.
Part three offers A Gospel Narrative in a poetic form. I truly appreciated this section. It read smoothly and was greatly appreciated and encouraging to my soul. This section, like the others, has all the scriptures used on the bottom of the page. Not only the reference, but the verse written out as well!
Part IV ends the book with the authors story behind this book. I appreciated his honesty and transparency in sharing his “backstory.”
In short, most of his life was lived by trying to maintain his justification status through his own works. Then one day, alone with his Bible turned to Romans five, the Lord “stirred my soul,” with the truth of my justified status before God, which led Him into a fuller, more meaningful walk of faith!
I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting, perhaps needing, a richer, fuller, more practical understanding of the gospel, that not only saves but satisfies our deepest longings each and everyday afterwards.
Several years ago I needed to find a coffee “substitute.” Caffeine was causing me various issues and I needed to reduce my intake of it. So, I started looking for something that could “take it’s place.”
I found Postum! I enjoyed that drink sooo much, well, that is until it disappeared off the shelves. In every way Postum made me feel like I was having a good cup of coffee. Its texture, taste, and aroma all made me feel like I wasn’t missing anything by not actually drinking coffee. It was great while it lasted!
Part of the salvific work of Jesus in being our sin-bearer, was that of being our substitute. A SUBSTITUTE is one that takes the place of another. That is what Jesus became for us!
Unlike Postum which only satisfies temporarily, The substitutionary work of Jesus Christ brings results that satisfy eternally.
Because of Jesus believer’s have “become dead to sin and alive to righteousness” (1Peter 2:24). God is NOW for us and not against us (Romans 8:31). These are only two of many benefits believers receive when they trust Him as their substitute!
No one else can be such a substitute for us. God had placed that work on Christ alone. Jesus, in all ways, met and settled, for all time, the charges God had against sinners. Because Of Jesus we can have peace with God!
Friend, you don’t have to pay the debt you owe for your sins. Jesus paid it for you! Turn to Him in repentant faith and you will find His forgiveness.
In our previous study, we looked at positive, godly influences that a believer needs to have in their life. People like this live in “a manner worthy of our Lord,” indifferent to the circumstances of the day. Such people stand out in our congregations, and it is such people Paul urges us to look for and follow their example.
In this study, we will be looking at the opposite of godly influences, enemies of the cross!
18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their [a]appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things. 20 For our [b]citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;21 who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with [c]His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. 4 Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, [d]whom I long to see, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
Unworthy examples (18-19)
Some people live their lives as “enemies of the cross.” The Apostle is weeping as he writes those words. Brothers and sisters, does such rebellion in the lives of those around you cause you to cry? Does it cause you a-n-y distress of soul? Paul is not speaking of believers who stumbled into sin or who may be facing tough challenges in life and are dealing with doubts, depression, or things like that which they will inevitably work through.No, he is speaking about non-Christians.
These non-believers can be found inside a church, just as well as outside it. These were people who were adding works to their faith for salvation (2,3). Christ isn’t enough, they say, so they are constantly pursuing some form of fleshly merit to gain righteousness. Another group Paul may have been speaking about would be the “antinomians.” These were people who were a law unto themselves. They confessed Christ with their lips but denied Him with their lives. They practiced loose living; they were religious but denied the cross, loved the world, and lived for their flesh.
These are examples we are to turn away from, even call them out!
Such lives patterned after the flesh, living for this world and then adding religion to it, are lives that are destined to destruction (v.19).
But, it is not likely that all these people Paul is speaking about are out-and-out pagans.
One commentator says: “In all probability they were “professing” Christians, but whose lives were so profligate (recklessly extravagant, wasteful and amoral), that it was clear to Paul that they had never been regenerated, probably not even members of the Philippians church. Think about it. This entire letter would have been much different if “many” such people were in that church. These were people in the Christian community as a whole and therefore posed a danger to every church.”
But dear Christian, we have been changed, have we not? We have been transformed by the renewing of our minds and therefore ought to have nothing to do with the ways of this world. To do so is nothing short of compromise!
Our God has graciously saved us from this perverse generation (Acts 2:40). We now have the mind of Christ, so we can think, act and behave like Him (1 John 2:6). God has given us a new spiritual and moral capability, which continues and matures throughout our lives- as we obey His will, His word, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
We are eagerly awaiting our savior to return for us. This expectancy should spur us on to a higher and holier manner of conduct as we await His return.
This is the goal, the prize that we are to be running the race for, as we will see in our next point!
The goal and prize (20-21)
Dear Christian, our citizenship is in Heaven.
As citizens of heaven, longing to see our king, King Jesus, we are eagerly waiting for Him to return for us, because as Paul wrote the Corinthians, “he shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7-8). This is what Paul meant when he wrote back at the beginning of this letter that, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6). This is our goal; Christ is our prize! “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:28).
“In these early days of the church the doctrine of the last things had three great points of focus,” Boice comments: “The return of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the body and the final judgement. Of the three the most significant was Jesus Christ’s return, This was the blessed hope of the Christians; it was for this they prayed. With this thought they comforted one another in the face of sorrow, persecutions death and martyrdom. We can imagine that as they lay in prison, suffering and tormented, often near death, they looked for His coming and thought that perhaps- – – in an instant – – – -and without warning – – – -Jesus would appear and call them home.”
“As they entered the arena to face lions or looked up to the face of their Executioner, many would have thought with joy in their hearts, “perhaps this is the moment in which Jesus will return; even now, before the beasts can spring or the ax can fall, I shall be caught up to meet him.”
But this is not the only place in our Bible that teaches us of this blessed doctrine of our Lord’s return. The return of Jesus is mentioned in every NT book except Galatians and the much shorter books of 2nd and 3rd John and Philemon.
Peter called it “our living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Paul called it our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). John wrote, “look, He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him” (Rev. 1:7).
Such truth ought to impact our lives in profound ways and be manifest in the ways we relate to the world around us and the things and people in this world. Christian, are you honestly expecting the Lord’s return? Is that evident in the way you are living?
“If you are motivated by prejudice against others, black, white, rich, poor or whatever, than the return of the Lord has not made a proper impression on you. If you are contemplating some sin, perhaps a dishonest act in business, sex outside of your marriage, cheating on a test or tax return, or whatever, then the return of the Lord has not made a proper impression on you.”
John wrote, “dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, Just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
Perhaps you are reading these words, and you are not “eagerly” awaiting the return of Jesus Christ. You think that you are a pretty good person. After all, you haven’t killed anybody, YET! You give money to charity, attend church sometimes, and are better than many people around you. So, you may be thinking, why do I need a savior? Why do I need this, Jesus?
Let me share this illustration with you from Ray Comfort because it is very telling:
“What if I were to offer you a handful of $1 000 bills or a glass of water, which would you choose? The $1,000 bills, of course—anyone in his right mind would. But, what if you were crawling through a desert, dying of thirst, and you were offered a glass of water or a handful of $1,000 bills, which would you take? The water, of course—anyone in his right mind would. We call that “circumstantial priorities.” Your priorities change according to your circumstances.
Friend, If there were a way to find forgiveness of sin and life everlasting, would you want to know about it? The answer is “yes,” of course it is—anyone in his right mind would. The Bible speaks of riches beyond our wildest dreams—the riches of “everlasting life”—and they are offered in the form of cool, clear water: “Let Him that is thirsty come, and whoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).”
Right now, you may not be interested in the offer, but if you reject it, on judgment day, your circumstances will radically change, then it will be too late.”
So, please, turn to Christ Jesus; he is the wellspring of living water!
Can you see the importance of this doctrine? One commentator has said that: “the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a bit like a clothesline that supports the clean wash. If the line falls, the doctrines of the faith fall. Where the resurrection stands, everything else stands with it” (Boice Com. Pg. 221).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves all the essential teachings of Christianity.
1. It proves the deity of our Lord (Romans 1:4)
2. It proves our justification before God (Romans 4:25)
3. It proves that the believer in Christ can have a supernatural victory over sin in this life (Hebrews 7:25; Jude 24).
And dear Christian, it is also the un-shakeable evidence for our resurrection!! Because He lives, we too shall live! That is the testimony of Jesus Himself (John 14:19)!
This is why Paul says what he does in this scripture in our text. The truth is, there is an encouragement to press on despite the many obstacles in our way:
1. Jesus is living
2. Because He lives, we shall live
3. And take note: because He was transformed, we shall be transformed! (21)
Jesus is going to transform this body, your body, “in its humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.” (21)
This should encourage those folks to press on and comfort them and anyone who has lost loved ones that were believers. Death is a scary thing. Attached to the thoughts of it are thoughts of wasting away in sickness, the terror of a sudden accident, its connection to our sinfulness.
But friends, in none of those horrific thoughts, in none of those circumstances, does death have the final word, Amen? That is not the end of the story for those who are in Christ!
Here and in many other places in our bibles, we are taught that we will meet again in the presence of our savior, Jesus Christ. We will meet in transformed bodies— and sin, sickness, sorrow, and the like will all fade away— and be no more in light of the renewing, holy work of Christ on our behalf.
Jesus said: “I am the way the truth and the life, nobody comes to the Father, but through me.” (John 14:6)
What an encouragement for these believers in Philippi. What a powerful exhortation to “press on to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” (Phil. 3:14)
So, because of these things, Paul says: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, whom I long to see, my joy and my crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” (4:1)
We have a glorious savior, the aid of the Holy Spirit to grant us spiritual victory in this life and ultimately the one to come. And, we have a fantastic future with Christ!
So let us walk with wisdom. Wisdom from the word of God, as we pursue the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Scripture often warns us to avoid harmful influences. Regardless of our age or spiritual maturity. Because over time, those unwise influences will negatively affect our walk with the Lord. Our enemy, Satan, is determined to pull us into sin and wreck our lives, and he often uses bad influences to accomplish his goal. Paul had warned the Corinthian believers of this deception when he wrote them his first letter. In it, He said: “do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15: 33).”
As we have been working through this letter, Paul, we observed earlier, has exhorted these believers to pursue Christ and Christ-like-ness (along with) His righteousness above anything else. Now the Apostle is encouraging these believers to be observant in their daily walk and to follow, imitate people who are pursuing these goals themselves, and not follow the examples of people who are not. One path leads to the goal of vs. 20-21, the other to destruction!
But, how do we know when someone else’s example is to be imitated or not? What “pattern” of behavior are we looking for in other believers that may encourage and strengthen us in our daily lives as we pursue Christ? Does Paul, the “inspired” writer of this letter, desire to lead us away from looking to Christ to now look to men? May it never be! Everything in this chapter previous to these words says otherwise. And so too, his letters to other churches. So, what does the Apostle want his readers to understand, to do? Let’s read vv. 17-4:1 together.
17 Brothers and sisters, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose God is their [a]appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things. 20 For our [b]citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;21 who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with [c]His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. 4 Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, [d]whom I long to see, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
Worthy examples (17)
I think we can break down this verse into two parts. The first: following Paul’s example and the second, observing others who walk according to that pattern of living.
So, let’s begin with this man, the author of this letter and an Apostle of Christ, Paul. The first question we need to ask ourselves is: Is he truly a worthy example for us? After all, he persecuted Christians; he is not perfect. Do you remember what he said to the Romans (Romans 7:18-21)? How can he say things like this, what we read here and in (4:9)? “those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard and seen in me do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
Maybe you think Paul is a bit arrogant or perhaps misguided.
After all, this is not the first time he made statements like this: “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me” (1 Corinthians 4:16). To those at Thessalonica, he said: “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you. . . . Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).
But, in no way is Paul arrogant or misguided. He considered himself “the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle.” That he told the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:9), later he called himself “less than the least of all saints,” in his words to the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:8), and finally, he told Timothy, his “son in the faith,” that he was even the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). All of these realizations came throughout many years of a faithful walk with Christ!
Paul knew that his converts needed examples to see, as well as precepts to learn and obey. The Lord Jesus Christ, of course, is our most excellent example (1 Peter 2:21; Philippians 2:5-11). But by living a life patterned after Christ, Paul could say: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). He could be a material example of what regeneration accomplishes in a sinner and a visible representation of what obedience to Christ looks like in application!
Paul lived a life of selflessness, sacrifice, and love. He suffered at the hands of men in many and varied ways. He was a humble, faithful witness, compassionate leader, bold preacher, and faithful to His Lord come- what- may. The Apostle is saying here that we need to see Christ in the lives of our Christian leaders, in the lives of one another!
AND by the grace of God, we also need to live as Christ did so that when people follow our example, they also will be following Christ. That’s what Jesus meant, at least in part, when He said: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
I view Paul here with these words, standing out as a representative of leaders in the church, not just him. I think he is including Timothy and Epaphroditus as well. Men in which he earlier claimed, are living lives that are an imitation of Christ’s. So, if there are any Elders, Deacons, or leaders in the church reading this post, are your lives being lived in such a way that you can say, along with Paul, “brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine?”
Pastors should be godly examples to follow 1 Peter 5:1-3:
5 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over [a]those allotted to your charge, but [b]proving to be examples to the flock.4
But it’s not just the spiritual leaders who are under fire here. Notice part two of this verse in our text, “observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” This part is about the rest of us, the congregation of the saints.
When we as believers read our bibles and pray, as we sit under the sound teaching of the Word of God, as we live and move and build relationships among others of “like precious faith,” we are to be observant. We are to be looking for godly examples around us and learn from them.
Godly people exhibit godly fruit. Things like sacrificial love, heavenly joy, peace, patience, unwavering faith, self-control, etc. Godly examples are pursuing a deeper relationship with their Lord, fighting the flesh, are humble servants of Christ, they’re not worldly, and they glory in Christ.
People like this live in “a manner worthy of our Lord,” indifferent to the circumstances of the day. Such people stand out in our congregations, and it is such people Paul urges us to look for and follow their example.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
The writer of Hebrews said: “therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
If you are a runner, you keep your eyes on the people in the race ahead of you. Not only to know where they are at physically in the race but for encouragement. They are in the race like you are, they have sacrificed much to get here, they are dealing with various stresses and trials as they run like you are— AND THEY KEEP RUNNING THE RACE!! They are not giving up, and they are not breaking the rules; they “press on for the prize.”
Such an example during our race is as encouraging as it is instructive and helps us keep the proper perspective. Paul uses the analogy of a race to describe the Christian life of faith- and good examples in our walk of faith are encouraging, instructive, and help us to keep a proper biblical perspective as we “press on for the prize.” Christ Himself!
We are not to be, “imitators of evil, but what is good (3 John 11).
Dear reader, are you living a life that is an example for others to follow? I am not talking about perfection. I am talking about a life lived in faithful, humble, obedient service to Christ. Is your life a pattern of Christ’s? Are you “fixing your eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith?” (Hebrews 12:2)?
But, sadly, verses 18-19 remind us that bad examples, unworthy examples, exist in the church, and they are not the examples we are to follow.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
In life, whenever we want to accomplish something, we have to first attempt whatever it is, and second, be diligent in our effort at it. Think of when you were a child, and you wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle. It didn’t just happen, did it? No, you had to get on it and learn how to balance yourself. Your mother and father helped you by holding onto the bicycle until you yelled, “ok, let me go.”
By not giving up and persevering through the many falls and the bruises that came with them, you eventually learned how to ride that bike! All analogies break down at some point, and this one is no exception.
In our text, Paul explains how our flesh (old man), and its desires, are set against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. There is a war going on within us, and we often lose many of the battles because we do not grasp and exercise this great truth. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Walk by the Spirit, and the flesh loses! We’re all in, right?
The problem is, though, just like learning to ride a bicycle, we need help. We can’t do it alone. Paul tells us to “walk by the Spirit,” or keep in step with, live by, or be occupied with the Spirit. In other words, the ONLY way to defeat the flesh and its wicked desires are by being so preoccupied with the Holy Spirit that there is no time for us to give sway to those temptations that want only to destroy us.
For us to “walk in the Spirit,” we have to first be “led” by the Spirit (Romans 8:13-14). This means that we are sensitive to His will for us and are actively cooperating with Him to fulfill it in our lives. It means that we are “putting to death,” or adamantly fighting against anything in our hearts that is at odds with the Spirit’s will for us.
The difference between the two, walking in the flesh, or walking in the Spirit, is as different as night and day. If we walk in the Spirit, we are led by Him, walking in obedience to Him, encouraged and strengthened by Him, and will enjoy unimaginable blessings. And, WE WILL NOT carry out those things that bring us guilt and shame before Him. Suppose we walk in the flesh, satisfying its evil desires. In that case, we grieve the Holy Spirit within us, are working against His good and perfect will for us, and have to face the guilt and consequences of yet another unnecessary defeat by our arch enemy.
Here is where my analogy breaks down. Once you learn how to ride your bicycle, you no longer need your mother and father to help you. You will go through life riding your bike without their help. It is quite the opposite, however, in the Christian walk of faith. WE ALWAYS need the help of the Holy Spirit. He is divine, and we are not. He sanctifies, empowers, and indwells each person He graciously saves! So, let us walk by the Spirit. It’s the only way to defeat our old nature.
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.”
” And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
When you have the opportunity to be a witness for Christ and share the Gospel with someone, who do you think is the “soul winner?” I ask this question because there has only been one soul winner in all of history, contrary to some modern-day teaching, and it isn’t you or I. It is and always has been the Holy Spirit.
Ray Stedman said it well, “we are not salesman for God, with a mandate to talk people into buying something. . . No salesperson is dependent upon a person working within him to do the job properly. Yet that is who we are as witnesses for Christ.”
“Our witness as a believer is vitally related to the Holy Spirit. Jesus had said that the Holy Spirit would be a witness and that the apostles would be witnesses. He had shown them how the Holy Spirit would not testify of Himself but Christ.
In this verse, the fulfillment of that promise is evident. The apostles were conscious that the Holy Spirit of God indwelled them. They recognized that they were instruments of God to the degree that that Spirit possessed them.
There is a tremendous lesson here for every believer. No one can be a witness for Christ and a herald of the Gospel by individual initiative. It is only as one follows the direction of the True Witness that he can communicate to others the divine testimony.”
Empowerment for witnessing comes from Him.
PRAYER: Father, help us trust that your Spirit within us is the only one who can save sinners. Grant to us encouragement to witness for Christ and boldness to speak the truth in love to those who desperately need to hear it. Amen.