VERSES 27-30:  Exhortation to Good Citizenship, both temporal and spiritual.

VERSE 27: 
“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.”

The verse is telling the Philippian believers, “To perform their duty as a good citizen.”  That is, they were to be good citizens of God’s kingdom, and to act in a manner becoming those who have believed in the Gospel of Christ.  This usage of a political metaphor to illustrate a spiritual truth comes out of the fact that Philippi was a Roman colonia where a Roman citizen, such as Paul, would be very conscious of civil responsibility.  He uses this same type of metaphor in 3:20 and Eph. 2:19.  .Paul wanted them to be good citizens of their heavenly citizenship as well as their earthly citizenship.

“Only let your conversation”
Literally:  “Only conduct yourselves.” 

        CONVERSATION:  (Gr.-politeuesthe)–Used only here in Paul’s writings and in Acts 23. Compare with 3:20 and Eph. 3:19.  Paul’s exhortation here anticipates or considers the Philippian believers to be members of the Christian commonwealth. This figure may have come to Paul because of his present residence in Rome, and would naturally appeal to the Philippians as part of a Roman colonia.

         The word “conversation” we now apply almost exclusively to oral discourse, or to talking; but in Paul’s day it was not confined to this meaning, and it is never so used in the Scriptures. In Scriptural usage it means conduct in general, which of course would include our manner of speaking, but not limited to that.  This is how it should be understood in every place where it occurs in the Bible         The original Greek root word (politeuō), used here means, “to administer the State; to live as a citizen; to conduct one's self according to the laws and customs of a State” (see Acts 23:1). properly, “to administer the State; to live as a citizen;” i.e., to conduct one's self according to the laws and customs of a State. (see Acts 23:1). It would not be improperly rendered, “let your conduct, as a citizen, be as becomes the gospel;” and might without impropriety, though not exclusively, be referred to our deportment as members of a community, or citizens of a State.
       This undoubtedly implies that, as citizens, we should act, in all the duties which that relation involves, such as in maintaining the laws, in submission to authority, in the choice of rulers, etc., as well as in other relations—on the principles of the gospel; for the believer is bound to perform every duty on Christian principles.  But Paul’s direction here should not be confined to just that. It also includes our conduct in all relations in life, and refers to our deportment in general; not merely as citizens of the State, but as members of the church, and in all other relations. In our manner of speech, our plans of living, our dealings with others, our conduct and walk in the church and out of it-all should be done as becomes the gospel. The direction, therefore, in this place, is to be understood of everything pertaining to conduct.
         The KJV totally missed the figure presented here by using the word, “conversation” which refers to talk and not to the real meaning of conduct and citizenship. A better rendering of this phrase might read, ‘only do you live as citizens”       

“as it becometh the gospel of Christ:”
Literally:  “Worthily of the gospel of Christ.”–Paul considers the Church at Philippi as a free or imperial city, which possesses great honors, dignities, and privileges; and he exhorts them to act worthy (axiōs), of or suitably to, those honors and privileges. This is the idea that is expressed by the word
politeuesthe (conversation), that is, to act according to the nature of your political situation, the citizenship and privileges which you possess in consequence of your being free inhabitants of Christ's imperial city, the Church.

Paul resumes the same metaphor in 3:20“For our citizenship is in heaven;” but in that verse he puts heaven in the place of the Church, and this is all right for he, who is not a member of the Church of Christ on earth, can have no right to the kingdom of heaven, and he who does not walk worthy of the Gospel of Christ cannot be counted worthy to enter through the gates into the city of the eternal King.

“that whether I come and see you”
Literally: “So that whether coming and seeing you.” Paul may be alluding to the possibility that he might be released, and be permitted to visit them again. However, the matter is still in doubt as to whether he should again visit them.

“or [else] be absent”
Literally:  “Or being absent.” Either at Rome, still confined, or released, and permitted to go abroad. I may hear of your affairs, etc. I may hear always respecting you that you are united, and that you are vigorously striving to promote the interests of the gospel.

“stand [fast] in one spirit”
Literally:  “You stand firm in one spirit.” Being all of one mind under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

        STAND:  (Gr.-stekete)–A military term of a centurion placing his men in position to face toward the foe.  Paul expects them to “stand fast.”  The world is full of Christians who are in retreat; or in outright rout.  Look around you, and you can see those of whom I speak:  they are those who, when things become difficult, play down their Christianity. True Christians will stand fast, unashamed in any company.STRIVING TOGETHER: 

      STRIVING TOGETHER:  (Gr.-sunthlountes)–Literally:  “Wrestling together.”  Not in contention with each other, but in union against the enemies of the Gospel faith; that is, those who oppose the doctrine of Christ crucified, and freedom from all Mosaic rites and ceremonies, as well as from sin and perdition, through His sacrifice.

         This verb occurs only here and in 4:3.  Paul is drawing a metaphor from the Greek games.  The figure is that of an athletic contest, and is in keeping with “stand fast.”  The word emphasizes people fighting alongside each other for a common cause, a united action; and the common cause of the Philippian believers was the “faith of the gospel.” Paul expects unity:  they are to be bound together in one spirit. 
         Let the world argue, fuss and fight among themselves, but Christians must be united.  Often, evil seems invincible, but Christians must never abandon hope or give up the struggle.  In times of crisis, others may be nervous and afraid; but Christians must still be serene and confident amd in control of themselves and the situation.   If Christians can be like that, they will set such an example that those who are not Christians will be disgusted with their own way of life, and will realize that the Christians have something they do not have, and will seek to possess or share it.

“And in nothing terrified by
{your} adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.”

“And in nothing terrified by {your} adversaries:”–Literally:  “And in nothing being terrified by the [ones] opposing.”  This does seem to indicate that the Church at Philippi was then under persecution.  The meaning here is, “Do not be alarmed at anything which they can do. Maintain your Christian integrity, notwithstanding all the opposition which they can make. They will, in the end, certainly be destroyed, and you will be saved.”

They had many opponents, like most of the other early Christians, and as we also have now. There were Jews there who would be likely to oppose them, (Acts 17:5) and they were exposed to persecution by the heathen. We are witnessing more-and-more in our own time of the heathens openly persecuting believers.  Paul had himself suffered there in that city (Acts 16); and it would not be strange if the same scenes should be repeated for the Philippian believers. It is evident from this passage, as well as from some other parts of the epistle, that the Philippians were at this time experiencing some form of severe suffering. But in what way, or why, the opposition to them was excited, is nowhere stated.

        TERRIFIED: (Gr.-styromenoi)—This word is used only here in the N.T.; it speaks of the terror of a startled horse.  The Roman historian Diodorus Siculus, in speaking of the chariot horses of Darius at the Battle of Issus, uses the term when he says, “Frightened (styromenoi)—by reason of the multitude of the dead heaped round them, they shook off their reins.”  Paul did not want the Philippian believers to be like high-strung horses who shy at every strange movement. Because of the potential impact on others, Paul did not want the Philippian believers to be terrified by anything.

        ADVERSARIES:  (Gr.-antikeimenōn)– They could be assured of the fact that there would be adversaries.  The arch-enemy has always had his people who stood against God and His people–His hagioi (holy ones). 

It is true, but still a fact, that those who take a strong position for Christ will always run into opposition.  It is a principle of the Christian life that anyone who determines to “live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12).  They could remember how Paul and Silas had reacted when they were beaten and thrown into prison there in Philippi (Acts 16:23-29).  Those two prayed and sang praises to God at midnight.   What an impression this must have made on the other prisoners, and the Philippian jailer who heard them! 

“which is to them an evident token of perdition,”
Literally:  “Which to them truly is proof of destruction.”  What is the evidence to which Paul refers that they will be destroyed?  This sentence is cryptic or indirect, but it shows that he is referring either to the circumstance then occurring, (that they were persecuted), and that they were displaying constancy, or to the constancy which he wished them to display in their persecutions.

Paul says that this circumstance of persecution, if they evinced such a spirit as he wished, would be to them an evidence of two things:
1.      Of the destruction of those who were engaged in the persecution. This would be, because they knew that such persecutors could not ultimately prevail. Persecution of the church would be a certain indication that they who did it would be finally destroyed.

2.     It would be a proof of their own salvation, because it would show that they were the friends of the Redeemer; and they had the assurance that all those who were persecuted for his sake would be saved.

        WHICH:  (Gr.-hētis)—This is probably used as referring to the persecution which had begun, and to the constancy which Paul supposed the Philippians would display.

        EVIDENT TOKEN:  (Gr.-endeixis)—Literally:  “A pointing out.”  Used in Attic Greek (Athenian) law of a writ of indictment; i.e., a demonstration or proof.

        PERDITION:  (Gr.-apōleias)–Literally:  “destruction.” Loss in contrast with “salvation” (Gr.-sôtêrias).

“but to you of salvation”– The oldest manuscripts read, "of your salvation;" not referring just to your temporal safety.

                 SALVATION:  (Gr.-sôtêrias)–Literally:  “deliverance, preservation, or release.”  Salvation in the Christian sense.

When a Christian, in the face of opposition, relies on the power of the Holy Spirit, and remains unshaken, he realizes that this is an evidence of his own salvation because he would not have had the strength in himself to do this. It should be encouraging for the believer to know that Christ Jesus Himself is with him always, regardless of the circumstances (see Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5).  The reason believers should not be startled, or terrified, by their adversaries is given in verse 29.

“and that of God.”
Literally:  “and this from God”–That is, their persecution is a proof that God will interpose in due time, and save  them.

The hostility of the wicked to us is one evidence that we are the friends of God, and shall be saved.  Some expositors believe this to be an allusion in accord with “striving together.” Remember that the sign of life or death given by the populace in the amphitheater when a gladiator was vanquished by turning the thumbs up or down.  “The Christian gladiator does not anxiously await the signal of life or death from the fickle crowd.  The great Director of the Contest Himself has given him a sure token of deliverance.”

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake;”

The reason that believers should not be afraid or terrified by their adversaries is given in this verse.

“For unto you it is given”
Literally:  “Because it has been granted to you.”  Unto you as Christians, this favor is granted unto you in your present circumstances; God concedes to you this privilege or advantage.

        IT IS GIVEN: (Gr.-echaristhē)—Literally: “It has been granted.” As a special token of God's love, and of your being in the way of salvation.  Given as a gift of grace, really referring to the gift bestowed when they became Christians.  Suffering in behalf of Christ is one of God's gifts to us.

Suffering was the marriage gift when they were espoused to Christ; the bounty when they enlisted in His service.  It has been the practice in the British army that when one enlists, the new recruit is given the “queen’s shilling” as a token of that enlistment.  Suffering is our, “queen’s shilling,” the token of our heavenly enlistment.  Paul is telling them that becoming one with Christ, they entered into the fellowship of His suffering (see 3:10)  The gift was not suffering as such; its meaning and value lay in its being for His sake.   The Macedonian churches, and the Philippian church especially, were suffering churches. 

“in the behalf of Christ”
Literally:  “On behalf of Christ.”  In the cause of Christ, or with a view to honor Him. Or, these things are brought on you in consequence of your being Christians.

         By enduring trials with a proper spirit, believers do honor Christ as much as by active labors; and they have no more just reason to complain or be discontented when He visits them with adversity, than when He crowns them with prosperity; for in both He consults His glory, their highest good, and the good of His cause.
        It is no small privilege that God has so far honored you as to permit you to suffer on Christ's account. It is only His most faithful servants that He thus honors. Be not therefore terrified by your enemies; they can do nothing to you which God will not turn to your eternal advantage. We learn from this that it is as great a privilege to suffer for Christ as to believe on Him; and the former in certain cases (as far as the latter in all cases) becomes the means of salvation to them who are thus exercised.

        It would cheer the Philippian saints to remember that they suffered in good company, and were comrades with the apostle himself. Glad enough may we be to be ridiculed for Jesus' sake, since we are thereby made partakers with the noble army of martyrs.

“not only to believe on Him,”
Literally:  “Not only to believe into Him.” It is represented here as a privilege to be permitted to believe on Christ. It is so.

1.      It is an honor to a man to believe one who ought to be believed, to trust one who ought to be trusted, to love one who ought to be loved.
2.      It is a privilege to believe on Christ, because it is by such faith that our sins are forgiven; that we become reconciled to God, and have the hope of heaven.
3.      It is a privilege, because it saves the mind from the tortures and the deadly influence of unbelief—the agitation, and restlessness, and darkness, and gloom of a skeptic.
4.      It is a privilege, because we have then a Friend to whom we may go in trial, and on Whom me may roll all our burdens.
If there is anything for which a Christian ought to give unfeigned thanks, it is that he has been permitted to believe on the Redeemer. Let a sincere Christian compare his peace, and joy, and hope of heaven, and support in trials, with the restlessness, uneasiness, and dread of death, in the mind of an unbeliever, and he will see abundant occasion for gratitude.

“but also to suffer for His sake.”
Literally:  “But also on behalf of Him to suffer.”  Here it is represented as a privilege to suffer in the cause of the Redeemer; a declaration which may sound strange to the world.

Yes, this sentiment frequently occurs in the New Testament. Thus it is said of the apostles, (Acts 5:41), that “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”  (Col. 1:24): “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you.” (I Pet. 4:13): “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings.” Comp. James 1:2, Mark 10:30. Acts 5:41. It is a privilege thus to suffer in the cause of Christ, because:
1.      We then resemble the Lord Jesus, and are united with Him in trials;

2.      Because we have evidence that we are His, if trials come upon us in His cause;
3.      Because we are engaged in a good cause, and the privilege of maintaining such a cause is worth much of suffering; and
4.      Because it will be connected with a brighter crown and more exalted honor in heaven.
When you get to the place where He lets you suffer for Him, you have arrived!  That is the high calling of Christ Jesus.

“Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear
[to be] in me.”

“Having the same conflict”
Literally:  “having the same struggle”–When Paul preached the Gospel at Philippi he was grievously persecuted, as we learn from Acts 16:19-40, being stripped, scourged, thrown into prison, even into the dungeon, and his feet made fast in the stocks.

This was the conflict they had seen in him; and now they heard that he had been sent prisoner to Rome as an evil doer, and that he was at present in bonds, and shortly to be tried for his life before the Roman emperor to whom he had been obliged to appeal.

        STRUGGLE:   (Gr.-agona)–The root word from which we get our English word, “agony” or “agonize.” This  literally means, “struggle,” or, “fight.”  Paul’s thought here apparently went back to what he said in v. 27 where he told them to strive together for the faith of the gospel.  He viewed all Christians to be in a serious conflict where they needed to fight shoulder-to-shoulder against the enemy.

“which ye saw in me.”–When I was in Philippi, opposed by the multitude, and thrown into prison, (Acts 16).  Perhaps earlier they had a difficult time identifying with Paul in what he was experiencing, but now they would have no difficulty because of what they themselves were going through.

“and now hear to be in me.”
"and now hear
{to be} in me.”  In Rome he was a prisoner there, was surrounded by enemies, and was about to be tried for his life. He says that they ought to rejoice if they were called to pass through the same trials.

         In this chapter we have an illustration of the true spirit of a Christian, in circumstances that are exceedingly trying. Paul was in a situation where Christianity would show itself, if there were any in the heart; and where, if there was none, the bad passions of our nature would be developed. He was a prisoner. He had been unjustly accused. He was about to be put on trial for his life, and it was wholly uncertain what the result would be. He was surrounded with enemies, and there were not a few false friends and rivals who took advantage of his imprisonment to diminish his influence, and to extend their own. He was, perhaps, about to die; and, at any rate, was in such circumstances as to be under a necessity of looking death in the face.  
         In this situation he exhibited some of the most tender and pure feelings that ever exist in the heart of man-the genuine fruit of pure religion. He remembered them with affectionate and constant interest in his prayers. He gave thanks for all that God had done for them. Looking upon his own condition, he said that the trials which had happened to him, great as they were, had been overruled to the furtherance of the gospel.

         The gospel had become known even in the imperial palace. And though it had been preached by some with no good will towards him, and with much error, yet he held no hard feelings against these preachers.  He sought for no revenge; he rejoiced that in any way, and from any motives, the great truth had been made known that a Savior died. Looking forward to the possibility that his trial before the emperor might terminate in his death, he calmly anticipated such a result, and looked at it with composure.
         He says that, in reference to the great purpose of his life, it would make no difference whether he lived or died, for he was assured that Christ would be honored whatever was the result. To him personally it would be gain to die; and, as an individual, he longed for the hour when he might be with Christ. This feeling is religion, and this is produced only by the hope of eternal life through the Redeemer. An impenitent sinner never expressed such feelings as these; nor does any other form of religion but Christianity enable a man to look upon death in this manner. It is not often that a man is even willing to demand then this state of mind is produced not by the hope of heaven, but by disgust at the world; by disappointed ambition; by painful sickness, when the sufferer feels that any change would be for the better.
         But Paul had none of these feelings. His desire to depart was not produced by a hatred of life; nor by the greatness of his sufferings; nor by disgust at the world. It was the noble, elevated, and pure wish to be with Christ; to see him whom he supremely loved, whom he had so long and so faithfully served, and with whom he was to dwell forever. To that world where Christ dwelt he would gladly rise; and the only reason why he could be content to remain here was, that he might be a little longer useful to his fellow-men. Such is the elevated nature of Christian feeling. But alas! how few attain to it; and even among Christians how few are they that can habitually feel and realize that it would be gain for them to die! How few can say with sincerity that they desire to depart, and to be with Christ?
       A  Christian rarely reaches that state of mind, and gains that view of heaven, so that standing amidst his comforts here, and looking on his family, and friends, and property, he can say, from the depths of his soul, that he feels it would be gain for him to go to heaven?  Yet such deadness to the world may be produced-as it was in the case of Paul; such deadness to the world should exist in the heart of every sincere Christian. Where it does exist, death loses its terror, and the heir of life can look calmly on the bed where he will lie down to die; can think calmly of the moment when he will give the parting hand to wife and child, and press them to his bosom for the last time, and imprint on them the last kiss; can look peacefully on the spot where he will molder back to dust, and in view of all can triumphantly say, “Even so Lord Jesus, come quickly.”

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