“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”
The words used here are very interesting. The RSV says, “your manner of life”, or as it is in the KJV “your conversation”. It is a word from which we get our English word “politics”, or “politician”. The Greek word is politeuma, a word that means your conduct as a citizen or a colony. This is the first indication in this letter of a very interesting condition that prevailed in the city of Philippi. Everyone who read this letter, or heard it read in the church, would be aware that the citizens of this city were members of a Roman colony. They were actually citizens of Rome even though they were a thousand miles away. This was because of the great battle that had been won by the Roman Emperor, and in gratitude to the residents, they were made citizens of Rome. They were colonists, citizens of Rome, a thousand miles away in Macedonia.
Paul builds on this idea and says to them, in effect, you Christians in Philippi are members of another government. You cannot, therefore, have a similar attitude to the rest of the citizens of Philippi. You belong to a colony of heaven; therefore you must behave like citizens of heaven. This is a very illuminating picture of the Christian in the world. We are a colony of heaven. So, the word of the apostle is let your manner of conduct be worthy of the government to which you belong, the kingdom of God and the gospel of Christ. That consists of two essential things. What should you be as a citizen of heaven?
First, “stand firm in one Spirit (I think he means the Holy Spirit), and second, “with one mind strive side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Those are the essentials. That is conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ. In other words, Paul is saying never depart from complete dependency on the Spirit of God to do through you everything that needs to be done. That is the first essential of a Christian life. That’s very important, you know! I hope you begin to grasp that the Christian life is lived by a totally different process than you lived before you came to Christ. It is God’s life through you. It is the indwelling Lord Jesus expressing Himself in terms of your human personality. Never depart from that, he says. Never let anything shake you, or remove you, or cause you to turn back to the basis on which you once lived. That is the first essential. The second is, never let anything but serious heresy keep you from working side by side In the gospel. Those are the great essentials.
Now interestingly enough, all the wiles of the devil, all the thrust and power of his activity is aimed at these two things. To keep us from observing them, the enemy tries first one and then the other. He tests us first on one point, and if he can’t derail us there, he goes to the other point. He tries to get you to depend upon yourself, not on the indwelling life of Christ, and to make you therefore fearful, worried, discouraged, impatient, or upset with something. Haven’t you felt this? This is the attack of the enemy, trying to budge you from your position in Christ which makes for victory.
That is why in the close of the Ephesian letter Paul refers to the same thing. He says we are not engaged in wrestling against flesh and blood. Our enemies are not human beings. They are those invisible powers ensconced in high places which are working through human beings. We wrestle not with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers, invisible wicked spirits working in high places. What does he say to this? Stand fast! Don’t let them budge you from that essential relationship in which your life is dependent upon: the inner life of God.
Whenever we get discouraged, we are depending on ourselves. We’re discouraged because we were expecting that we could do something and we failed. We’ve been self-confident, counting on ourselves, thinking we have all it takes to do the job. We think we don’t need any help from God. We then move from that position of dependency on God’s Spirit. We get worried, anxious, fearful, timid, and impatient. We have yielded to the attack of the enemy and temporarily have shifted from that position of dependency.
If that doesn’t work, and we stand firm, then the enemy tries another strategy. He tries to make a breach between us and those who labor with us. He tries to split us up, divide us, create suspicion, smoldering resentments and personality conflicts. He tries to get us to not talk with each other, have nothing to do with one another, look down on others, cut them off from our fellowship, conversation, and contact.
Now I know you feel, as I have often felt, that in this warfare in which we are engage it seems as though we have to face a thousand fronts. Every time we turn around we’re under attack, and we never know when he will strike next and we have to be constantly on guard. But that isn’t true. We have only two things to watch, that’s all. These two things mentioned by Paul, that we stand firm in one Spirit, and that we strive side by side together in the gospel. That’s all. If we are careful to keep our eyes open to the power of God working within in these two areas, our conduct will become worthy of the gospel of Christ.