I am sure that we have all heard the accusation that someone’s walk does not equal his or her talk. In other words, that person does not practice what he or she preaches. It is so easy to expect something of someone else that we are not willing to do ourselves. The Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians “that he did not want to preach to others and be disqualified himself” (1 Corinthians 9:27). He therefore tells the Philippians that their conduct should be worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul simply says: “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” His wish, longing, and prayer for this church was that their conduct would compliment or bring glory to the gospel, because that has eternal value when all else will disappear. We may be successful in achieving a prominent position, exerting much power, or amassing great riches like the rich farmer, or be very influential, but if our conduct is not worthy of the gospel, all will be in vain. Paul could have had all that, but considered it rubbish in view of eternity (Philippians 3:7-9).
This exhortation is also for us today. People all around us may use their elbows to shove others aside and become financially successful or become very famous. They may try to prove that sin doesn’t separate us from God and that everything is okay. There may be others who will leave the faith because of all this and go back to the world like Demas once did, but we have been called to live worthy of the gospel. We need to live a life that is worthy to be called Christian, so that others may not become disillusioned with us and lose their faith. People may often take us as their example and then become devastated when they learn that our life does not align itself with the gospel. If we profess to be a Christian, born again and set free from the bondage of sin, people have every right to see the gospel lived out in our daily lives. Paul, writing to the Corinthians says, ”You are our letter … read by everyone” (2 Corinthians 3:2). Let us pray that there would be no difference between what they read in our lives and the written Word, the Bible.
Paul is saying, in essence, that our conduct should always support that Word of God. He says, whether I come to see you or hear about you in my absence, may the report always glorify God. Back then, as today, there were many people pleasers. They loved to get behind a person and support that particular individual (1 Corinthians 1:12-13). If Paul is there, I will come and get involved, but if someone else is there I will stay home. Paul did not accept that as true Christian living. That did not glorify God, but exalted a person. Paul asks them the question: “Was Paul crucified for you or was it Christ?” Christ gave His life for us so that we might be saved from our sins and live a life pleasing to Him. We live a Christ-honoring life, whether people are present or whether we are all alone. The true Christian test is what we are and how we live when we think that no one is present or watching us.
Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to serve God with all their heart whether he is present or absent. That they would continue to serve, continue to pray and attend the prayer meetings, and that their service would not be to please people, but Christ.
He carries on and says, “That you would stand firm in one spirit.” If the adversary can’t tempt us with the obvious sins, he will try to bring dissension and disunity into the church so that people become discouraged and disgruntled, and leave the church. He will often come as an angel of light and point out all the inconsistencies of the people in church. It will go something like this: ”Look at what that person is wearing! Look at that person’s hair-do or that person’s beard! That person should not be up there singing!”
We should always stand firm against sin, but often Satan is able to distract us and cause us to become disgruntled and then give up. Paul writes to the Ephesians and says: ”Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit …” (Ephesians 4:3). That simply means that we need to get involved and contribute to the cause of unity.
We may say, “Well I didn’t start any fires,” but did we try to extinguish those that were started by someone who wishes to be disruptive? Are we truly peacemakers as Jesus said in the beatitudes, or are we simply spectators? Paul, writing to the Romans says: “As much as it depends on you live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). The Hebrew writer says again: ”Make every effort to live in peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14). This is a life that is worthy of the gospel, because it will only be possible if the Prince of Peace lives within us and controls our lives (Colossians 3:15-17). That kind of living will glorify God. Jesus said that if we live that kind of life, even the people of this world will praise the Father in Heaven because of how we conduct ourselves (Matthew 5:16).
Paul then encourages the Philippians not to be afraid. He is echoing the words of our Lord as He spoke in John 14:1, ”Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” There will temptations, problems, and difficulties along our life’s path, but that is to be expected. Stand firm – continue in prayer – stay in the Word, because He who is within you is greater than he who is in the world. We have not only been called to believe but to contend for the faith. That requires effort and work. Many people have become so complacent in this respect. They often don’t really know what they believe. Paul says that we have similar struggles as he had, but we need to live a life worthy of the gospel.
This may best be illustrated through the experience of a little girl. She attended one of those old churches which had twelve stained glass windows with a figure of a man in each depicting one of the twelve Apostles. Upon arriving at home, her mother asked her how the church service was. She answered, “Mother, I saw the Apostles.” “Who are the Apostles?” her mother asked. “The Apostles were the people in the windows, through whom the light would shine into the sanctuary.” May the light of our Savior truly shine through us, because after He said that He is the light of this world (John 8:12), He said that we are the light of this world (Matthew 5:14-16).
That is conduct worthy of the gospel.