Lives Worthy of the Gospel, Part 1 (Mike Riccardi)

Philippians 1:27   |   Sunday, January 13, 2013   |   Code: 2013-01-13-MR



About a month ago as I was looking over our preaching schedule for GraceLife, and preparing to preach through the latter parts of Philippians 1, I came to the realization that I would be preaching this text some time pretty close to the start of the New Year. And of course New Year’s is the time when everybody does some reflecting on the previous year and how we have lived our lives, and we make resolutions and determinations to live better in the coming year, whatever that may mean. The process seems to involve a kind of refocusing on things that are important to us so that when we will have come to the end of this next year we will look even more favorably on it than the previous one.


For many of us, these determinations often include improving our diet, setting out time to exercise regularly, hoping to lose a couple of pounds. Others resolve to watch less TV, to devote more time to reading a good book, or to spending more time away from work just being with the family. One writer put it this way: “For those who were too busy, New Years is a time to start enjoying life. For those who were too lazy, it’s time to get organized or learn something new. And for those who were too self-indulgent, it’s time to lose weight or get out of debt.”


But whether on the first of the year or some other time, the resolutions we make as Christians must be of a decidedly different character than those made by the unbelieving world. Sure, some may overlap; after all, it’s hardly ever a bad idea to eat better and to exercise more. But we who are first of all concerned with the glory and magnification of the Lord Jesus Christ should be inclined to resolve to do that which puts that glory on display to the world. Maybe our resolutions will include setting aside additional time to pray, committing to Bible reading both in the evening as well in the morning, or being more intentional about evangelism.


But in the providence of God, I can think of almost no better New Year’s resolution for the Christian than the command that we receive from the Apostle Paul in our text this morning. Philippians 1:27: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” If the supreme passion of our lives, like the Apostle Paul says in verse 20, is to magnify the glory of the Lord Jesus, conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel should be atop the list of our New Year’s resolutions.


I have been repeating for some months now that the theme of the Book of Philippians is the Gospel. Philippians is about the Gospel. It’s not quite a presentation of the content of the Gospel, like the Book of Romans. And it’s not really a defense of the Gospel in the face of heresy, like the letter to the Galatians. Philippians is about the implications of the Gospel—what sort of practical effect the realities and truths of the Gospel should have on the lives of believers. In fact, based on the verse I just read, I’ve said a number of times that if I were to give a subtitle to the Book of Philippians, that subtitle would be: “The Gospel-Driven Life.” Paul’s aim, his chief desire in writing this epistle, is that his dear friends at Philippi would be living in a manner that is consistent with the implications of what Jesus Christ has accomplished on their behalf—that every facet of their lives would be shaped and driven by the Gospel that they had come to trust and treasure.


And Paul has set out to accomplish that goal in chapter one, first, by modeling for the Philippians what a Gospel-Driven Life looks like. As early as his greeting, in the very first verses of his letter, he reminds the Philippians of the Christian’s identity as slaves of Christ and as saints in Christ, which comes as a result of the Gospel. He adapts a summary-version of the Gospel as a way of saying hello when he says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” There is the Gospel in miniature: The grace of God has appeared in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ so that we might be restored to peace with God. Then, in verses 3 to 8, Paul launches into an exuberant expression of thankfulness for the fellowship that he and the Philippians share as partners in the Gospel. The joy, the confidence, and the affection that characterize Paul’s thanksgiving are the results of a Gospel-driven fellowship. After this, in verses 9 to 11, is his Gospel-driven prayer on behalf of the Philippians. Fellowship in the Gospel issues in supplication to God for our fellow-Christians’ growth in love, discernment, integrity, and fruitfulness, all of which abound to the glory of God.


Then, in verses 12 to 18, Paul turns to address his own circumstances. The Philippians have heard that Paul has been imprisoned at Rome and is waiting to stand trial before Nero, who will decide whether he will live or die. And they’re concerned for Paul. And so Paul informs them that he’s been rejoicing! Because far from hindering the spread of the Gospel, Paul’s imprisonment and his trials have actually served to advance the Gospel. He was getting the chance to preach the Gospel to the soldiers in the Praetorian guard, and many of them were being saved! And on top of that, fellow-believers were hearing about Paul’s unwavering courage in the midst of his trials, and they were becoming bold and started preaching Christ no matter what the consequences were. And so even though he had lost his personal freedom, was constantly chained to a Roman soldier, and certain preachers in Rome were maligning him, Paul was rejoicing because Christ was being preached, and because the Gospel was advancing. His was a Gospel-driven ministry.


Then we come to verses 19 to 21, where we get a glimpse into the heart of what it means to be a Christian. The Gospel-driven life is the one that has as its singular passion—has at the very bottom of its joy—the exaltation and magnification of the Lord Jesus Christ. The one whose eyes have been opened by the grace of God in the Gospel to finally see the glory of God revealed in the face of Christ is then driven by that beautiful vision to be more satisfied by Christ than by all that life can offer and all that death can take—such that the cry of his heart is: “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” And someone who is in this way driven by the Gospel, will have a perspective—an outlook—on life and death that makes both living and dying each seem so attractive and so full of blessing, that it almost becomes impossible to prefer one or the other. And that is the stuff of Paul’s Gospel-driven dilemma in verses 22 to 26.


And so from start to finish, this entire opening chapter from the Apostle Paul has been an example of his Gospel-driven life amidst his personal circumstances. But now, as we turn to verse 27 of chapter 1, we come to an entirely new section of the Philippian letter. Paul transitions from reporting about his own affairs and how things are going with him and his ministry, to now addressing the Philippians themselves with specific exhortations and instructions. And all of these exhortations and instructions are set under a single rubric in the opening phrase of verse 27. The very first imperative, the first command in the entire letter, waits till verse 27. And that command is, as we’ve repeated many times in the past months, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” Several times in our study of the book of Philippians I have called this the “thesis verse” of the entire letter. And it is that, because all of the exhortations and instructions that Paul will give are summed up as living in a manner worthy of the Gospel.


And so it acts as a sort of introduction to the rest of the letter: In verses 27 to 30 he exhorts them to courageously stand firm in the face of opposition and persecution, and to suffer well as good soldiers of Christ. In chapter 2 verses 1 through 4 he calls them to be unified through Christlike humility. In verses 5 to 11 he sets forth Christ as the supreme example of humility. In verses 12 to 18 he calls them to work out their own salvation—another way of calling them to live worthily of the Gospel—with the result that they brilliantly shine as lights in a dark world. In chapter 3 he urges them to steadfastness in the face of false teaching. In chapter 4 he urges them again to unity—to be of one mind in the Lord. And he exhorts them to patience, to persistent prayer, and to contentment.


All of these admonitions and exhortations are simply the exposition of the command to let their manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ—to see to it that they live Gospel-driven lives.


And as we examine this single, weighty, comprhensive phrase together this morning, we’ll outline our study along three broad headings: First, we will make some observations about the command itself. Second, we will consider two implications of this command. And third, we will close by making a number of applications of the command, giving practical examples of how the Gospel directly shapes various facets of our lives.


I. The Command


Its Supreme Importance


As to the command itself, then, the first thing to observe is its supreme importance. And we see this from the very first word in the sentence: “Only.” Now again, remember the context in which this command comes. Paul is in prison, waiting to stand trial before Nero, where he would discover whether the Romans would put him to death or release him to go on ministering the Gospel. And as he contemplates these two alternatives, both life and death look so good to him that he doesn’t know which to set his heart on! He knows that to die and be with Christ is very much better, but he also knows that continuing on in the flesh will mean fruitful labor and increased benefit for the people of God, which will also be a blessing.


And even though he has no direct revelation from God about the outcome, he believes that in the providence of God he’ll be released to minister among the Philippians again. And so he says in verse 25, “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith.”


But now in verse 27 he says, “Whatever happens to me—whether I’m condemned to death and I go to be with the Lord, or whether I’m released and I am able to come to you again—whatever happens to me, make sure you don’t miss this! This is supremely important: Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel.”


The NIV accurately paraphrases the word only as, “Whatever happens.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible has, “Just one thing!” One commentator says that the word only highlights this command as if lifting a warning finger (O’Brien, 145). “Whatever happens! Whatever else you do!”


And so Paul is saying to the Philippians, “As much as I appreciate your loving concern and affection for me, be sure that you are not supremely concerned with whether I live or whether I die. Rather, let your supreme, ultimate concern be about living in a manner that tells the truth about the Gospel of Christ!”


And friends, if you’re wondering if there’s a way to make your pastors proud, to bless our hearts, to minister encouragement to us, it’s this. It is to conduct yourselves in a way that makes it plain that our labor in the study of the Scriptures, in the faithful proclamation of the Word of God, and in the pastoral oversight of the flock has been used by God to cultivate your growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle John says in 3 John verse 4: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” Certainly Paul shared that sentiment. And so we see the supreme importance of this command to walk worthily of the Gospel.


Its Distinctive Imagery


Secondly, we must observe its distinctive imagery. Now, you will probably recognize that usually, when Paul and the other New Testament authors give ethical instructions for how the Christian ought to live, the normal word that they use is the term peripateo, which is commonly translated “walk.” We even speak to one another about our Christian “walk.” We ask each other things like, “How is your walk with the Lord going?” In fact, I quoted the Apostle John just a moment ago as saying he has no greater joy than when his children walk in the truth. Paul himself will speak this way later on in Philippians, chapter 3 verse 17: “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”


But here in Philippians 1:27 Paul doesn’t use peripateo. He uses a distinctive verb that is found in only one other verse in the New Testament. The Greek word that gets translated as “conduct yourselves in a manner” (NAU) or “let your manner of life” (ESV) is politeuomai, from which we get the English word politics or political. It comes from the Greek word polis, which means “city.” And so the verb form of polis, politeuomai, means “to live as a citizen,” or to “discharge your obligations as a citizen” (BDAG, 846). Why does Paul use this unique word?


Paul uses this unique word, highlighting the Philippians’ duties as citizens, because, as we’re told in Acts 16:12, Philippi was a Roman colony. And not only was it a Roman colony, the citizens of Philippi enjoyed the full rights and privileges as if they were Roman citizens themselves. And the Philippians gloried in this. They spoke Latin, they copied Roman architecture, and they even patterned their dress after Roman customs. In fact, in Acts 16, when Paul drove the spirit of divination out of the slave-girl and her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, do you remember what they said to get Paul arrested? Acts 16 verse 20: “…and when they brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, ‘These men [meaning Paul and Silas] are throwing our city into confusion being Jews, and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans!” You see? They were proud of their elite Roman customs. Citizens of Philippi loved identifying themselves as citizens of Rome!


And so when Paul writes his letter to the Philippian Christians, he strikes at the very heart of the most dearly-cherished identity of the surrounding culture, and he tells them, “You may be tempted to take great delight in your Roman citizenship and your Roman customs and your Roman laws. But as followers of Jesus Christ, you have a citizenship of infinitely greater honor! For our citizenship is in Heaven (3:20), and so whatever happens, whatever you do, only conduct yourselves as citizens in a manner worthy of the Gospel! Be proud that you are citizens of the kingdom of Heaven! Glory in the fact that you are governed by Heaven’s laws and the Gospel’s customs. You are a Christian before you are a Roman.” And, dear brothers and sisters, make no mistake about it: you are a Christian before you are an American! You are a Christian before you are a Republican or a Democrat! Your identity is in Christ, and your citizenship is in Heaven.


The Rule of Heavenly Citizenship


And the rule of heavenly citizenship—the charter document to be cherished by the Christian—the constitution of the kingdom of Heaven—is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the city-state of the kingdom of God, it is the Gospel which regulates and directs all of our conduct. It is the Gospel of which we must walk worthy.

And what is the Gospel? The Gospel is the Good News “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3–4). It is the Good News that Paul recounts just a few verses later in chapter 2 verses 5 to 11: that Jesus laid aside His privileges as God, submitted Himself to the weakness of human nature, humbly and obediently died on the cross for the sins of His people, and was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God with glory and honor. The Gospel is the Good News of the virgin birth, the sinless life, the substitutionary death, and the undeniable resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God, sent to ransom all those who would simply turn from their sin and trust in His righteousness alone for their acceptance before God.


Now, walking worthily of this Gospel does not mean that you live in a way so as to earn your salvation. That would be entirely contradictory to the Gospel itself, which tells us that no man purify himself or atone for his own sin. Neither does this mean that you are required to keep yourself saved by your good works; that, too, is impossible. None of us could ever do enough good deeds to earn any sort of favor with God—whether relating to justification or sanctification. Both are the work of God, chapter 1 verse 6: “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God begins the work of salvation in you at your conversion, and He perfects the work of salvation in you throughout your Christian life by working in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure (2:13). We work, but our work earns us nothing, because God is the One working in us, and so He gets the credit.


So no, living in a manner worthy of the Gospel does not mean that we earn God’s favor. It means that we should live a life of spiritual integrity—a life that corresponds with the truth of the Gospel that we profess to believe. One preacher puts it this way: “We are to [conduct] our lives as citizens of the kingdom of God in such a way as will reflect that we have been mastered by the Gospel.”


Has the Gospel truly taken root in your heart? Do you know the depth of your sin and the horror of your own helplessness to save yourself from the punishment that that sin deserves? And do you know the sweetness of forgiveness, purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ, ministered to your own soul by the Holy Spirit of God, owing to nothing at all in yourself? Have you been a privileged beneficiary of such free, sovereign grace? Have you been united to Christ by faith and counted righteous by God Himself? Well then, order your life in such a way that is consistent with such a Gospel! Live in such a way that if people could read a summary of the Gospel at the same time as they observe your life, they would think that the two are consistent.


Paul is telling the Philippians: “You know this Gospel. You have believed this Gospel! I’ve personally experienced fellowship and partnership with you in this Gospel, as you have participated in my ministry. But don’t let up! Keep on conducting yourselves in such a way that brings your practice in line with your position.” And that is what the Spirit of God through His own Word is telling us. GraceLife: You know this Gospel. The great majority of you—and I pray, every last one of you—have believed this Gospel. You share in this ministry at Grace Community Church. But don’t let up! Keep on conducting yourselves in such a way that brings your practice in line with your position in the Lord Jesus Christ.”


II. Two Implications


So much, then, for observations from the command itself. Now I want to turn, briefly, to two implications this command has for us.


Sanctification the Necessary Fruit of Justification


And the first follows very closely from what has just been said. In commanding believers to live as citizens in a manner worthy of the Gospel, this clearly implies the necessity of the believer’s transformed life. In other words, the first implication of this text is that sanctification is the necessary fruit of justification. The one who has been justified by grace through faith in Christ alone, according to the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ—the one who has been declared righteous in his position before God—will grow and progress with respect to practical righteousness in his life.


This is the consistent testimony of the New Testament, and especially throughout Paul’s letters. Turn with me to Ephesians 4 verse 1. After celebrating for three chapters the wonderful privileges of the Christian’s exalted position in Christ, Paul turns in chapter 4 to say, “Therefore”—that is, since all of these glorious benefits are yours as believers in Christ Jesus—“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” In 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 12, Paul explains that he patiently exhorted and instructed the Thessalonians “so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” He tells the Colossians in chapter 1 verses 9 and 10 that he always prays that they would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” It’s everywhere. There is simply no category in the New Testament for a so-called “carnal Christian”—no category for a believer in Christ who is not also a disciple of Christ—no category for one who has received Christ as Savior but does not obey Him as Lord.


Friends, Jesus did not suffer the unleashed fury of holy wrath—He did not endure the alienation from His own dear Father that He never deserved to know—in order to free His people from the penalty of sin, only for us to live enslaved to various sins for the rest of our lives on earth! No, God has graciously united us to His Son by faith so that we would be set free from that kind of bondage to sin! Indeed, Paul asks in Romans 6 verse 2: “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” We can’t! Dead people don’t sin! Romans 6 verse 4: “…we have been buried with [Christ] through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” You see: our union with Christ by faith means that when He died, we also died to sin with Him. And therefore, when He was raised, we also were raised to life with Him. Why? So that we could continue to walk according to the pattern of the world (Rom 12:2)? No! “So that we might walk in newness of life.” So that we might live, in practice, in a way that manifests the reality of our position.


Now, this doesn’t mean that we are free from the presence of sin. Newness of life doesn’t mean perfection. That simply won’t happen this side of heaven. But there is a world of middle ground between sinless perfection and enslavement to our fleshly lusts and passions! Paul goes on to say in Romans 6 that you have been freed from slavery to sin, and have become slaves of righteousness (6:18). And so because of what Christ has accomplished on your behalf in His work of the Gospel, because you have been declared righteous in the sight of the thrice holy God Himself, because the shackles of sin and death have been shattered by the grace of God manifest in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, walk in freedom! Dear friends! It was for freedom that Christ set us free (Gal 5:1)! Don’t live as slaves!


And so the first implication of the command to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel is that sanctification is the necessary fruit of justification. The pursuit of holiness in a believer’s life is not optional. Hebrews 12 verse 14 tells us that there is a practical, lived-out holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.


And dear friend, if you’re sitting here listening to this and you are pricked in your conscience, I understand that can be a frightening feeling. But don’t stifle it! If your life is characterized by an unbroken pattern of sin, you need to deal honestly with the Lord this morning. Perhaps the Gospel has not ever taken a root in your heart. If that’s the case, then living a life worthy of the Gospel is impossible for you. I know that that’s a difficult conclusion to come to. But if that’s you this morning, I have great news. You can be saved from that! The Gospel of Christ is powerful to break those chains that have bound you. You need only to own your sin, acknowledge it and confess it before God, turn from seeking satisfaction and pleasure from those broken cisterns, and seek satisfaction in the Fountain of Living Waters—in Christ, who lived a life of perfect righteousness before God, and who promises to bestow that righteousness to all who trust in His merit alone for it.


And if you do that hard work of self-examination, and you come to the conclusion that the Gospel has taken root in your heart, that God’s grace has been evident in your life, you still must do battle with sin. But we all need to recognize what will fuel that fight of faith, that battle for holiness.


Sanctification Fueled by Gospel Grace


And that brings us to our second implication of the command to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel: namely, sanctification is fueled by Gospel grace.


I want you to notice: Paul could have chosen anything to begin this section of exhortations and commands to the Philippians. He could have simply begun announcing lists of new do’s and don’ts for them to follow. He could have simply prescribed a list of habits to break and habits to form, and told them to “Just Do It!” Like “Nike” sanctification. He could have given them a 12-step program or prescribed a system for accountability partners. He could have guilted them into trying to pay God back by saying something like, “Well, since Christ has done so much for you, the least you can do is live for Him.” But he doesn’t do any of this! He grounds all of his calls to obedience and holiness in the grace of the Gospel itself!


He calls them to consider who they already are, positionally, in Christ, by virtue of their union with Him and what He has accomplished on their behalf in the Gospel! He calls us to consider that God has already changed our very identity, has given us a new nature! He has already, objectively, freed us from the penalty and the power of sin. And it is in the freedom of that grace that we are called to then be who we are—to walk in the newness of the resurrection life that we have been graciously raised with Christ to walk in—to bring our practice in line with what God has already declared us to be for the sake of His Son.


We must realize, friends, that the Christian’s faithful fight for holiness is not fought only by white-knuckled self-denial, as you begrudgingly do your duty, all the while cursing God in your heart because you hate all the fun you’re missing out on. No, the strength for the fight for faithful obedience—the motor of sanctification in the Christian life—is the Gospel itself. It is in considering ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11)—in considering ourselves to be as we actually are, and then living out the truth of what has already been accomplished on our behalf. When we understand this, we cease to regard the commandments of God as a burden, and we understand them to be the natural response of one who has been regenerated.


The Scottish Puritan Henry Scougal, in his book, The Life of God in the Soul of Man, articulated this reality very well. He wrote, “The love which a pious man bears to God and goodness is not so much by virtue of a command enjoining him so to do, as by a new nature instructing and prompting him to do it; nor doth he pay his devotions as an unavoidable tribute, only to appease the Divine justice, or quiet his clamorous conscience; but those religious exercises are the proper emanations of the Divine life, the natural employments of the new-born soul” (38–39). You see, if the Divine life has been sown within you by the regeneration of your heart, the fight for obedience is simply the acting in line with your new nature.


And so when Paul commands us to conduct our lives as citizens worthy of the Gospel, he is showing us that sanctification is fueled by Gospel grace. There is a wonderful little rhyme that masterfully captures the beauty of divine grace in sanctification. We’re unsure of the author but it’s often attributed to John Bunyan: “‘Run, John, run!’ the Law demands, / but gives me neither feet nor hands. / Far better news the Gospel brings, for it bids me fly, and gives me wings!”


III. Confronting All of Life with the Gospel: 12 Applications


And so the question is: how do we fight for holiness according to the grace that is ours in the Gospel? If an implication of the command to let our manner of life be worthy of the Gospel is that sanctification is fueled by Gospel grace—that the Gospel is a sufficient motive for holiness—then the Gospel must have implications for every aspect of our lives, because we are called to do all that we do to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). And the fact of the matter is: it does. The Gospel of Christ is so supremely relevant that the truth embodied in it directly and particularly impacts every facet of your life.


So: How does the Gospel directly shape and direct your pursuit of holiness? How do we practically bring the Gospel to bear on the various facets of our lives, so that we might conduct our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel? I’m going to try to answer that question by modeling that process for you with 12 different Christian virtues. And I’m hoping this will serve as a model, or a paradigm, for you to do the same, so that in the various situations of your own lives, you will be able to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel.


Number one: Love for God. And here am I referring to the love for God Himself in the person Christ that manifests in a compelling desire for communion with Him through prayer and Bible reading. 1 Peter 3:18 tells us that the purpose of Christ’s work in the Gospel was “so that He might bring us to God”—so that He might restore us to fellowship and communion with our Father. In the same way, 2 Corinthians 4:4 to 6 teaches that the Gospel opens our blind eyes to finally see “the glory of God in the face of Christ.” If, then, my eyes have been opened to see such beauty, how incongruous would it be for me to cut myself off from seeing Him revealed in His Word, and from proving Him to be sweet and mighty in my prayers? If Christ died to bring me to God, how can I fail to seek His face in regular personal worship?


Number two: Love for fellow-Christians. If God has demonstrated His love for His people by delivering His beloved Son over to death to secure their salvation, how can we withhold our love from them? Indeed, how can we who profess to love Christ not love His bride? Imagine if a man said to his friend, “Hey James, I just love spending time together, brother. You’re just such a benefit to me, and I love you in Christ. But let me tell you man, I can’t stand your wife. I mean, she is just ridiculous!” How would that go over? Or, change the metaphor. 1 John 5:1 says, “Whoever loves the father loves the child born of Him.” What would you think if, after spending some time with you, another couple just poured out their heart about how much they love you and your wife, but told you that your children are a bunch of snot-nosed brats? I don’t know of any way to alienate any parent better or faster than to insult their children. And yet your brothers and sisters are the children of your Father. They, along with you, are the bride of Christ. And because we have been served so faithfully by Christ’s work in the Gospel, we are ready and eager to serve one another. We were rescued from the dominion of darkness by One who gladly laid down His life in order to redeem us. Because of this, we should be gladly willing to lay down our lives in sacrificial, give-your-life-away service to our brothers and sisters.


Also closely related to those is unity. If the Gospel unites us to Christ by faith such that we are one with Him, this means that we are also united to all others who are united to Him. Therefore, we can eagerly and humbly seek to resolve division by remembering that we are already united by the objective work of Christ on our behalf. We’re going to look at this more next week, but one of the first things Paul says in Philippians 1:27 after calling them to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel is to say that he hopes to find them “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel.”


The way this unity will be achieved is through humility, number four. Unity is cultivated when we humbly “regard one another as more important than [our]selves,” Philippians 2 verse 3. And I don’t know if there is a response more consistent with a Gospel of sovereign grace than humility. We have been chosen by God for salvation based upon nothing at all in ourselves. If we are saved by a Gospel that we can do nothing to earn, it means that in everything we experience we are getting better than we deserve. The Gospel should make us a humble people.


Number five: Joy. The Gospel is good news! Paul calls the Gospel “glad tidings of good things” in Romans 10:15! The Gospel by which we are rescued from our sin, forgiven, freed from punishment, and birthed into newness of life lived for the glory of God brings the greatest joy imaginable! How imbalanced and improper would it be for us to be gloomy, morose, habitually angry, or complaining! The Gospel is the greatest motivation in the world for us to “Rejoice always” (Phil 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thess 5:16).


Number six: Generosity. When Paul seeks to stir up the Corinthians to sacrificial giving for the saints in Jerusalem, he reminds them of God’s own “indescribable gift” to them in the Person of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 9:15). In 2 Corinthians 8:9 he says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” For us for whom to live is Christ and die is gain (Phil 1:21)—for whom Christ is more satisfying than all that money can buy—it should be the most natural thing in the world for us to be radically generous. Greed, covetousness, and discontentment make absolutely no sense for the Christian, who possesses all things in Christ (Heb 13:5; cf. 1 Cor 3:21–23)!


Number seven: Sexual purity. The Gospel brings us the good news that even while we are sinners we are declared righteous in the sight of the thrice holy God. How can we who have been cleansed by the priceless blood of Christ, united to Him who is perfectly pure, give ourselves to sexual immorality and impurity? Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 6:15: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!” And then in verse 20: “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” Our bodies are not our own! They belong to Christ! He bought them at the invaluable price of His own blood. Let us not regard the blood of Christ so lightly.


Somewhat related to that, number eight: Purity of speech. Those of us who are benefited by the work of Christ who is called the Truth (John 14:6) are called to “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear (Eph 4:29)? Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 5:4 that there must be no filthiness, silly talk, and coarse jesting, because it’s not fitting for the one who has been declared righteous. Double entendre, innuendo, and crude jokes have absolutely no place on the lips of one who has been redeemed by the Gospel.


Number nine: Headship and submission in marriage. In that glorious final section of Ephesians chapter 5, Paul tells us that marriage is designed to point us to the Gospel—to the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church. Husbands: is your life marked by the loving headship and servant-leadership of your wife? Are you taking the responsibility to proactively shepherd your wife as Christ nourishes and cherishes the Church? Wives: is your character marked by joyful and eager submission to your husband’s authority, as a picture of the Church’s joyful and eager submission to Christ Himself?


Number ten: Biblical Parenting. Parents, how can we, adopted by such a loving Father, be cold, harsh, unforgiving, and unbending and graceless with our children (Eph 6:4)? On the other hand, how can we care so little for the well-being of our children by failing to discipline and reprove them faithfully (Prov 19:18, et al.), and even sharply, when necessary, as our Heavenly Father is faithful to do to His children (Heb 12:5–8).


Number eleven: Integrity in the workplace. Again, if we serve Him who is called the Truth, how can we deal dishonestly with people in the workplace? For better or worse your unbelieving friends and co-workers look at you and form opinions of Christ and His Church. What are you communicating about Christ and about Christianity by your life, speech, and attitude? Are you un-saying with your life what you say with your lips? Does your life tell the truth about the message you proclaim? It should be plain to those who work with you, by your speech and by your actions, that you’re an honest man—that you put in eight hours work for eight hours pay, and that you’re working for the approval of One who is infinitely more important than your supervisor.


And finally number twelve: Evangelism. Dear friends, in God’s name, how can we profess to love the glory of God revealed in the face of Christ, and yet not be eager to proclaim the Good News of that glory to others—so that they can love and enjoy what we know to be infinitely satisfying, and so that God can receive the glory and the worship He’s worthy of from as many people as possible?! It simply cannot be that we who are the beneficiaries of such a glorious Gospel can remain silent in such a day of Good News (cf. 2 Kgs 7:9).




Such, then, is Paul’s command to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel. We have observed the supreme importance of this command, manifested in the word “only.” We have observed its distinctive imagery, as Paul uses the metaphor of citizenship to get to the heart of the Philippians’ identity as Christians. And we have seen that the rule of the citizen of heaven is the Gospel of Christ. We considered the implications that such a command necessitates that sanctification is the necessary fruit of justification—that a believer must pursue the practical holiness without which no one will see the Lord. And we have seen that that pursuit is founded upon and driven by the Gospel itself.


And I trust that these applications have been helpful, and that they provide sufficient evidence for the fact that the tentacles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ reach every facet of your life. I pray that this will have provided a sufficient model or pattern for your own continued meditation and reflection on how the truths and realities embodied in the Gospel have a direct bearing on the various situations, experiences, and decisions that you face day by day.


In this new year, two thousand thirteen, amidst resolutions to eat better, exercise more, and procrastinate less, consider as of first importance how you will put into practice Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians and to us: to conduct your lives—to live as citizens of the kingdom of Heaven—in a manner worthy of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.