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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
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“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death (Philippians 1:20).
Here Paul reveals his single-mindedness regarding his God-given agency and the manner in which he conducts himself in the performance of his responsibilities to the Lord, the church, and those who are presently outside of Christ. Come what may Paul earnestly expects to magnify Christ (who lives within him), whether it be by (his) life or by (his) death - Romans 8:10; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17-19.
Last week we saw Paul leave his state of indecisiveness about his future to being optimistic he would remain alive to continue serving the Lord and the Believers in Philippi “for their furtherance (spiritual growth) and joy of faith:” (1:25)
In verse 1:26 we see this optimism expressed: “…that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.” Paul’s saying his deliverance from “the lion” (should that happen) is attributed to Jesus Christ, and this knowledge should bolster the Philippians’ assurance in the Lord.
Please open your Bible at Philippians 1:27.
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;
Up until now, Paul has been talking about himself and his present situation. Beginning in verse 1:27, he changes course, so to speak, shifting the focus from himself to the Philippians. But the subject matter remains the same. Paul continues to refer to the advancement (furtherance) of the gospel of Christ; and here he calls the Philippians to be of the same mind.
Only (above all) let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: (1:27a)
To understand what Paul’s saying we need to get a handle on the word conversation. We’ll do this by looking at scripture. Let’s all turn to the book of Acts at chapter 16:12-40. Here the Apostle Luke recorded some of Paul’s activities during his initial visit to Philippi. For instance we find the very first convert in Macedonia was the merchant woman Lydia, and Paul and Silas removed an evil spirit from a slave girl. Afterwards Paul and Silas found themselves on the wrong side of her masters and were jailed. Let’s drop in at verse 16:18b: But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her (the slave girl). And he (the evil spirit) came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone (obviously these men were profiting from her actions so), they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans (16:18b-21).
Our city in this scripture passage refers to Philippi. The last two words in verse 21 tell us these people considered themselves Romans. Why is that? Philippi was a smaller version of Rome and we should not overlook Roman citizenship was a big deal back in the day. These folks were proud of the fact they were Romans. During the civil war, Octavian defeated Anthony. After the battle, a number of soldiers from Rome were settled there and the town of Philippi became a Roman colony or polis, an ancient Greek city state. Even though Philippi was about 800 miles from Rome, the people were in lock-step with the Roman mind-set and lifestyle. Consequently, they dressed like Romans, spoke like Romans, and lived like Romans. This is why we’re here. It’s important we understand the Philippians swore their allegiance to Rome and were recognized as Roman citizens.
The Strong’s Greek Lexicon defines the word conversation as Politeuomai (pol-it-yoo’ om-ahee), a verb; Strong’s Greek #4176. “Citizenship” is the noun form of conversation, but Paul used the verb form which meant: “To conduct oneself (behave) worthily as a citizen of the city or state.”
Recently I mentioned three of the problems this church was experiencing. Here Paul shows his concern for their disunity based on the conflicts that existed and persisted between these saints (2:1-3). There is another example of disunity in Philippians 4:2: I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they (what) be of the same mind (or live in harmony with one another) in the Lord. Here Paul pleaded with two women, naming them individually, because they were unable to resolve their differences.
So from this we understand the word conversation, as Paul wisely used it, means “To conduct oneself (or behave) as a citizen of the city or state.” Paul knew the Believers in Philippi would understand what he meant. The Philippians viewed their polis (a city-state form of government) as a partnership with other people for the benefit of all. The individual developed his abilities, skills, and talents not only for their own good but for the good of the entire community.
Before people get the wrong impression, ancient Rome was a Republic not a socialist state like Cuba, Venezuela, or Russia. In fact, the government of the USA is modeled after ancient Rome, in part. People believe America is a democracy, but it’s not; it’s a Republic. Basically, this means all citizens of the USA have certain inalienable (absolute) rights and responsibilities and this is why Paul emphasizes or highlights this point. Our Bill of Rights guarantees all American citizens the privilege of free speech (within the limits of the law), freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the right to keep and bear arms, the rights against unreasonable search and seizure, rights preventing cruel and unusual punishment, the right to fair and speedy trial by our peers, etc. We all exercise one of our responsibilities every April 15 when we pay our federal, city, and state taxes. We do this for the benefit of all and to keep our nation financially solvent.
Bearing this in mind, the Philippian saints had willingly given their loyalty to Rome and because of this they were afforded certain rights as its citizens. Make no mistake they considered Roman citizenship a prized possession. Paul isn’t disputing the facts, he’s merely saying “Since you’re citizens of a free state, live as one;” i.e. live consistent with the culture, goals, and values of the free state. The idea being expressed here is they were to live (use their abilities, skills, and talents) for the good of others and not just for themselves.
Why? We find the answer in Philippians 3:20: For our conversation (Noun, meaning: citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look (expectedly) for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (See Ephesians 2:19).
Paul informed these Believers they possess a duo-citizenship. It’s true they are free citizens of Rome, but it’s also true they are citizens of heaven. Therefore they were to conduct themselves as such. How should citizens of heaven behave? I’m glad you asked. Let’s review some Bible verses on the subject. By the way, this becomes personal in a hurry because Paul’s writing about Believer’s personal conduct.
“(insert your name here) walk (live your life) worthy of the vocation (the bestowment of God’s distinguishing grace upon a person) wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness (Freedom from pride, humility, humbleness of mind), and meekness (gentleness), with longsuffering (patient, not easily provoked), forebearing (withholding from action) one another in love, Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).
In this same letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul describes 7 foundational elements that make up the unity of the Spirit: …there is one body (the Church) and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism (no water required); one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Ephesians 4:4-6).
There’s more going on here than meets the eye, however, suffice to say here our Apostle Paul sets forth seven unique elements of the Holy Spirit that form the biblical basis for church unity and each one is prefaced with the word “one.” In this instance, “one” is not the loneliest number…
Remaining in Ephesians, let’s turn to chapter 4:25-32 so as to get a better handle on what Paul means by “conduct yourself yourselves as citizens of heaven.”
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are (what) members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Our Apostle Paul urges all Believers to walk worthy of their calling and calls them to preserve the bond of peace: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity (love, compassion, good will), which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful (Colossians 3:12-15).
Thus, we understand every true Believer is to strive “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Our conduct, therefore, must be worthy of the call to peace in the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, genuine, heart-felt love for one another is “the bond of peace” (See Galatians 5:22-23).
Unity means “oneness,” but are we experiencing this today? I think not. Its’ been said we all live in a Christian nation, but the prudent observer recognizes American citizens are divided over many religious issues. Most recently New Your State passed a law permitting an abortion up to the moment of delivery and I read this morning the state of Virginia is seeking a similar law. As of now, I count eight states that permit infanticide. One state in particular is considering legalizing killing an infant after it’s born. Fact: Roe vs Wade or the bill that became the law of the land was founded on a lie, and the bills approved or being approved by these states are fabricated on an expansion of that lie. These folks ignore the fact an unborn infant, and certainly one that has arrived in this world, is a human being. One woman I encountered recently said, it’s her body and her choice, and she refused to listen to counter arguments and that’s the thing. People have adopted a mindset on this issue and will not budge despite being shown the facts. They are blind to the truth. Let’s be clear, the manner in which any culture treats its children and the aged reveals its heart and confirms the Word of God:
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).
Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23).
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
And he (Jesus) said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: (Mark 7:20-22).
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:1-7).
People are at odds (not like-minded) over the inherent absoluteness of the Word of God. The very thing meant to unite us does in fact divide us. I’m sure you’ve noticed there are many different churches in the world, established and maintained by men who disagree about what the Bible says regarding the sufficiency of grace (alone) through faith (alone) in Jesus Christ’s finished work of the cross, according to the Scriptures (alone). Then there are those who are less than satisfied with Paul’s apostolic authority, his gospel, and his description of the body of Christ. Fact: there exists a great divide among those who are currently outside of Christ’s body, even though this book clearly said the unity of the Spirit exists in Christ’s body, or the one church (Ephesians 4:1-6).
The internal conflicts in Philippi didn’t warrant a harsh letter, after all, this isn’t the Corinthian church. Still, they’re self-centered behavior was disruptive, unproductive, and not Christlike. Our Apostle Paul is saying self-centered, unloving behavior is unacceptable in the Body of Christ:
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:1-4).
Now we were talking about the Philippians duo-citizenship, so let’s look at a Bible verse in Colossians 1:12: Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet (qualified) to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear son (Colossians 1:12-13).
Combining these verses with what we’ve learned so far it’s fair to say, since every true Believer has been placed into God’s eternal kingdom, as representatives of heaven we’re called to stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving (fighting) together to preserve the bond of peace, for the faith of the gospel (1:27c).
In using the Koine Greek word stand fast Paul evokes the imagery of a Roman soldier who will not “give ground” no matter what. In like manner, Paul calls the Philippian saints to stand fast as one, fighting the good fight of the faith. A Bible verse just came to mind, so let’s look at it. As Paul’s life was nearing its end he said “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept (what) the faith: (2 Timothy 4:7).
I pray one day future we’ll all be able to make a similar statement, having stood our ground, no matter what comes our way, striving together for the faith of the gospel.
Let’s look at verse 1:27b:
…that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs,
Whether or not Paul visited Philippi again was up to the Lord. Here he’s saying he desired to know how they were progressing in the faith. One other thing I’ve picked up on is Paul didn’t want these Believers to depend solely on him. He clearly said, “…that ye stand fast (how) in one spirit, with one mind.” Paul wanted them to place their trust in Jesus Christ and not in him because the Lord will confirm them unto the end.
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:8).
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: (Philippians 1:6).
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Selfish people by nature are not interested in the needs of others, and thus conflict is the direct result of two or more people desiring something else. It’s difficult to preserve unity in any environment whether that is the home, our nation, or the church. After all, we’re a nation of immigrants and each person entering this country brings their religious beliefs along with their luggage. One thing I’ve learned over the years is people love their religious traditions. I used to be one of them and by the way, so did Paul (Galatians 1:13-14). However, I saw the Light and that’s the thing. Like-mindedness is possible, if people would seek and then embrace the Truth, rightly divided (1Timothy 2:3-4).
(To be continued)
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