Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just One Thing

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. (Philippians 1:27-28)
Remember Lt. Colombo, the homicide detective from the TV show back in the 70s and 80s? Just when the prime suspect thought he was going to get away clean, Colombo would turn and say, “Just one thing.” That’s when we knew the lieutenant was about to set the hook and reel in the bad guy.

That’s a bit like what Paul has done here, except he is not dealing with any “bad guys.” He has declared his confidence that he will be delivered and will be able to continue his ministry to the Jesus believers at Philippi, to help them move forward in their faith and know the joy of it. But then he throws in a “just one thing.” Here, it is translated as that lonely word “only,” but the HCSB puts it the way Colombo would: “Just one thing.” There is something very important Paul wants to add, something vital to the mission and message, and that is this: “Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

The Greek word for “conduct” is politeuomai, a word used of citizens in a free country, about getting along together in community. Roman citizenship is a big deal in Philippi, which is one of only five cities in Macedonia that enjoys special status from Rome. But Roman citizenship is not what Paul has in mind, he is thinking much bigger than that: “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). The way we live, then, should reflect that new reality, giving the savor of heaven on earth and demonstrating how good the good news about Jesus the Messiah really is. The way we say it around my home church is, “Jesus looks good on you.”

Paul plans on coming to see them again, but even if he is far away, he fully expects to hear that the Lord Jesus is being faithfully represented in all they say and do. Particularly, he looks forward to hearing that they …
  • Stand fast. Solidly in place and unmovable, fixed and focused.
  • In one spirit. Not only their human spirits in sync with each other but, more than that, all of them in sync with the Holy Spirit.
  • With one mind. The Greek word is psyche, which is elsewhere translated as “soul.” So, with “one soul,” having the same attitude, the same heart, the same desire.
  • Striving together. The Greek word is a compound, synathleo. You can almost hear the meaning in its parts. Syn is a common prefix that means “together.” And athleo … well, that is where we get the word “athlete.” It speaks of contending in the competitive games. The idea of synathleo is about teamwork, everyone functioning together for the same goal.
  • For the faith of the gospel. This is the goal, the good news about King Jesus, and the faith that results from it. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
  • Not in any way terrified by your adversaries. The Greek word for “terrified” was used of horses that had somehow been “spooked” into a panic.
Yes, there will most certainly be adversaries and firm opposition against their message. This stands to reason — in a culture where Caesar is considered supreme, they are declaring that Jesus, not Caesar, is the Divine King. That is exactly why they need to be one in spirit and heart and purpose, not backed down by opposition. Because the truth is still the truth and Jesus is still Lord, King over heaven and earth, and the truth must eventually prevail. Even if Paul is martyred, Jesus is still King, and Paul will simply go to be with him. Even if there is persecution, the good news of Jesus and His kingdom still marches forward.

The firmness of their stand, the togetherness of their striving and the oneness of their spirit in the declaration that Jesus is King demonstrate that His kingdom cannot be stopped. This is a sign of ruin for those who oppose it but an assurance to those who receive it that salvation has truly come into the world in Jesus the Messiah.

Focus Questions
  1. What does citizenship mean to you, and how to you view your own citizenship?
  2. Are you part of a close-knit team? What is its purpose and how does it work together?
  3. How strong is your confidence that Jesus is King over every adversary?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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