Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent…
Paul's release is still problematical; it is needful, therefore, that he should make provision in case he should still be absent from them. He calls them consequently to citizenship (ποιτεύεσθε) worthy of the gospel, and to the acceptance of those gifts which that citizenship implies.
I. THE PHILIPPIANS ARE TO BE FAITHFUL CITIZENS OF GOD'S KINGDOM. (Ver. 27.) Now, what is it which is prized in God's kingdom as of prime importance? It is "the faith of the gospel;" that is, the body of truth of which the gospel is the expression. It is not for territory nor for treasure God's faithful citizens fight, but for truth. Hence the spirit which befits the kingdom is unity in struggling for the truth as it is in Jesus. When the Philippians were able to keep this before them as the first anxiety and concern, then would they be acting in some measure worthy of their high calling. And after all, there is nothing worth fighting for but truth. Wars of aggrandizement are now discredited throughout the civilized world; and some pretext related to truth must now be set forth as the ground of war. If the citizens of this world and its kingdoms are brought to this, the citizens of the nobler kingdom should contend earnestly and only for the faith once delivered to the saints.
II. THEY ARE TO BE FEARLESS CITIZENS AS WELL. (Ver. 28.) In contending for truth we must expect opposition; but before our adversaries we are bound to be fearless. Courage is a grace peculiarly fitted for God's witnesses. His people can say surely "Greater is he that is for us than all they that be against us." And in this matter of Christian courage Paul and Silas had given the Philippians excellent example. Imprisoned on the occasion of their first visit, they had aroused the attention of the entire prison by singing praises at midnight as their feet were fast in the stocks. And in this more serious imprisonment of Paul out of which this Epistle came, he was illustrating that heroism which he looked for in the Philippians. It was the fearless and dauntless citizen of God's kingdom who was calling for fearlessness from his fellows.
III. THEIR FEARLESSNESS WOULD BE A TOKEN AT ONCE OF THEIR OWN SALVATION AND OF THEIR OPPONENTS' DOOM. (Ver. 28.) The courage and heroism of God's witnesses was a sign of coming victory and salvation. It was also a sign of defeat and doom to their adversaries. A triumphant spirit often carries the day against fearful odds. God seems to give his people assurance of victory, and then to make that assurance a most powerful element in the issue. The dauntless are carried through discouragement to triumph.
IV. BELIEVING AND SUFFERING ARE TWIN GIFTS OF GOD. (Ver. 29.) This arrangement brings the whole course of God's administration before us. He gives his people on Christ's behalf, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. It is sweet to think of faith being thus the gift of God. The suspicion which we cherish by nature gives place to the trust which comes through grace. And with trust there comes suffering. It is a most precious gift. In Miss Procter's 'Legends and Lyrics' we have an exquisite piece entitled "Treasures," where the following verse will help to elucidate this passage: -
"Suffering that I dreaded,
Ignorant of her charms,
Laid the fair child, Pity,
Smiling in my arms."
V. THE SIMILARITY OF EXPERIENCE BETWEEN PAUL AND THE PHILIPPIANS. (Ver. 30.) For Paul's experience had embraced the twin gifts too. He had learned to believe on Christ and to suffer for him. There had nothing happened unto him, therefore, but that which is common to men; and he wishes the Philippians to appreciate this. Our temptation is to represent our trials as unparalleled. The truth is that they can be paralleled and exceeded by the experience in the next house or next street. Paul at Philippi and Paul at Rome presents the common inheritance of faith and trial which the people of God everywhere experience. Let us consequently take kindly to what God gives - he sends us trial and he sends us faith in such blessed proportions as to ensure a character in some way worthy of his kingdom. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;
WEB: Only let your way of life be worthy of the Good News of Christ, that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your state, that you stand firm in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the Good News;