Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent…
I. TO HOLINESS (ver. 27). As if he had said, I have one dominating wish in reference to you.
1. It is well to know what God's princes wish for us. The noblest desire one man can cherish for another is that he may be like Jesus.
2. There is but one ideal life in the Church. But here is a difficulty: how can the lowest copy the highest? Would it not have been wiser to have set forth a man who excelled in one moral feature, and to have said, "Transcribe that," and so on until all the graces had been gradually acquired? Is not the setting forth of absolute perfection exorbitant and demanding too much from the helpless sinner? Let us see. What does moral perfection begin in? It begins in the disposition, the will, the heart. If you are urged to escape from polar winter to tropical summer, it is not meant that the journey is to be accomplished at a stride, but step by step. When a child is required to be perfect as a musician it is not intended that in one day his uncrafty fingers should liberate the angel strains. So with the growth of the acorn into the oak. And so when our Saviour tells us to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect He means that we are to grow in grace. In all our growing and striving Christ Himself is with us, and His grace is all-sufficient.
II. TO UNANIMITY (ver. 27). This is not monotony. The root of true unity is oneness in the love and service of Christ. Christendom is in reality one, though apparently many. The coat is of many colours, the heart is one. This is particularly seen in the time of threatened danger. The armies of defence have never come from any particular section of the Church. How illogical the decision to have nothing to do with religion because the Church is divided. There are so many styles of building, and so many modifications of those styles, some Doric, others classic — are people so perplexed with these varieties as to renounce architecture altogether and resolved to reside in the open air? Try the same with clothing, patriotism, business. Do men give up commerce because some tradesmen are insolvent? Do you give up housekeeping because some chimneys smoke?
III. TO COURAGE (ver. 28). Timidity is a symptom of moral feebleness, an impediment in the path of moral progress. Timidity on the part of one may dishearten the courage of a multitude. It arises from distrust in God. How many a man of noble powers and enlarged culture, for want of strength in a crisis, the courage to utter the decisive word, fails and trembles, and becomes the prey of the mean.
IV. FEARLESSNESS IN THE STRIFE IS TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH MAGNANIMITY IN ENDURANCE (vers. 29-30). The strong in heart are called to suffer. Suffering is an education, a means of grace. Think of the hidden and silent heroism that is going on day by day. How many a man otherwise mighty fails in suffering!
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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;