Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent…
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ, etc. The apostle here means that, whether he should come to them or not - for he was not certain on the point - they should be careful to pursue a certain course of conduct. "By supposing," says Bengel, "this or that future contingency men may persuade themselves that they will be such and such as they ought to be. But it is better always without evasion to perform present duties under present circumstances." Their obligation to live a Christly life was independent of the contingency of the circumstances of his life. He might visit them or he might not; he might remain in the flesh or he might depart. In any case he urges on them consistency of conduct, unity of life, and fearlessness of soul. He urges on them -
I. CONSISTENCY OF CONDUCT. "Let your conversation (politeuesthe) be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." I take this to mean, fulfill your duties as citizens, worthy of the gospel of Christ. This is a most comprehensive view of the duty of those who profess to believe in the gospel; it means, act worthy of your profession, be consistent. You profess to believe in a God: act worthy of that profession, be reverent, be devout, be thankful. You profess to believe in Christ: walk worthy of a true disciple, be docile, be studious, be loyal. You profess to believe in future retribution: regulate your present conduct in accordance with that faith, subordinate the world to the soul, he and consecrate the soul to almighty love. In Philippians 3:20 Paul says, "Our conversation is in heaven;" that is, our citizenship is in heaven. The genuine disciple of Christ is now a citizen of heaven, he is ruled by the laws of heaven, he enjoys the rights of heaven. This being so, how super-worldly and morally stately should be our deportment here! The discrepancy between the creed of Christian men and their daily conduct is a terrible sin and a tremendous curse.
II. UNITY OF LIFE. "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." Here is:
1. Unity of heart. "In one spirit, with one mind [soul]." Unity of heart consisteth not in uniformity of opinions or beliefs, but in identity of supreme purpose and love. There is only one meeting and mingling place of souls, and that is in the object of paramount affection.
2. Unity of labor. what is the labor? "Striving together for the faith of the gospel," or more properly, "with the faith of the gospel."
(1) The united labor must be steadfast. "Stand fast." One fixed, irrevocable purpose; no vacillation, no distraction. Let the union of heart be so complete, and the souls so welded together, that the united purpose shall be immovably fixed.
(2) The united labor must be earliest. "Striving together." The metaphor is drawn from the games, and whether the games were those of wrestling or racing, they involved almost an agony of earnestness. In Christian work all labor without earnestness is morally worthless in its character, and useless if not pernicious in its results.
(3) The united labor must be with one instrument. "Striving together for [with] the faith of the gospel." There is no destroying evil, "putting away sin," and promoting true virtue and holiness only with the gospel, Philosophy, legislation, and literature have tried and failed. The gospel is the "power of God." Here is true unity - unity of heart, unity of labor, unity of instrument in the work.
III. FEARLESSNESS OF SOUL. "In nothing terrified by your adversaries." "Terrified." "The original word is strong - starting or flinching, like a scared animal. This fearlessness in the absence of all earthly means of protection or victory is a sign of a Divine strength made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 13:9) not a complete and infallible sign (for it has often accompanied mere fanatic delusion), but a sign real as far as it goes, having its right force in harmony with others. The effect which it had on the heathen themselves is shown even by the affected contempt with which the Stoics spoke of it as a kind of 'madness,' a morbid habit, a sheer obstinacy" (Dr. Barry). Two remarks are suggested concerning this Christian fearlessness.
1. It bodes good to its possessor, but evil to its adversaries. It is "an evident token of perdition" to the opponents of the gospel, but "salvation" to its genuine disciple. A man who has well-founded moral fearlessness of soul is safe amidst hostile hosts, and his very fearlessness will make hostile hosts fear and tremble.
2. It is well four, tied and often nobly developed. It is the gift of God, it is not an inherent Stoical self-sufficiency. It is given as a provision for the suffering condition to which Christians are subject. It is given to Christians, not only "to believe on Christ, but also to suffer for his sake." "In the world ye shall have tribulation," etc. How splendidly developed was this fearlessness of soul in Pant! "Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me." They saw his sufferings (Acts 16:24). "None of these things move me." Conclusion. Such was the course of life which this apostle in the prospect of death urged on the Philippians - consistency of conduct, unity of life, and fearlessness of soul; and all these are as binding on us and as necessary for our good as they were in the case of the Philippian Church. - D.T.
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;