Monday, April 04, 2011
We began the main section of Paul’s letter last week, where he exhorts us to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. Paul is saying your motivation for living this way should not be that he’s coming, or anything else, but in the gospel itself, and he gives three motivations and encouragements as well.
I. Christians have a new citizenship.
We are encouraged even in the word that Paul uses to exhort, it is progressive:
“Continue to exercise your citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
The little word that Paul uses that sometimes is translated “walk”, or sometimes translated “live,” sometimes translated “conduct yourselves” is a word that was closely associated to the practice of good citizens in the Roman Empire.
And with citizenship came privileges and obligations. So that word that Paul used here was often used to exhort Roman citizens to live up to the privileges and responsibilities that they had as citizens, and because in this passage Paul keeps bringing in ideas about the kingdom of heaven and you being a citizen of that kingdom of heaven, it may well be that in saying this phrase – conduct yourself like this, live like this, walk like this – he means that we ought to live like citizens of God’s kingdom, live like we are blood-bought, grace-granted citizens of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s almost like Paul is saying the kingdom of God is within you; let it shine before one another and before the watching world in Philippi. You have been granted citizenship not in the empire of Rome, but in the empire of God through Jesus Christ, and it has brought with it for you phenomenal privileges – and corresponding responsibilities. And so he is inviting you to go into a long meditation about the privileges and responsibilities that you have as a citizen of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then to work out the implications of that for how you live.
II. Christians should live in light of the gospel.
In light of the gospel…that’s pretty daunting, isn’t it? That’s good. Keeps you where you need to be – humble! And that’s what this whole thing is going to be about. But in the midst of the humbling of the gospel, there’s also a lot of encouraging, too.
The gospel call begins when God, out of His free love and grace, gives you a gift of incalculable value that you not only do not deserve and could not earn, but you positively don’t deserve because of who you are and what you’ve done, and it cost Him His own Son to give it to you, and He gives it to you anyway. And that is a very encouraging thought. And Paul now wants you to proceed to live the Christian life in light of that incalculable gift. He’s saying, ‘Don’t you ever forget the gospel of Christ, because it didn’t just get you in the kingdom: it’s how you live…how you live over and over again.’ Those who profess the gospel live their lives according to the gospel. Our lives are called to be suitable to the gospel, to bear the marks of the gospel, to be a complement to the gospel, so that those who believe gospel truths submit to gospel commands, depend on gospel promises, and live out gospel lives. Paul is saying adorn your profession of faith with a life of grace, according to the gospel.
III. Christians must understand the gospel.
If we are going to live in light of the gospel, then we need to know what the gospel is. If we’re going to understand the implications of the gospel, then we’ve got to understand the gospel itself.
The gospel is not simply “God loves you.” It’s better than that. The gospel, to begin to inch toward a short one-sentence statement of it, is not simply that God loves you; it’s that God loves you at the cost of His Son. Despite your sin, God loves you at the cost of His Son. There’s nothing like it. You can truck up and down all the world’s religions, and I defy you to find a message like that.
The Apostle Paul is urging us, you see, even when he says live, conduct yourself, behave like a citizen in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, he’s urging you to know what the gospel of Christ is. If someone were to say to us, “Quick! Fifteen seconds! Give me the gospel!” it should be so deep in our hearts, bones, and marrow that it just comes out. It’s altering the way we think, altering the way we live, it’s altering our value system, it’s causing a tension between what we now are and believe and the way we want to live with the way of the world around us—the way it thinks and what it values and how it behaves and how it wants to live.
It is so worthwhile to understand those things. I’ll tell you why it is to me. As I see more of myself, it’s not always a pretty sight, and especially in my habitual sins. I find myself constantly saying, “Lord, I need something big to help me on this, because I’ve tried all the little stuff and it’s not working. I need something really big to help me on this.”
Paul is coming with something big to help. Paul comes with those big things because he knows that you’re a big sinner who needs big grace, which requires a big Savior, and big truth. So you know what Paul is coming with? He’s coming with a big Savior and big truth…a Savior and truth that’s bigger than your sins, because we need it.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 9:27 PM