In Philippians 1:27 Paul exhorts the church at Philippi to “only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” As I prepared to teach this passage and considered its application to me and my fellow Bible students, I concluded there is no end to the messages to women, many of them conflicting, about how to live worthy.
Whether you use birth control, how you dress, your decision regarding school choice, what you eat, even your demeanor or personality–all can fall under someone’s definition and resulting determination of whether or not your manner of life is worthy of the gospel. Do you work outside the home? Are you organized? And, hear me on this one: what do you read? Can you define and discuss such theological terminology as propitiation and justification and sanctification? Yes, it’s true. Maybe even the more theologically minded among also have our own system by which we draw a line of disdain.
The gospel clearly and unequivocally speaks of our complete unworthiness. Check out Ephesians 2, just for one Biblical example. There Paul describes our state apart from grace as dead, following the price of the power of the air, living in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, by nature children of wrath. It is by grace–and grace alone–you have been saved, Paul asserts, and nothing of yourselves. It’s a gift, given as such because you could have never ever ever deserved it.
So how then could we walk worthy as Paul commands in Philippians and also in Ephesians and Thessalonians and Colossians? We get one clue from the first rule of Biblical interpretation: check the context. Live worthy of the gospel, he instructs in Phil. 1:27, and then goes on to clarify what he means: standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. Clearly our living worthy has a corporate aspect.
We need the church. You need the church. I need the church. We need the fellowship, the accountability, the instruction, the mutual encouragement, yes, even the rebuke. When we were saved, we were saved as individuals, yes and amen, with incredible and amazing benefits to each of us as individuals. My sins were forgiven and I receive eternal life in the presence of my Savior.
But I am also saved to and for the church. You cannot read the New Testament and escape this fact. The church is the body of Christ and we are its members. Here in Philippians Paul paints a picture of a church unified around the bold proclamation of the gospel, standing firm, striving, bold and confident before opposition. This is more than “just being fed.” Rather, this is “all in.”
We live worthy of the gospel when we are joined together with a local body of believers and submit ourselves to its authority and accountability and fellowship, bound together in one mind and one spirit by the unity of the gospel.
I think too we can consider the idea of worthiness in the sense that it ascribes worth. Not earning worth, as we’ve already stated, but reflecting what is most worthy.
So this begs the question: what is most valuable to you? Where is your Treasure? Is it Christ? Have you tasted the gospel freedom He graciously offers? Do you love Him with a joy inexpressible and filled with glory? Is the cross your only hope?
Here then is Paul’s injunction: live like it.
Go, live like the gospel is real, like grace is grace. I don’t know what that looks like for you, exactly, but I do know this: whether you homeschool or eat organic or only clean your bathrooms every now and again, when your one boast is in the cross and the grace of Jesus to save, and when you come alongside a family of believers to work for the advancement of the kingdom, you show Christ as worthy. Your manner of life is then worthy of the gospel as it shines the light of Jesus into the dark corners of this world like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden, to the glory of God alone.
Yes and amen.