Paul wrote in Philippians 1:27, “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” As I pointed out in a previous post in this series, this sentence would be more accurately translated “citizen yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…”
The passage continues, “… so that whether I come to you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit…” The last part of this sentence, “In one spirit,” is normally translated with a small “s.” This is a mistranslation. Paul had no grammar or syntax for saying “in one spirit” in the way we use it in English. We get it from the French—esprit de corps—the spirit of the body, or a kind of community spirit. That’s very different from what Paul was expressing in this verse.
What Paul means here is what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:13:
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
When Paul wrote about “standing firm in one Spirit,” he meant the Holy Spirit. You can see this again in Ephesians 2:18:
For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.
You might paraphrase the end of Philippians 1:27 like this: “I want to hear that you’re standing firm in the sphere of the one Spirit of God which draws His people into unity, striving together as one person.”
The word “striving” there can refer to athletic striving, or to military striving. It’s where we get our word “athlete.” Games were often played in preparation for war and battle—that’s why athletic phrases and battle terminology are often similar in Greek and Latin. Paul wanted his readers to strive together, to fight side by side for the faith that is characterized by the gospel message that we preach.
You will be called upon, in your life, to take a stand for Christ. It may be big or it may be small, but you must prepare yourself for it daily. The key is to live your faith out in the world as a citizen of the kingdom of God.
I’ll continue to discuss the role of citizenship in my next blog, “Momentum: Be British.”
The previous was adapted from a sermon featured on Dr. Sloan’s radio program, A Higher Education, on July 22, 2013.