“Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ.” Philippians 1:27
The word “conversation” does not merely mean our talk, one with another, but the whole course of our life and behavior in the world. The Greek word signifies the actions and the privileges of citizenship, and we are to let our whole citizenship — our actions as citizens of the new Jerusalem — be such as becomes the gospel of Christ. Observe, dear friends, the difference between the exhortations of the legalists, and those of the gospel. He who would have you perfect in the flesh, exhorts you to work that you may be saved, that you may accomplish a meritorious righteousness of your own, and so may be accepted before God. But he who is taught in the doctrines of divine grace, urges you to holiness for quite another reason. He believes you are saved, because you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he speaks to as many as are saved in Jesus, and then he asks them to make their actions conformable to their position; he only seeks what he may reasonably expect to receive — “Let your conversation be such as becomes the gospel of Christ. You have been saved by it, you profess to glory in it, you desire to extend it; let then your conversation be such as becomes it.” The one, you perceive, bids you to work that you may enter heaven by your working; the other exhorts you to labor because heaven is yours as the gift of divine grace, and he would have you act as one who is made meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Some persons cannot hear an exhortation without at once crying out that we are legal. Such persons will always find this tabernacle the wrong place for them to feed in. We are delighted to preach good high doctrine, and to insist upon it that salvation is of grace alone; but we are equally delighted to preach good high practice and to insist upon it, that that grace which does not make a man better than his neighbors, is a grace which will never take him to heaven, nor render him acceptable before God.
I have already remarked that the exhortation is given in a form which is highly reasonable. The followers of any other religion, as a rule, are conformed to their religion. No nation has ever yet risen above the character of its so-called gods. Look at the disciples of Venus — were they not sunk deep in licentiousness? Look at the worshippers of Bacchus; let their Bacchanalian rebels tell how they entered into the character of their deity. The worshippers to this day of the goddess Kale — the goddess of thieves and murderers — the Thugs — enter most heartily into the spirit of the idol that they worship. We do not marvel at the crimes of the ancients when we recollect the gods whom they adored — Moloch, who delighted in the blood of little children; Jupiter, Mercury and the like, whose actions stored in the classical dictionary are enough to pollute the minds of youth. We marvel not that licentiousness abounded, for “like gods, like people.” “A people are never better than their religion,” it has often been said — but in most cases they are rather worse. It is strictly in accordance with nature that a man’s religion should season his conversation. Paul puts it, therefore, to you who profess to be saved by Jesus Christ, “Let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ.”