Philippians 1:27 – Part 1

III.  A Call to Sanctification (1:27-2:30)

1:27-2:30 constitutes the main section of the epistle, which consists primarily ‘as an injuction to holy conduct.’[1] Obviously, being that the epistle’s major theme is sanctification, it only makes sense that this section pertaining to holy conduct is the heart of the epistle. Also, we have the clear switch from Paul’s circumstances to the Philippians circumstances. The apostle still includes himself, but the Philippians conduct and circumstances become the primary concern.

 III.  A Call to Sanctification (1:27-2:30)

       A.    Christian Citizenship (1:27-2:4)

This section can be considered the ‘nevertheless’ in reference to 1:19-26.  Paul is saying, ‘Yes, everything will work out well, but still make sure that you are doing these things.’ As we work through the next section, it will become apparent what the apostle is warning the Philippians of – i.e., lack of communal unity, discouragement, etc. Although everything will cause your joy to be complete, especially eschatologically, persist in growing towards holiness by doing these things. It is no moot point that the apostle first aims to assure the Philippians, building up their confidence in Christ, and then moves to urge them to action. The Christian’s pursuit of holiness is by faith, which is a present certainty in a future hope. It is important to form the perspective of our future glory, as to stir faith in us to make that hope substantive with present holiness.

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.

1:27 The apostle notes a new section with the transitional word μόνον (monon, only). Mainly, this word notes the exceptive nature of Paul’s request. ‘Only’ do this thing, and everything else will subsequently fall into place; subordinate to this pursuit.[2] It can be said that Paul’s further imperatives (unity, courage, etc.) are rooted in this underlying desire. What is this monon desire?

‘Behave as citizens of heaven’ or ‘citizens of the gospel.’ The Greek has a very important signification that is completely missed in the English. That word ‘conduct’ or ‘conversation’ is πολιτεύεσθε (politeuesthe, cf. polis), which has an intimation of living as a citizen of a specific country. Paul is stating that believers ought to live in a manner worthy of the gospel, as honorable citizens of heaven (cf. Phil. 3:20). Citizenship is a declared position, reckoned unto a man by a king or ruler. This Christian citizenship ought to be understood as ‘Justification,’ and we will pause here to discuss this theological category.

Justification can be defined as the imputed righteousness of God unto the one who puts faith in Jesus Christ. That imputation is where God ‘reckons as righteousness’ (λογίζεσθα εἰς δικαιοσύνη), which is the abundant phrase of chapter four of Romans, appearing eleven times. Dunn notes in his research that λογίζεται “was a ‘technical term’ in commercial dealings,” which suggests “an analogy from the business world” and therefore λογίζεσθαι certainly meant “a reckoning of payment for work done.”[3] Schreiner would agree, but importantly add that it is a payment “that is not inherent to him or her.”[4] The reformers often called it an ‘alien’ righteousness, or ‘foreign’ righteousness, because it was a reckoning earned outside of us on our behalf. The reckoning of payment is in reference to the full payment of Jesus Christ, and that payment is applied to us through faith, which is our unity with Christ.

Clarification may come through contrasting Justification with Sanctification, being that sanctification is the overarching theme of the Philippians epistle. Justification is an imputed and declared righteousness. Sanctification is the consecration of the justified unto holiness by the equipping of the Holy Spirit to manifest one’s ‘newness of life’ in preparation for God’s promised bestowal of glorification. Justification precedes and necessarily stirs sanctification. Schreiner upholds that “in Pauline thought” sanctification and justification “are overlapping metaphors that portray God’s work in Christ for his people.”[5] This is why there is so much theological debate concerning these categories, because Paul never intended to explicitly draw distinct lines between them. Further, Fitzmyer states that sanctification in Romans “is simply saying the same thing under a different image: as does justification, so sanctification also transfers the baptized Christian to the dominion of Christ.”[6] Systematic Theology, however, pleads and digs for distinctions, and must have its limit. Distinctions provide clarifications, and there are certainly distinctions that allow sanctification and justification its rightful place according to Schreiner and Fitzmyer. One must remember that justification and sanctification are dependent upon one another, and therefore should not be separated; but this does not deny each their idiosyncrasy. In the observance of one there can be no robbery of the other.

So there comes a contrast in that Justification is promoted and provoked by righteousness, sanctification is evermore fueled by holiness. Holiness is typically defined as a ‘setting apart,’ but also implies a relation to the divine. Righteousness is a state of vindication or declaration. It simply surfaces that ‘holiness’ is more concerned with the ethic in a man. Justification does not necessarily “touch the soul of man” and may be deemed “extra nos – outside ourselves…However, in regard to sanctification…the work of God through faith does indeed touch the soul, and change it.”[7] Further, both begin and are wrought by God’s divine hand, but not in same form or function. “Justification is an act of God’s reckoning; sanctification is an act of God’s transforming.”[8] Another major difference is found in the consideration of procession and gradation.

“Justification is an event that happens at a point in time, and is not an ongoing act of God as sanctification is. Not only that, justification is not an act that comes in varying degrees, but one that is a once-for-all and total reckoning of righteousness to us for Christ’s sake. It is not mediated to us in varying measures as sanctification is.”[9]

In summation, the doctrines of atonement may be expressed, regarding their emphasis, as such: justification is a declaration, sanctification is a realization, and glorification is an actualization. Back to the text, the citizenship that Paul is speaking of here is the declaration, extra nos; becoming a citizen does not inherently transform. Paul is urging them to now conduct themselves as citizens, to complete the declaration with a realization, waiting for the actualization. Sanctification is conducting one’s self in a manner worthy of what God has declared them to be.

[1] Silva, 79.

[2] Silva emphasizes the adversative signification of the monon by conferring with Gal. 2:7-10 (also cf. Gal. 5:13; 2 Thess. 2:7).

[3] James D. G. Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 38a, Romans 1-8 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Thomas Nelson, 1988), 241.

[4] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 1998), 215.

[] Schreiner, Romans, 245.

[4] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York, NY: Anchor Bible, 1993), 445.

[5] John Piper, Future Grace (Britain: Multnomah Books, 2005), 26.

[6] Ibid., 26.

[7] Ibid., 402.


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