Philippians 1:27, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…”
This weekend, I had the privilege to be a part of a beautiful wedding ceremony. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to officiated countless ceremonies, each with their own distinctive beauty. Through the many ceremonies, you see it all as a pastor…(I’m sworn to secrecy…so don’t even ask!). I’ve seen themed weddings, traditional weddings, Hawaiian weddings, outdoor weddings, and more!
In every wedding, there is one constant – a focus on the beauty of the bride. Brides meticulously scour the earth, save up their pennies, and go through hours of fittings to find the perfect dress. They hide from their grooms on their wedding day because they want to savor the moment…a beautiful moment as he gazes, almost as though it were the first time, upon his bride as she enters the court.
In 2013, one bride, almost had her moment stolen away from her. Identified only as Amanda, her story was told on Good Morning America. Like many brides, she had gone through the painstaking process of organizing and planning her wedding. She had spent hours finding the best location in Washington, D.C. and picked out the most flattering dress. The wedding day came…as she approached her car on her wedding day morning, she discovered that someone had stolen her dress! In distress, she called 911. The dispatcher was so struck by the bride’s plight, she decided to offer a helping hand. She took down the bride’s information, rushed to her house, and pulling her own wedding dress from its storage; offered the stranger a hand. To everyone’s amazement, the dress was a perfect fit! What was meant to be a disaster, became a powerful story of community.
In Philippians 1, the beloved apostle writes to a church whose wedding preparations are being threatened. Paul is awaiting his death during a Roman imprisonment, critics are making the most of his incarceration, and an empire is persecuting the people of Christ throughout the empire. The bride of Christ – the Church – is being threatened.
Out of this, Paul tells them, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” The glory of the bride of Christ is Christ! While sinful men could threaten this precious bride, they could do nothing to strip the bride of her glory. And so the apostle instructs her to “get dressed” – to live a community life worthy of the gospel. But what did this look like?
Living a community life worthy of the gospel, as the apostle would explain, came down to the bride of Christ living in harmony and confidence – stirring one another up into greater faith, being of the same mind, and striving together in the same spirit.
The ramifications of such a command are unavoidable. First, this command spoke to the importance of the local congregation. Can a person be a Christian and not love the local church? We’ve heard the horror stories before…certainly it is possible, even probable that saints do exist outside a local congregation. However, because of the apostle’s command, we see that one can’t live “worthy of the gospel” outside of the local congregation and the reason is quite simple – Christ loves His bride and, therefore, those that profess to follow Him must also love His bride. Second, the command showed the strength that exists within the Church. In the midst of unimaginable days of suffering, the Church is given the Church for comfort, strength, and support. Third, when we do not love the bride of Christ, we are acting much more like the men who preached Christ in pretense (vs. 15 and 17), contrasted against those who preached Christ out of love (vs. 16).
The bride of Christ was purchased at a high price. She may have a few wrinkles, blemishes, even a few warts…but she has been purchased in the blood of Christ. Instead of pointing out all of her faults, let’s rejoice in her beauty – the majesty of Christ! Let’s treat her like a bride on her wedding day and appreciate who she is in Christ. Let’s build her up, not tear her down. Let’s rejoice in her triumphs, cry with her in her sorrows, and prepare for the coming of the groom together!
Till that day…let’s love the bride of Christ as He loves her…for we are a member of her body!