The Church at Philippi
Paul stated his hope in two ways. First, he hoped that he would not be ashamed; second, that Christ would be exalted in his body.
In Rom 9:33, he contrasted a stumbling over a stone (Christ) with those who do not stumble (i.e., are not put to shame). In Rom 10:10–11, Paul stated that the one who confesses Christ “with his mouth” after believing “in his heart” will not stumble
Confession seals the commitments, and those commitments do not lead to embarrassment.
Paul expected, therefore, not to be put to shame. He confidently had confessed Jesus as Lord. It was not a thoughtless or quick confession; it was the direction of his life.
The themes of life and death explain how Paul would glorify God in his body—even death would not keep him from it. These themes also prompted him to evaluate the purpose of living. With this introduction to 1:21–24, it seems that the section explains the commitment of the previous verses (vv. 18b–20). As far as Paul was concerned, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Often Paul spoke of Christ as his life. In Gal 2:20 he said, “I live by faith in the Son of God.” In Col 3:4 he stated that Christ “is your life.”
It was a joy in Christ through Paul’s release. A similar statement occurs in 4:10, where Paul said, “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me.” Their financial support caused Paul to worship and praise the Lord, who sent it through them. Naturally, the gift brought joy, but the greater joy was what it meant in the work of the Lord. Applying that understanding here, Paul realized that his presence provided an occasion for worship and praise. In spite of the similarity of 1:26 and 4:10, two different words describe “joy.” In 4:10, Paul used chairō, “to rejoice” or “be glad.” Here, the word is kauchēma, “to boast or be proud.” Kauchēma often suggests an occasion or object of the joy and has the sense of “taking pride in” something specific.
The main verb “conduct yourselves” (politeuesthe) called the church to appropriate conduct. It is an unusual term, and the verb form occurs only here and in Acts 23:1. Normally Paul used the verb “walk” (peripateō) to describe a Christian’s conduct. Here he used the verb “conduct yourselves as citizens” (politeuō). Scholars differ as to the exact force of the word in this text. It was a word built upon the Greek polis (city) and had overtones of citizenship responsibilities. Paul made conscious use of the term. The noun form occurs in 3:20 in calling the Philippians to appropriate ethical conduct. There he stated that “our citizenship is in heaven.” No doubt the readers would have associated the word with the Roman citizenship which they prized so much. This was Paul’s way of reminding them of the obligations of people who participate in a society. In this case, the society was of Christians whose strongest ties were in heaven.
Paul expressed his concern for the church earlier (1:24–26). He so longed for its maturity that he was convinced that God would leave him on earth to help it grow in faith. In reality it could grow with or without him, and now he spoke of the possibility that he would not come. If he were absent, perhaps because of the unfavorable verdict in his trial or unexpected delays, he still longed to hear of its good spiritual condition. Paul had no inflated ideas about his importance. The church was capable of standing for the gospel.