The Wrong Translation of Philippians 1:27

So about Philippians 1:27…

This is how your Bible probably translates this verse:

«Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…»

I’m not sure why the NIV or King James decided to translate that way. I do know that the translation hides a very important point that Paul makes in Philippians.

What Does the Verse Say / Mean?

Here’s a better translation:

«Only live as citizens in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…»

There is a very important term in there: politueomai («live as citizens»). It comes from the same root as polis (city-state), from where we get metropolis.

Why is this important?

Philippians was a Roman Colony

The city of Philippi was a Roman colony. And this meant that the Philippians were Roman citizens. That was a big deal back then. It came with a lot of privileges, status and even pride.

Paul knows this about the Philippian church and so he makes a deliberate statement.

In the same way that they are citizens of Rome with all of its privileges and requirements, now they must also see themselves as citizens of the the kingdom of Christ.

They are dual citizens.

Paul makes this point explicit in Philippians 3:21 when he he says that their «citizenship» (politeuma) is in heaven. (There’s the same root of that word).

Requirements of kingdom citizenship

If the Philippians are citizens of heaven, then they must conduct themselves in a manner worthy of that kingdom.

They must «take on the mind of Christ», be of one mind and spirit, not grumble and suffer for Christ’s sake (all things he encourages in the letter).

It also means that they are answerable to the real Lord quite apart from their responsibilities to Caesar.

The beauty of deeper study

Only a deeper study of Philippians yields this kind of richness.

If you grab our 7 Rules guide, this would mean using Rule #2 (Book study) and Rule #4 (Word study). The first would give you information about Philippians and the part about citizenship and the second would give you information about the term politueomai.

If you’d like to dive deeper into these tools, check out my video course 7 Rules of Bible Interpretation EVERY Christian Should Know.

Blessings to you as you study God’s word.


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