Dear BPCWAians, Our church theme for 2017 is from Philippians 1:27, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel”. What is the importance, the focus and the outcome we desire from having this theme in 2017 and beyond?

The Importance. The Apostle Paul wrote this while still being imprisoned for the Gospel work. Though in bonds, he did hope to be released in time, and to visit the church in Philippi, which was the first church he founded in Macedonia. But he highlighted that “whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs”. Regardless of whether his visit would materialise, whether he was with or away from them, he wanted to hear of this particular thing about them – “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ”. This was high in the priority for the church. The word conversation is not just speech only. It is about their actions, behaviours, and aims. It is used to describe citizenship in a place and living by the law expected of them, thus reflecting their nationality. Their Christian life must be becoming, ie worthy, of the “gospel of Christ”, and not the world. What they speak about, what they do, and how they behave, must not only align to, but promote the “gospel of Christ”. This is what Paul was anxious for the church. This is God’s great concern for the church then and today.

The Focus. What then is the “gospel of Christ”? Today, many simply associate it with preaching to get people saved from hell. Though it certainly includes that, it means much more than just that in Scriptures. The gospel of Christ is the whole body of Truth given by Christ in His Word. To exclude the rest is to reduce it to the gospel of man – as if Christ’s ultimate purpose is to save and serve man. The Christian life is not just about evangelism to the lost only. Paul wanted their lives inside and outside church to reflect all aspects of the gospel that Christ propounds. It includes reflecting God’s Attributes – His Wisdom, Holiness, Justice, Goodness, and Truth. It includes the doctrines and system of faith. In short, it is a wise life that is totally governed by the Word of the All Wise God. A holy life that separates from sin. A just life that deals righteously with all, and in all circumstances. A life full of goodness that reflects God’s Love. A life according to Truth means all the above are done according to what God says in His Word, not what we or people consider as wise, holy, just, and loving. It also means that we promote and defend God’s Word for His Word is Truth. All these are what the gospel of Christ entails. And these are what the Christian life must reflect in every aspect, and in every place. Hence, Paul is not propounding a focus only on preaching the salvation message, to the exclusion of the rest of God’s Truth. Neither is he promoting the gospel of social love and social justice without God’s Holiness and Truth.

The Outcome.The outcome Paul desired was for them to all “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel”. Notice the repeated theme – one spirit, one mind, together. God’s great desire is unity in the church. This is the aim and outcome we desire for BPCWA moving forward. Without this, Paul will not see or hear about a church whose conversation is becoming of the gospel of Christ. Why? Because instead of striving together for the gospel of Christ, there will be internal striving with each other. Each will have his own brand of gospel to promote, and pull down each other’s work instead of promoting one united Truth of the gospel of Christ. Standfast has the picture of soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder, back to back, locking arms, bracing for and persevering unitedly in the battle.

“One spirit” speaks of unity of determination. It is what influences and drives their perspective, feelings, and actions about any matter. “One mind” speaks of unity of heart and soul in convictions. Only when this exists in a church are hearts knitted together in “striving together for the faith of the gospel”. A theological dictionary defines striving as, a “fight in which the leader of the community is engaged demands not only extreme exertion and readiness for sacrifice, but also discipline and ordered conduct”. And it is a relentless and selfless fight for the faith of the gospel which is the objective system of belief of the Christian faith. Hence, it is not just about preaching the salvation message, but also about earnestly contending for the faith and Biblical separation from the false gospel that offers salvation without repentance, from the gospel of health and wealth, and from man centered doctrines, and from compromising Truth to please man. Together, this is the gospel of Christ. Without united convictions over such matters, internal striving occurs, with different people pulling the church in different directions. So, what we at BPCWA should work towards is a church where the church leadership, members, and worshippers have a Biblical unity of convictions and practices, so that we can be effective for the gospel of Christ.

This is the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It must remind us of the martyrs who were united and determined to strive for the pure gospel of Christ. May the Lord grant BPCWA such steadfast unity in both Biblical love and doctrinal convictions about our faith and hence determined obedience to the practice of our beliefs, and spare BPCWA from the man pleasing gospel of man. But we must do our part to know the Word, and our conversation – ie our lives – must be in line with our convictions.

Yours in our Lord’s service,