Making the Witness of Faith Evident
The Word of the Day (Tuesday, October 13)
The word of the day is “evident.” Paul writes his letter to the Philippians while under house arrest in Rome. We can imagine that his guards would come and go day and night. Among them, St. Paul says, “…it has become evident that my chains are in Christ” (vs. 13). The Greek word that Paul uses here is derived from the sense of shining, and it means that something has come to light (Strong’s #5318, 261). Thus, Paul is reporting that it is manifest throughout the “palace guard” that his imprisonment is for the sake of Christ.
Because Paul’s witness to Christ is so open, many of the “brethren,” Paul’s associates, are becoming bolder in their preaching of Christ. They now dare to freely speak the word of the Lord without fear (Strongs, #870, 49).
Evident in the Clear Light of Day
According to the Orthodox Study Bible translation, Paul prays that the Philippians may be “sincere” according to the OSB translation. But a more precise sense of the term refers to the action of showing something to be good in the full light of day (Strong’s #1506, 78.) Thus St. Paul prays that it would be evident that his beloved congregation would be pure, faultless, and “filled with the fruits of righteousness” until the Judgement day. They are to be just as “transparent” as Paul so that their virtue might be made evident to the glory of God (vs. 11).
How are they to reach that state of sincerity? St. Paul prays “that you may approve the things that are excellent.” English speakers may find this phrase unclear. We no longer use “to approve” to mean “to demonstrate” or “to certify as good.” To find the meaning of “approve,” we should consider the beginning of the sentence. “Paul prays “that your love may abound still more in knowledge and all discernment…” (vs. 9).
Testing to Find What Is Excellent
What is the result of this judgment of discernment? The Greek word that the OSB translates as “approve” comes from the thought of testing (Strong’s 1381, 71). The Philippians are to test everything and to judge what is to be approved. That is, they should recognize by examination what is best. When they choose what is excellent, they would become “filled with the fruits of righteousness” (vs. 11).
We learn from this passage that our witness to our faith in Christ should be as open as Paul’s testimony to the Gospel. What we believe and how we act should be “transparent” because it shines through our lives. And this transparency is the result of our choice of what is excellent, that is, what is good and right and true.
In the Roman Empire of Paul’s day, many “mystery religions” led people astray. These cults practiced secret rituals known only to their members. And they often fostered altered states of consciousness to elevate the mind to a new level. But secrecy ensured that only those we who were chosen initiates knew of these esoteric states of awareness and the rituals that produced them.
In contrast, Paul, the apostles, and the early church leaders proclaimed their message openly in the synagogue, the marketplace, and the courtroom. The transparency of their teaching followed the example of the Lord Jesus. When the high priest interrogated Jesus about his teaching, he answered, “I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and the temple … and in secret I have said nothing” (John 18:20).
Among those who follow Christ, secret knowledge, practices, and states of mind are signs that those who keep these confidences have left the open, clear, and straightforward way of the Gospel.