Writing “Whatever is Commendable” has been one of my hardest posts so far. Like the previous post, “Whatever is Lovely,” the original word for “commendable” has no other uses in the New Testament. I can’t compare how it’s used elsewhere, and most resources only provide cross-references for the verse of Phil. 4:8 as a whole, not the individual elements. But all is not lost! I got out my New Analytical Study Edition KJV. With it’s attention to detail, I was well on my way.
My KJV ended up having a cross-reference specifically for the part that reads, “whatsoever things are of good report,” which is how it’s translated there. The word, commendable, which I’m basing this post on, in the original essentially means: well spoken of; of good report. I followed the cross-reference I found and ended up on a rabbit trail of cross-references. from one verse to the next. I’d like to walk you through the journey I took. What I found is of tremendous help to us as Christians seeking to live faithfully in this world, but not of it.
1. Abstain from every form of evil – 1 Thess. 5:22
To begin to form our understanding of what it means to be commendable, this is the first stop along the way. This is a very short verse that carries very large implications for our lives every day, and the part I want to focus in on are the words “every form.” The main image I used for this post shows it in my King James bible, where it reads, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” My paraphrase would be to abstain from every kind of, and all appearances of evil. You know, I think back to when I was a teenager, and I used to think to myself trying to justify certain things: How close can I get to the line? Or, How far is too far? Questions probably every Christian can relate to at some time or another. Well I’ve come to learn that those aren’t Christian questions. They don’t come from the Spirit of Christ, that’s for sure. The questions to ask ourselves as Christians are things like: How can I be perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect? How can I keep myself unstained from the world? In certain situations it can be very easy to justify things to ourselves. But let’s rather think, from the outside looking in, how does this appear? If people were to see what is happening, would it pervade their senses with holiness and honor to the Lord, or would it be perceived as out of step with the Spirit of God. I find that in matters we sometimes categorize as gray areas, if we approach them with that question in mind, the answer is easy to find.
2. so that you may walk properly before outsiders – 1 Thess. 4:12
This next verse is actually taken from the previous chapter in 1 Thessalonians. But if you read it in context, I believe you’ll find the principal applies here as well. While the previous verse is the exhortation, here is one of the reasons for it. We want to avoid the extreme of getting wrapped up in worrying how every little thing looks. We don’t want to be consumed with how our actions appear to other people in a self-centered way. Although a good reputation is something to be prized in this life (Prov. 22:1), our goal should not ultimately be our own reputation, but God’s reputation. In Biblical language, we are living epistles, or letters that people can “read” and learn from. Consider the words of Christ: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The reality is, whether you like it or not, people observe things. They take notice. We don’t live our lives in some corner. At the time of this writing, I have a two-year old son and another boy on the way. I’m learning the weighty parental responsibility of the need to WALK the WALK. Teaching and training my kids is an important task. But you can take a whole lot of talk, and undermine it in a much shorter period of time with your actions. And the same is true for other relationships.
3. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. – Rom. 13:13
First was an exhortation, second was a reason for it. Now we have a straightforward solution from Paul as to how to keep it. We see here again that we are to walk properly. Then Paul gives a few specific examples of what is improper. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” that’s the first part. To “put on” also means “clothe.” It’s the same word used in Ephesians for the armor of God. Clothe yourself and renew your mind with His word. Think about the nature and work of Christ, and let it fill your mind with His truth, holiness, love, and mercy. As a believer, know that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” We must clothe ourselves with Christ, for “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.”
“And make no provision for the flesh.” “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” If those statements of Christ were meant to be taken literally, every single Christian would be walking around completely blind and without arms. The idea here is that sin has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God, and since we are God’s temple where His Spirit dwells, we should use all necessary means to remove occasion for sin in our lives. Nothing in this life is important enough to keep if it causes us to sin.
4. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. – 1 Pet. 2:12
I said earlier that our goal in all of this should ultimately be God’s reputation, not our own. It’s the first petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Hallowed be Your name.” This verse provides the foundation for that. Peter is teaching what Christ taught: “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
For a Jew writing in Bible times, “Gentiles” is the way of identifying those who aren’t the people of God. It just means anyone who’s not Jewish. I’m a gentile because I’m not Jewish. But I’m not a gentile in the sense that this verse is implying. For us, not born in the Jewish culture, we would read it something like, “Keep your conduct among non-believers honorable,” or outsiders as in one of the previous verses. We ought to live in such a way that even if people don’t like us, don’t agree with us, think we’re wrong, or whatever else they may think, they shouldn’t be able to deny the integrity of our works.
5. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. – Titus 2:7-8
This final verse on our journey is essentially the same principal as the one above. But here, while good works are also mentioned, it’s our speech that is in focus, with special emphasis on teaching. It is very sad to hear the stuff that comes out of some people’s mouths who claim to be Christians. Speaking of the tongue, James says: “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”
There is a big problem with hypocrisy. There is a big problem with claiming the name of Christ, but not obeying Him. Though it reflects badly on us as well, it’s ultimately God’s reputation that suffers. Paul, after some probing questions asking if the Jews fully lived up to what they themselves taught, said the problem culminates in this:
For, as it is written: The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you. – Rom. 2:24
Brothers and sisters, we must avoid this at all costs. Oh, may it never be that the name of God is slandered or profaned because of the way we live, or the way we speak! May we be those who live lives of good report. May we lead commendable lives to the glory of God!