Philippians 1:27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh in a manner that is worthy of 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;
In some translations, the word ‘conversation’ is translated as conduct. “Let your conduct be as what is becoming to the gospel of Christ.” In a few of the translations it is written as ‘citizens’ or ‘citizenship.’ “Let your citizenship be as what is becoming to the gospel of Christ.”“Live out your citizenship in such a way that it brings honor to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”Or, as today’s sermon title states, “Live on Earth as Citizens of Heaven.”
I. The Citizenship of the Philippians
Why was Paul talking about citizenship with the Philippians? How does this fit into his letter to them?
A. Their Roman Citizenship
One of the things I have learned through my study is that Roman citizenship was very important to the Philippians. In Acts 16, Philippi was called ‘a Roman colony and the leading city of part of Macedonia’ which means that Philippi was not only a part of the Roman empire, it was a very important city to Rome. The Romans invested a lot of time and money in the city of Philippi. Many Roman soldiers moved to live in Philippi once they retired from their service in the Roman army. Many of the citizens of Philippi spoke Latin like they did in Rome, as opposed to speaking Greek, as did most of the other people in that part of the world. They wore Roman clothing. They did everything they could to be like Rome.
The Philippians took great pride in their Roman citizenship and Paul knew this and that’s why he refers to their citizenship twice in this letter. Paul knows that the concept of citizenship will catch their attention.
B. Their Heavenly Citizenship
Paul used their love of their Roman citizenship as a way of teaching them about their heavenly citizenship. Look at Philippians 3 –
Philippians 3:20 For our conversation(citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
The Philippian Christians were not only citizens of Rome, they were also citizens of heaven. If you are a child of God, you have a dual heavenly citizenship. You are a citizen of a country here on earth and a citizen of heaven. Our names are recorded in heaven. We have an inheritance in heaven that is awaiting us. Jesus is in heaven, preparing a place for us to dwell. We have loved ones who are already there. As followers of Jesus Christ, we live under heaven’s laws.
Paul wrote to the Colossians.
Colossians 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
In other words, while you are a citizen here on earth, focus on your citizenship in heaven. Let your heavenly citizenship influence your earthly citizenship.
C. Harmonizing Their Dual Citizenship
As those who have received Christ as our Savior, we are already citizens of heaven; yet, we are also still citizens here on earth. Our hearts are in heaven, but our bodies are still here on earth. So how do we blend together our heavenly citizenship with our earthly citizenship? Look at what Peter said,
1 Peter 2:13Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using your freedom as an excuse to do evil, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
Because you are a citizen of heaven, live as a model citizen here on earth. If earthly laws violate heavenly laws, we are to obey the heavenly laws and be willing to suffer the consequences. However, if the earthly laws are within the boundaries of heaven’s law, we are to submit to these laws and obey the authorities God has placed over us. (see Romans 13:1-7)
Jesus reinforced this truth when He was questioned about whether or not His followers should pay Roman taxes. “It is lawful for us to pay Roman taxes?” As you know, they were asking this in order to try to trick Jesus. They thought that if Jesus said ‘No’, although He would have favor with the people, He would be in trouble with the Romans. But if He said ‘Yes’ and though His answer would please the Romans, He would be in trouble with the people. I wonder how long it took them to come up with this scheme.
How did Jesus respond to their trick question? “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and to God the things which are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) In other words, be a good citizen of both heaven and earth.
As I have studied this I have thought about Esther. Esther was a Jew living in the land of Persia who by the providential hand of God, became the queen of Persia. During her time as queen, her people, the Jews, were under the threat of being annihilated. Her uncle named Mordecai encouraged her to go before the king and defend her people. I love what Mordecai said to her, “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)In other words, perhaps God has put you in this position for this reason. I believe that same is true about each of us as well. God has us here for a divine purpose and reason.
Peter tells us that how we conduct ourselves and earthly citizens is a part of our Christian witness. “Conduct yourselves with such honor among the Gentiles that, though they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God…” (1 Peter 2:12)The way we live out our earthly citizenship should call attention to our heavenly citizenship. As citizens of heaven, we are to live such exemplary lives here on earth that we bring glory to God.
II. Live on Earth as Citizens of Heaven
So, what does all of this have to do with Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Philippians 1:27 Only let your citizenship be as it becometh in a manner that is worthy of 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;
As citizens of heaven, live an exemplary citizenship here on earth. Jesus said,
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
Sometimes people say that pastors and their families live in a fish bowl. By that they mean that our lives are always on display. Everyone is watching us and how we live and act. But the same is true for every believer. As soon as your neighbors know that you claim to be a Christian, they start watching you. As soon as the people you do business with know that you claim to be a Christian, they start watching you to see how you will treat them. The people at work, school or even the local grocery store are watching us. They’re watching to see whether or not we are real, and even more importantly, whether or not Jesus is real.
As the children of God, our lives are on display. Though we are citizens of heaven, we still also are citizens here on earth. Paul tells us that we are God’s ambassadors here on earth. What is an ambassador? An ambassador is someone living in a land not their home in order to represent the government of their home. We are God’s representatives here on earth.
Paul gave three words of instruction for the Philippians concerning how they were to live out their citizenship.
A. Stand Strong
“Stand fast in one spirit…”
If we truly live as heavenly citizens here on earth, we are sometimes going to find ourselves going against the grain. Peter tells us that we are foreigners, strangers, sojourners, and exiles. In other words, this world is not our home. We’re of a different world and of a different mindset.
Therefore, we must know what we believe, why we believe it and we must communicate it clearly to a watching world. Peter said, “in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,…” (1 Peter 3:15)
We’re in a spiritual war. Paul tells us that our enemy is not those around us, but Satan and his army of demons. Therefore, we must stand strong with the belt of truth about our waists. We must have our feet shod with the readiness to share the gospel. We must hold up the shield of faith. We must protect our minds with helmet of salvation and we must be able to wield the sword of truth. (see Ephesians 6)
B. Stand Together
Paul told the Philippians to stand strong and to stand together. “…with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…”
Put uses an interesting word here. “Striving together” speaks of athletes competing together in a contest. They must be a team. There must be a singularity of purpose in who we are and what we’re about. We, with one mind or one passion, strive together for the faith of the gospel.
C. Stand Faithful
Philippians 1:28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. 29 For unto you it is given – in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; 30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
Like any group of Christians who will stand for the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Philippian believers were under attack. Paul knew firsthand what it was like to be attacked. Don’t forget, he is writing this letter while he’s in prison for sharing the gospel.
The Bible says that all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer some form of opposition and persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12) We don’t have to go looking for it. It will come looking for us. Paul tells us three things about suffering as a believer:
1. Don’t be surprised when you are attacked for your faith
2. Don’t be ashamed when you are attacked for your faith
3. Instead, consider it to be a privilege to be identified with Christ
Notice again what Paul wrote, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…” (vs 29)
Suffering on behalf of our Lord and Savior is a gift. It’s a privilege. Our Savior was attacked and therefore, it’s a privilege for us to be associated with Him. A little later we will see that Paul said, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…” (Philippians 3:10) Notice that Paul said that he wanted to be a part of the fellowship of suffering for His Savior.
Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” (Matthew 5:11-12)
What should we do with what we have learned today? There are three things:
1. We must be well-grounded in biblical truth
The Bible says,“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) I know that a lot of you don’t see yourself as a Bible scholar and that’s okay. However, it is impossible to be a strong Christian without spending time in God’s Word. It is your daily bread. It is your source of strength and truth. It is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your pathway. It is your spiritual sword.
2. We must work together as a team, seeking to reach those who don’t know Christ, and striving to disciple those who do
In Christ’s eyes, we’re not a bunch of individuals doing our own thing. We are His church. We are His body. We are His team. Therefore, we must learn to live and to love as a team. That won’t come natural for most of us, especially in this day and age when there is so much individualism. Therefore, we must remind ourselves often of who we are and what we are about.
3. Be willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES FOR JESUS
That’s a motto we adapted several years ago. Whatever it takes for Jesus. Again, that doesn’t come naturally. It requires intentional effort. As we venture into chapter two of the book of Philippians, we’re going to go much deeper into this issue of dying to self and living for Christ. Therefore, in order to prepare ourselves for this study, I encourage each of us to spend time this week prayerfully reading through Philippians chapter 2.
God bless you my brethren.