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Colonizing Our World for Heaven’s Sake

by on November 19, 2013

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Philippians 3.20-21

First things first: Philippi was a Roman colony populated with Roman citizens (and some non-citizens). This is important for us to recognize as we think about what Paul means when he talks about our citizenship. The purpose of citizens in a colony is to bring the rule and way of life of their native land into their land where they reside. For example, when different European nations colonized what is now the United States, their purpose was to represent the influence of their respective countries and monarchies into the new territories they established. The role of the Roman citizens in Philippi was to bring the Roman way of life and the reign of Caesar to their city and surrounding region. They weren’t supposed to just sit tight and wait until they got to return to Rome. There was work to do in order to make Philippi more Roman.

So when Paul talks about heavenly citizenship, this is what we should have in mind. We are to be representing the values and way of life of heaven here on earth as we await our Savior. To be citizens of heaven means we have a mission and a goal to be working towards, carrying the reign of Christ into our world. This is reflected in the rest of this passage. Paul talks about his desire to become more like Christ, knowing both His suffering and the power of His resurrection, “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal” (3:13).

In verses 18-19, he says that there are some who live as enemies to the cross of Christ. These are poor citizens (the context suggests that these enemies are part of the church). Rather than desiring to represent their homeland, they only seek their own gratification and fulfillment. He reminds the Philippians that we have a Savior from heaven who will eventually bring about the completion of the goal toward which we strive. Therefore, in the midst of struggles and hardships, when it seems like we are stranded in a foreign land, separted from all we know to be good and right, we should not give up and lose hope. Instead, we can stand firm (4:1) knowing to whom we belong.

In what ways can you proclaim the values of heaven this week in your family and neighborhood?

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