Summary: In this passage Paul describes some changes that should mark the life of a believer. He sets the bar of Christian living very high for himself and for all those who profess to follow him as he follows the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Colony Of Heaven
Philippians 3:13-21 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, [that they are] the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end [is] destruction, whose God [is their] belly, and [whose] glory [is] in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
In this passage Paul describes some changes that should mark the life of a believer. He sets the bar of Christian living very high for himself and for all those who profess to follow him as he follows the Lord Jesus Christ. He also clearly points out that among the Philippians there are those who are traitors to the cause. Those whose attitudes, actions and associations reflect a worldly focus rather than a heavenly outlook. He rebukes those and then urges those who are seeking to be true disciples to focus upon heavenly things.
Why? Because in essence they are already citizens of heaven. As children of the King of heaven, they are citizens of a Kingdom of light, not darkness. “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” (I Thess. 5:5) Peter also urged all believers to consider this spiritual birthright and heavenly citizenship as an impetus to sacrificially serve the living God. “But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (I Pet. 2:9)
The Philippians could easily understand the concept of colonization. Their fair city was the center of a Roman colony. It was a busy cosmopolitan city. It was also a multicultural city. As a cultural trade center, its citizens came from all over the Roman Empire. Although they were Phiippians geographically, the one thing they had in common was their allegiance to Caesar and his Empire.
The application to a New Testament Church in any city in any geographical area on earth at any time in history is clear. We are also already citizens of a COLONY OF HEAVEN. We should understand this world is not our home. We are just passing through this veil of tears on our way to our heavenly home. As indicated by the writer of the Hebrew letter, we have a continuing city whose Builder and Maker is God. We are wayfarers, pilgrims trekking to a better land.
We are to be in this world, but not of it. In fact, we live in enemy territory. The greater world around us is temporarily controlled and governed by the god of this world. “ .. . know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4b) “ In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not . .” (II Cor. 4:4a)
What does this all mean? We are in a situation somewhat similar to those who are expatriates in a foreign land. We live and breath on foreign soil. I have been to the Australian Consulate in New York City, USA. Inside its walls you will find all sorts of not too subtle reminders of the great land down under. Any Australian living and working in the “Big Apple” would be reminded of his home and feel like he was in a little bit of Australia when he goes inside. If you drive along embassy row in on our nation’s capitol of Canberra, you will also note that the grounds and architectural style of each embassy compound seems to say, “We are citizens of another land.” Technically, once you step inside, you are on foreign soil and all the rules and regulations of that country are applicable.