Summary: Given all of the persecution of the times, Paul gives hope to the Philippians by telling them that they have citizenship in heaven. We are called to stand firm in our faith in result.
In my sermon this morning I have three points that I would like to point out as we go through the passage of Philippians 3:20-4:1. These are Firstly, that we have citizenship in heaven. Second that we await the fulfilment of the promise that Jesus will return, and thirdly that we have another promise of what he will do when he returns.
But to start us off I would like to tell a story.
Through the years there have been many attempts to prolong people’s lives. Now, no matter what we do, we know that there is no way that we can buy more time than God had given to us. And this just raises the reason to the unbelievers will to live. In 1912, after the titanic sank there were rich people from the first and second classes who had survived the sinking and there were poor people from third class. The first class people were given luxury suites on-board and were allowed to bring a considerable amount of luggage more than the third class passengers. They had better and easier lifestyles and all the money that they needed. In all of these classes there were people who had lived good lives and those who had lived reckless lives. We can see that there was three separate classes who lived different lifestyles and who were treated as different by others who judged the worth of their lives by their riches. After the sinking, White Star lines set up a board outside of their headquarters where they had two columns. And every few minutes a man would run from the docks where the survivors were. And he would write a few names in one of the columns and then return to the docks while relatives watched to see whose name would be written next. The two columns were for those who were saved, and for those who were lost. In one night, death had taken three classes of people and put them into two. They were either saved or lost, either alive or dead. In this way when we die, there are only two possibilities of where we will stand with God, we will be either saved or lost.
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour 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. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!”
So, if you follow into verse 20, you can see Paul starts in our passage by saying “But our citizenship is in Heaven.” This would sound a little strange to the Philippian church in that they are being told that they belong to heaven yet here they live on earth. But a citizenship does not state where you live, a citizenship states to which country you belong to. In the times of Paul, the Roman Empire was at large and all of the people who lived in the empire were considered citizens of Rome and ultimately owed their allegiance to Cesar.
But here Paul tells us that while we currently live on earth, we as believers (hence the word “our” in the first line) do not belong to it. We do not owe our allegiance to the world but to our King who is in heaven which is also out saviour Jesus Christ. Christ is our all in all and so we set our sights on another world. We also know from Christ’s teachings that our treasure is stored up in heaven and all earthly things are only secondary. Either way, Paul uses this metaphor because he knows that the Philippians know what it is like to be a citizen of a city which is far from them, while Philippi is far from Rome, they are considered by the romans to be their citizens.
So we are waiting for our saviour Jesus Christ. And we are next told a promise of what he shall do when he comes. See in verse 21, Paul says “Who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
Now that is a mouth full so let us break this verse down. We are told here that he will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body. The first question that comes to my mind is “How”. How is he supposed to transform our bodies? ... Can he? ... Or is it just a wishful thought that Paul had?