You have the status of being a
citizen of the United States of America.
Now living here in the U.S. we probably take that for granted. In fact,
we may only think of it in negative terms as we get our taxes prepared for
However, if you go on vacation, or
even if you go and live overseas, you are still a United States citizen. And that status really does mean
something. When there is civil unrest or
a natural disaster, the United States government makes arrangements to get U.S.
citizens out of a country.
And if things really go wrong,
people who don’t even know you will risk their lives to save you – just because
you are an American. Jessica Buchanan
experienced this. Buchanan was involved
in a humanitarian demining project in Somalia when she was kidnapped by
pirates. Attempts to negotiate her release failed and because her health was
worsening, U.S. Special Operations forces launched a raid to free her. On Jan.
25, 2012, twenty-four Navy Seals parachuted into Somalia and attacked the
compound where Buchanan was being held. They
killed all the pirates and rescued her.
They did all of this, just because Buchanan had the status of being a
citizen of the United States.
In our text today, St. Paul reminds
us about the status that we have. Our
citizenship is in heaven because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. He has given us this status and it now shapes
the way we live in the present, and gives us hope for the future.
Paul begins our text this morning by
saying, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your
eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” What are the Philippians supposed to be
imitating in Paul? It is the attitude
that he has just described.
The apostle has warned the
Philippians about those who are pushing the Torah and circumcision upon
them. It was an ongoing struggle in the
first century Church as some Jewish Christians said that in order for Gentiles
to be part of God’s people they had to do something – they had to observe some
part of the Law given to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
Paul has just said that if being
Jewish was the big thing, then he could outdo all of the opponents. He wrote, “If anyone else thinks he has reason
for confidence in the flesh, I have more:
on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew
of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church;
as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”
It was an
impressive resume. But then Paul went on
to say that none of it meant anything. He
said, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing
Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and
count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not
having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes
through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”
the gift of righteousness which Paul had received in the death of Jesus Christ
on the cross, it all meant nothing. In
fact, Paul calls it garbage and he says that nothing else matters when compared
to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord. Through faith in Christ he had received God’s
righteousness – his saving action to put all things right.
was to gain Christ and be found in the righteousness that God provided through
him. But that wasn’t all. He went on to add that his goal was that, “I
may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the
resurrection from the dead.”
Christ had passed through suffering and death on the way to resurrection. Paul says it is the same for those who have
faith in Jesus. As Christians, sharing
in Jesus’ sufferings and being conformed to his death is part of our life. But
this is done in the assurance that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, and
that the power of his resurrection is already at work in us through the Holy
That is how
it is supposed to be. That is the
pattern that Paul wanted the Philippians to imitate in him and other mature
Christians among them. But in our text
the apostle also acknowledges that not all do this. He says, “For many, of whom I have often told
you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their
shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
We need to
pay attention to Paul’s words here because he is talking about people who
identified themselves as being Christians.
None of them said, “Oh yes, I am an enemy of the cross!” However their way of looking at life was all
messed up. Paul says that their god was
their belly and they gloried in their shame with minds set on earthly
doesn’t give us any specifics, but it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what
this looks like in our own time. Think
about all the things where the world places the emphasis: money, possessions,
vacations, sports, success, fame, prestige and sex. How often do these things shape your thought
and goals? How often do they determine
your behavior and your judgment about what is important, good and desirable
instead of Jesus Christ and his Word?
knew that these challenges are out there. That’s why he writes these words. He has said, “Brothers, join in imitating me,
and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” And then he goes on to remind us about what
we are – the status we have. Paul says
at the end of our text, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await
a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like
his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to
language about “citizenship” would have been very meaningful to the
Philippians. Though located in Greece,
Philippi was a Roman colony. There were several different statuses that a city
outside of Italy in the Roman Empire could have. The best was to be a Roman colony. The residents of Philippi were Roman
citizens. They had the all the rights
that went along with that status. Now to
be clear, they didn’t live in Rome. That wasn’t home. Their home was
Philippi. However, their status was one
of being Roman citizens. This defined who they were.
has been defined by your baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus
Christ. Because of this, your
citizenship is in heaven. You have the
status being God’s people – his saints.
This is something that has been won by Jesus Christ who is now the
ascended and exalted Lord.
now, Jesus has won. He has defeated sin.
He has defeated death. His reign
as the victorious king has already started. He is the One who gives you the
status of having citizenship in heaven.
that because of this we are not to live as those whose god is their belly and
who glory in their shame with minds set on earthly things. After all, our citizenship is in heaven.
That’s who we are. That’s what God has
made us to be.
us to join in being imitators of him.
Immediately before our text he has said, “Not that I have already
obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because
Christ Jesus has made me his own.
I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting
what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward
the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
We have the
status now of being saints. In the resurrection
of Jesus we have the guarantee that death has been defeated. But Paul reminds us that we must live as
those who have their eye on the prize. We are to live as those who want to be
found in Christ, not having a righteousness of our own, but that which comes
through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. We
are to live as those who seek to know him and the power of his resurrection as
we share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, so that by any
means possible we may attain the resurrection from the dead.
of sharing fully in Jesus’ resurrection is the thing that gives us hope and
encouragement. Paul says at the end of
our text that while our citizenship is in heaven, “from it we await a Savior, the
Lord Jesus Christ, 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.”
about the future makes us nervous and saps our strength. Paul reminds us that we know what the future
holds. We may not know the timing, but we know what will happen. We are awaiting our Savior from heaven, the
Lord Jesus Christ. He will return and
change our bodies to be like his glorious body.
our bodies to be good as we lived in his very good creation. It is only sin that made them mortal – able
to die. Jesus Christ is the second Adam
who has reversed what the first Adam did. His resurrection is the beginning of
our resurrection. He is the first
Philippi had Roman citizenship. But
their home was Philippi. In the same
way, your citizenship is in heaven, but this world is your home. That’s why
Paul says that we eagerly await from
heaven a Savior who will transform our bodies. The Lord Jesus will return and transform your
body to be like his glorious body.
some kind of escape from our physical, bodily existence. Instead, we learn that Jesus Christ is the
model and pattern for our resurrection.
At Jesus’ resurrection he invited his disciples to “touch me and see,
for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” His was a physical and bodily resurrection.
But it is a body that is imperishable and can never die again. That is the transformation that Jesus will
work upon you when he returns on the Last Day.
text, Paul reminds us about the status that we have now – we are the people of
God and our citizenship is in heaven with our Lord. He also points us to the future – to the day
when Jesus Christ will return in glory and transform our bodies to be like his
so that we can live forever in his renewed creation. The Holy Spirit will use this present and
future to aid each one of us in being imitators of the apostle Paul as we walk