Today we are continuing our BYOB, Bring Your Own Bible series and we are calling this month’s series TOGETHER… and we are studying the Book of Philippians. And we are looking at Philippians now because this is the time when many people are reassessing their lives and trying to focus on what really matters, and we thought it would be good for us to do the same: TO FOCUS ON WHAT IN LIFE REALLY MATTERS, and Philippians is a book that is all about What Really Matters! Today we are looking at what I believe is one of the most important passage in all the New Testament’s letters Philippians 1:27-2:18. This passage of scripture is often titled ‘Living as Citizens of Heaven’… and it’s 22 verses long! Now, if you know me, that is way too much to cover in 25 minutes… the last couple of weeks Barry experimented with just looking at the camera without notes. But I will have to have some notes: not to remind me of what to say, but to keep me from going overboard! One quick note related to Barry’s sermons; Barry’s two earlier sermons contain a lot of very helpful background information. If you haven’t watched those sermons, I strongly suggest that you watch them… they are very helpful! I am going to just do what I do: I am going to read a bit and then talk about what we’ve read and work our way through this important and amazing passage of scripture. And with that said, let’s PRAY and then get started!
Again, this series is intended to get us all thinking about what really matters… and I can tell you what really mattered in Philippi: Roman citizenship really mattered. Barry told you some of this history, but a couple of reminders: Philippi was an important city in what is now Greece and it had been given the official designation as a Roman Colonae… that meant it was a city designated as an official place for former Roman soldiers to retire… and archeology tells us Rome had put a good deal of money into making Philippi an amazing place for these retirees! If a soldier had served 25 years in the Army (or oddly, 26 years in the Navy) he, along with all his children born while he was in the service, received full Roman citizenship! This was a high honor because Citizenship Mattered!
And Rome had also granted all all-natural born Philippians the highest form of Roman Citizenship as well. So, Philippi was made up of both locals and a multitude of retired military families who were all citizens of Rome. And everyone took this Roman citizenship very seriously. It mattered. And what we are going to see is that Paul is going to write in ways that would have resonated with these Philippian citizens of Rome. And the case he is going to make is this: being a citizen of Rome does matter, but citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven… now that is what REALLY matters!
Let’s look at verse 27:
Verse 27 begins with the word . This little word is translated a bunch of ways: ‘Only,’ ‘Always,’ ‘Whatever happens,’ or ‘Above all.’ Greek writers often used this word to signal a change in their in subject matter… and boy does Paul shift his subject matter when we hit verse 27! Up to this point Paul has been talking about his own life… his own heart... what has been on his mind. He’d used the word ‘I’ 30 times in the first 26 verses according to the NTL translation. But after this he switches to talking about what he believes the Christians in Philippi should be doing… what they should be thinking… how they should be living as citizens of heaven!
One interesting thing before I read these verses, verses 27-30 are actually one long sentence in the Greek with only one verb; And that verb is (politeuesthe) POLIT-AY-U-ES-THAY. is a very rare verb in the New Testament and it meant, ‘To live out all of the responsibilities of a good citizen.’ And living as a good citizen… mattered tremendously to citizens of the Roman Empire! Good citizens were defined as people who took part in the affairs of the community. Good citizens were people who saw their lives as an integral part of the whole of the community. Being a good citizen had nothing to do with claiming your individual rights and everything about doing your duty to make certain that society worked well! What this meant was that everyone just assumed that they had obligations to everyone else. And these obligations really mattered… And so, while citizenship did come with rights and privileges, such as some special legal protections and being able to vote for representatives in the Roman senate, it also came with responsibilities and expectations. Citizenship Rights and Privileges along with Responsibilities and Expectations were a part of the fabric of life in Philippi. They mattered. And Paul, as a Roman citizen, knew all about this… so watch how he uses these notions of privileges and expectations as he writes to the Philippians about their NEW and very important citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven!
Read 27-28: this is a list of expectations… and notice how he keeps emphasizing that they are to do all these things together… this isn’t about individuals… it’s about living TOGETHER!
a. Live in a manner worthy of the good news of Christ…
b. Stand in one spirit, one purpose, fighting is literally ‘wrestling’ (a military word; hand-to-hand combat) together… notice that the operative word is TOGETHER!
c. Don’t be intimidated by those that oppose you: he uses a very rare, but very picturesque Greek word here that meant, ‘Don’t be like a timid horse that is easily spooked!’
Read verses 29-30: here Paul starts his list of the privileges of being citizens in the Kingdom of God
a. You get to trust Christ: this is an honor!
b. You get to suffer; the ‘struggle’ was that the Philippians, along with Paul, were being accused by locals of being ‘bad citizens’ for following a different Lord () than Caesar.
But Paul plays these struggles down by going back to listing privileges, Chapter 2: but now Paul goes rhetorical. Notice how he doesn’t preach. These are his friends, after all. He simply asks questions that lead to people making their own decisions about things! READ THESE!
Is there any Encouragement from belonging to Christ… that comes from being a citizen in the kingdom of heaven? Yes!
Is there any comfort from his love… that comes from being a citizen in the kingdom of heaven? Yes!
Is there any fellowship together in the spirit… that comes from being a citizen in the kingdom of heaven? Yes!
Is there any heart change… any tenderness or compassion… that comes from being a citizen in the kingdom of heaven? Yes!
If there is, Then… more expectations!
1. Agree with one another
2. Love one another
3. Work together in one mind and purpose
4. Don’t be selfish
5. Don’t try to impress others (vanity)
6. Be Humble
7. Think of others better than yourselves
8. Look out for other’s interests
That’s some list! And everything in this list is about each of us working to make certain that our Kingdom is continually working well for everyone! And we do this TOGETHER! Plus, all of these expectations reflect the life of our king… king Jesus. In Fact, what the Greek of verse 5 of Chapter 2 literally says is this, ‘The thinking among you should be like the thinking that was in Christ Jesus!’
And what Paul does is go right to telling us about Jesus’ thinking, but he does it by writing out what many believe was a 1st Century hymn in praise of our emperor… which was a pretty common thing in the ancient world… and this song of praise is in honor of Emperor Jesus. Read it and comment.
This next section starts with taking a deep breath: the word in Greek is it means ‘So then,’ or ‘Therefore,’ or maybe even best, ‘Well then,’ And he writes this word to say in one little moment, ‘Now that we really know who Matters, there are a few more things that matter to our emperor!
Work hard… so that as a good citizen of the kingdom of heaven… you show the results of your salvation!
Obey God… so that as a good citizen of the kingdom of heaven… you show that God is working in you, giving you the desires of your heart and the power to do what pleases him!
Don’t complain or argue… so that as a good citizen of the kingdom of heaven… so that no one can criticize you.
Live clean, innocent lives… so that as a good citizen of the kingdom of heaven… you will be shining lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people!
Hold firm to the word of life… so that as a good citizen of the kingdom of heaven… you will be ready to meet your emperor when he comes for us!
I feel that the most important of these expectations of good citizens of the kingdom of heaven is the one that says, ‘Live clean, innocent lives… so that as a good citizen of the kingdom of heaven… you will be shining lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people!’
This little phrase is actually a quote of Jesus (Matt 17:17) who was quoting Moses (Duet 32:5) Paul knew that by quoting the two most important figures in all of Christianity, Jesus and Moses he would get the Philippian’s attention. Jesus as our emperor and Moses as his most revered messenger… both said that we are living in a world full of crooked and perverse people… and these crooked and perverse people need to see the light! And the only way for crooked, perverse people to see the light is for us to live clean, innocent lives! It’s how we live, not just what we say… or even believe that MATTERS when it comes to overcoming a crooked and perverse world!
So, here at the beginning of 2021 is what this passage tells us MATTERS:
1. Our new citizenship in the kingdom of heaven matters; and it takes precedent over all other allegiances… if you are a follower of Jesus (accepted his offer of forgiveness and chosen to follow him) then your heavenly citizenship MATTERS more than you can even imagine! More than any other allegiance!
2. It MATTERS that we embrace our privileges: we are given the privilege of ‘trusting’ in Jesus. This is something that I want to think about more. It’s a concept I still don’t fully understand, but I am thankful that I have been given this privilege and I want to learn to live into this honor.
We have also been given the privilege of suffering for him. I have a lot to process about this as well, but I am thankful that as we suffer, we are also promised encouragement… and comfort… and fellowship… along with a changed heart! And These things MATTER!
3. It MATTERS that we Live out our expectations… TOGETHER! The expectation of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven is that as a community we will be humble and selfless and looking out for others and that we will be trustworthy, that we won’t be complainers or arguers and that we do all of this because in the kingdom of heaven THESE THINGS MATTER!
4. Bringing honor to our King MATTERS because as God, Jesus deserves every bit of our praise!
5. And all this MATTERS because if we live in these ways, we will be lights in a very dark world! Our lives will Really Matter… they will have eternal consequences!
Now my thinking is that Paul needed to add one more sentence to the end of this passage: something like, ‘Now, go to your rooms and think about all of this!’ because that is what it makes me feel like I need to do. How seriously do I take my citizenship in the new, kingdom of heaven? How much do I embrace the privilege of suffering? How often do I consider the expectations given to me as a citizen of the Kingdom of Jesus? This is genuinely, ‘Go to your room and think about it!’ material! If I just start with not being a complainer, I have a lot to think about.
I want to end by reminding you that if you are a follower of Jesus then you are a citizen in the most important nation in the universe… led by the most powerful emperor in the universe! An emperor who did not think of equality with God as something to hang on to, but rather he died a criminal’s death on the cross for you so that you can live as a light of his love and join with every tongue and gladly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord… the supreme authority in both heaven and on the earth and under the earth! And This is what really matters!