“The Gospel-Worthy Life of a Citizen of Heaven”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 1.27-30
Philippians 1. Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus known from henceforth as simply Lucius.
Lucius was a Roman farmer-turned military leader who became legendary for his virtues as a Roman citizen. Legend has it that when he was an older man working on his farm, there was an invasion of enemies against Rome. Lucius’ fellow citizens called on him for his leadership. He left his plow and assumed complete control over the state and achieved a decisive victory on behalf of his people. He was then offered near-absolute control over the state, but rejected it and returned to his farm.
This selflessness has been cited as an example of outstanding leadership “service to the greater good, civic virtue, lack of personal ambition, and modesty. As a result, he has inspired a number of organizations and other entities, some named in his honor.”
He was the model citizen … a selfless man who lived for the greater good, not for power or pride of station in life; he became an example of taking pride in your citizenship and behaving according to your citizenship.
Now, other Romans, the Philippians, have also taken great pride in their citizenship as Roman citizens.
They are Roman citizens even though they do not live in Rome, but in Phillipi which was a Roman colony; they are 800 miles from Rome, but yet they have all the rights and privileges of Roman citizens, and they were proud of it. Probably more proud to be Romans than Americans are to be Americans.
And Paul knows this and so he writes to them in verse 27…
Philippians 1:27–30 27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ,
You could translate that literally …. only exercise your citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, as some translations and Bible study notes do. And we know that we can translate this that way because this word “conduct yourselves” also occurs in the noun form in Philippians 3:20. And by way of introduction to the passage, you could turn there if you would like. Philippians 3:20
Paul writes, “for our citizenship is in heaven.”
And that word “citizenship” is the noun form of the verb back in Philippians 1:27 translated “conduct yourselves.” The noun and verb forms of these Greek words is like the noun and verb forms of restore and restoration. You know those two words are related. So also, here … you’ve got “citizenship” and Phil. 1:27 … “exercise your citizenship.”
Take that understanding now, and we can go back to Phil. 1:27 and translate it that way, “Only exercise your citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Now, the question is, “which citizenship is he talking about? Roman citizenship or another kind?”
And the answer to that is another kind. Remember back in chapter 3:20 he said, “for citizenship is in heaven.” Clearly Paul is talking about their heavenly citizenship.
So what Paul is doing then is he is drawing on their pride in their Roman citizenship to exhort them to exercise their heavenly citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel.
“You Philippian Christians …you who value so highly your Roman citizenship and strive to be model Roman citizens… you need to value so highly your heavenly citizenship and seek to be model citizens of heaven. You are citizens of the heavenly country more than you are citizens of an earthly country.”
Just like they were living as Roman citizens, even though they were far from Rome … so also they should live as citizens of heaven, though it seems they are far from heaven. They are to live as pilgrims…this isn’t their home, their just “a passin’ through.”
So what does it look like to live as a worthy citizen of heaven…let’s read the rest of the passage now … Phil. 1:27-30
Philippians 1:27–30 27 Only exercise your citizenship in heaven in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
I’d like to preach this morning on “The Gospel-Worthy Life of a Citizen of Heaven”
The command to live as worthy citizens (1:27a)
A. Exercise citizenship of heaven in a manner worthy of gospel
Not everyone who wishes to become a citizen of a country gets to become a citizen; you have to gain legal entry and satisfy that countries requirements. For the Philippians at this stage in history, many were born citizens.
It’s no different becoming a citizen of heaven. You have to be … not born physically, but born spiritually. You don’t get to ride into heaven on the faith of your parents; it’s gotta be your choice…children, will you follow Jesus? There’s no permanent residency in God’s kingdom; you’re either a citizen or not.
And once you are born from the Holy Spirit, it’s then you are a citizen of heaven.
So this is all about this gospel of Christ! That’s what citizens of heaven are to live worthy of. The gospel means “good news.” And that good news, we know, is that the penalty of your sin and mine has been paid at the cross by Jesus Christ…
He took on Him all of my crimes against God and He himself bore the due penalty …and to prove that true, He raised Himself from the dead. A simple trust and repentance of sin, an asking in faith to be saved … and He gives eternal life and a heavenly citizenship card, as it were. Your heavenly citizenship card came to you through the gospel!
“Ok,” says Paul, “You’ve been saved by the glorious gospel and are a citizen of heaven…you glory in that citizenship? Let your life reflect it … live as worthy citizens of heaven. Exercise your citizenship of heaven like you are worthy of the gospel.
APP: Now, we may ask, “how?” How can I possibly ever measure up?
Question: Do you know the gospel? As I look out across our congregation this morning, each one of you has a different depth of understanding of the gospel. And if you have placed your faith in Christ, you live godly to the degree that you value the gospel. You life reflects how much you actually value the gospel. Not your talk, but your walk.
ILL: This week, a movie actor named [deacon name]n Seagal, was granted Russian citizenship by Russian president Vladimir Putin. If Seagal values Putin and his new citizenship, he’ll act in a dignified way toward Putin and Russia. If Seagal doesn’t value Putin or his new citizenship, he’ll act in a less than dignified way. But if he does value Putin and his citizenship, he’ll stand up for his new president and for what the country stands for, he’ll work together with the Russian people not against them, and he’d be fearless to defend his new country when that opportunity arises.
That’s if he values Putin and his new citizenship. He would have had to to swear an oath of citizenship and say, “I … decide to become a citizen of the Russian Federation and do it with full awareness of this decision. I consider myself as an integral part of the state and the people of Russia, accept the obligation to know and comply with all provisions of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, to protect the interests and security of the country which I become the citizen of.”
ILL: to become a US citizen, one has to swear … “I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
And, if the Lord wills, someday I’ll swear with an oath for Canadian citizenship … “I swear .. that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
The point is, if you value your president, prime minister or the queen, and your citizenship, you’ll act accordingly. You’ll do according to what is expected of you.
In the same way, if you value Christ and His gospel, you’ll seek to live accordingly. The gospel motivates your godly living; seek to value the gospel…I or anybody can tell by how you live how much you value Christ versus how much you value yourself and your former citizenship. Grow to value the gospel more by studying it, praising God for it … seek to know all the rights and privileges of being a citizen of heaven.
What person would become a citizen of a nation without knowing the requirements, rights, and privileges of becoming a citizen? Get to know your heavenly citizenship.
TRANS: You’re to exercise your heavenly citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ now… with or without a spiritual authority’s presence.
B. with/without authority’s presence.
Philippians 1:27 27 Only exercise your heavenly citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm…
EXP: “whether I come and see you or remain absent” They are to act as worthy citizens of heaven whether or not Paul is around. Because, for all we know at this point, he could be executed and remain absent. Paul’s utmost desire is that no matter what happens to him, that the church remains faithful to Christ, living as worthy citizens of His kingdom.
ILL: But we’re all tempted to behave better around spiritual authorities…oh boy, here comes the pastor … like the spiritual authority is the prison guard or something and the people are inmates … hide the contraband, quick!
So whether your pastor is there or not, it’s my desire that you would be faithful to Christ, as a worthy citizen. In my presence or when I’m absent … would you do that, watch that, say that, eat that,… whatever if you’re pastor was there?
TRANS: But that’s not really what Paul’s concerned about … He goes straight to the top …whether your pastor is there or not, will you be found with spiritual tenacity? Unity and fearlessness in the fact of opposition?
Like any good citizen of any country, if you are tenacious for your country, leaders, and for your laws and culture … If you are united with the people of that country and will fearlessly protect that nation … that’s a good citizen, a citizen who exercises his citizenship in a manner worthy of his oath.
Our oath is the gospel of Christ and we need to live worthy of that oath.
So it is with the citizen of heaven. He must be spiritually tenacious for the faith of the gospel. He must be unified with other citizens of heaven, and he must be fearless in the face of opposition. These three things make up a patriotic Christian, if you will.
The conduct of worthy citizens (1:27b-28)
Spiritual tenacity (stand firm; strive)
First, he is spiritually tenacious for the faith of the gospel.
Philippians 1:27 27 Only exercise your heavenly citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are … here it is … standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
Standing firm and striving for the faith of the gospel. This describes a spiritual tenacity for the gospel … the faith that is the gospel … as well as the spreading of that gospel.
Striving together … that word has the idea of engaging in competition or conflict. In fact, part of the word is spelled like athletics. Engaging in competition.
ILL: When real athletes train for a race or a game, it’s no walk in the park. It is intense. I ran cross country and track and field, and it’s grueling. I vomited several times on different occasions. Basketball, baseball, hockey … if you’re going to be good, it takes hours of training. And you don’t want to let your team down; and when you do, you feel sick. It hurts when you make the mistake that causes the lose of the game.
Or it’s a cause of great rejoicing, you could imagine, when you’re the one who scores the winning run.
ILL: Miguel Montero hit an RBI single against the Indians in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series a few days ago, which would be the winning run. And with that stroke, he broke the longest title drought in all of sports. How would that make you feel?
For that team or any to win would take intense training, regulating your sleep, eating, rest, even neglecting your family…it’s intense…it is your life.
The Christian life .. thankfully we’re not called on to neglect our families, but to love and care for them … the Christian life is striving like that for the gospel; you protect the gospel, you defend the gospel, you live the gospel, and you proclaim the gospel. It takes training, diligence, and Bible study, discipleship, and learning how to take right next steps in your Christian life and doing it.
TRANS: But having and exercising a spiritual tenacity for the gospel is not something you do all by yourself. It’s not a one man show. That’s why the second characteristic of a gospel-worthy life of a citizen of heaven is unity.
Unity (one spirit, one mind; strive “together”)
He says middle of verse 27 … that we are to be…
Philippians 1:27 27standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
In one spirit, with one mind, striving together … this isn’t going solo, maverick style “contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.” No, this is group, teamwork, unity. There is strength in numbers.
In other words, our church service is not a Sunday morning show. The pastor and the leadership here aren’t to do all the work it really shouldn’t be that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people… but we work together to get you to the point where your life is an excellent testimony for Christ, where your life is a life that defends the truth and isn’t a stumbling block for the truth … where you are apart of the striving together team that advances the glories of the gospel in our communities.
So, what could you do?
Be a good testimony for Christ to others. And then you could talk to your coworkers over lunch about the gospel. Your neighbour … you could invite over for a cookout…one of your clients for your business, you could get together for meal and share your testimony.
Maybe there are kids in your neighborhood, you could start a Bible club.
Whatever it is, we need you! We’re not an audience, but a church. And so striving together for the sake of the advancement of the gospel might mean that you have to change your lifestyle. What is keeping you from living, growing in, and proclaiming the gospel? Let’s get that figured out together. I’ll strive with you on your growth; Others here I know will strive with you, too.
TRANS: And the third characteristic of the citizen of heaven who lives worthy of the gospel is fearlessness. Spiritual tenacity, unity, and now fearlessness.
Fearlessness in the face of opposition
Philippians 1:28 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.
You’re not to be alarmed in the face of opposition. Opposition to your Christian testimony is no surprise, if they hated Jesus and they did…they’ll hate you too. So you will have opponents if you’ve trusted Christ… and they’ll seek to do you harm.
ILL: This word “alarmed” was used in the ancient world to describe a timid horse. And many of you would know better than I would, but if you get a timid horse with some other timid horses, I imagine you’ve got a problem on your hands. I suppose the possibility of a stampede goes up significantly.
You not to be alarmed like that in the face of opposition, and cower.
And if you’re going to live a gospel-worthy life as a citizen of heaven, you’ll want to grow to the point that you are without that alarm … even in the face of opposition.
Because if you are fearless when they are persecuting you, that’ll be a sign for them … that they will be destroyed, Paul says. It’s a sign they will be destroyed because the Bible clearly teaches they know God, God has revealed himself to them, and they know they are rebelling against God. And when you don’t flinch in the face of persecution, they know they are on the wrong side of the situation. If they are persecuting you, they know that they are on the wrong side, the side of damnation.
Romans 1:32 32 … they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such [sins] are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” They know they are worthy of death for the things that they are doing to you.
And if you are fearless in face of persecution, it’s a sign to you of salvation.
If you can confess Christ in the face of opposition, that’s a sign of your eternal salvation. That’s a sign you are truly saved. It shows that you are on the side of Christ. And that you will persevere and endure until the very end.
APP: you say, “well, I’m not being persecuted.” Well, did you know that over 75% of the world’s population … 75% live in areas with severe religious restrictions. 3/4 of all humanity live in places with severe religious restriction. Where you can be beaten tortured, put in prison and the like because of your faith in Christ. Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution simply because they trust in Jesus.
So if we took a random sampling of Christians throughout the world and brought them into a building like this, many of them will be able to testify of being persecuted.
We live in a small window of this world and an ever smaller window of time where we do not have religious persecution.
Although the way that North America is going, we begin to wonder how long this will last. That’s why we need to increase in our value of the gospel, love the gospel…and take that oath of our citizenship seriously so that we might learn to live worthily of it and thus be prepared to be tenacious for it, unified on it, and fearless in our proclamation and defense of it.
TRANS: And Paul says at the end of verse 28 … that this suffering for Jesus’ sake is from God. Suffering for Christ is from God. “What do you mean it’s from God?” It’s a gift…Lastly the gifts to worthy citizens, verses 29-30.
The gifts to worthy citizens (1:29-30)
Philippians 1:29–30 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
So what do you mean, Paul, that suffering for our testimony of Jesus is from God?
“Well,” Paul says, “it’s been granted … that word is the word for grace … it has been graced upon you for Christ’s sake, not only to believe, but also to suffer.”
Suffering was what Paul was going through, verse 30. The same conflict … Paul was persecuted, so were the Philippians.
And you have two gifts for citizens of heaven in the passage.
First, verse 29…it has been granted to you … If you trusted Christ today and you are born again it has been granted to you to believe in him.
Saving faith therefore is a gift from God; it doesn’t originate from within you, but from God. And what a wonderful gift that it is! To know the Savior, to know the Father, to have the Holy Spirit in you who is the seal of your redemption … he’s the down payment of our inheritance to come … what grace, what glory!
TRANS: But there is a second gift for the citizen of heaven.
Once believing in Christ, the plan is not beds and roses, ice cream and cupcakes from here on out. Some health and wealth gospel preachers would tell us otherwise, but it is a gift to suffer for Christ’s sake!
Philippians 1:29 29 For to you it has been granted [graced upon you, is the idea] for Christ’s sake … to suffer for His sake,
How is it a gift, do you ask? Because, as he said, it’s a sign of salvation … you’ll know in a deeper way, that you are a child of God.
Remember the disciples? Acts 5:41 … “They went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
ILL: My wife and I and the older 2 kids just finished reading a missionary biography of Gladys Ale-ward. She was a missionary to China in the early part of the 20th century. If you don’t know her story, it is probably the most intense missionary story I have ever read. Every part of her life is absolutely filled with danger and excitement, Gladys Ale-ward.
I won’t go into all the details, but toward the end of her ministry, the Communists have taken over China. And they took over a nearby university. And they made 500 students fill out a long questionnaire with one of the questions being, “What political party do you support? If you are for the Communists, put a circle. If you are against the Communists put an “X.” An amazing 200 of the 500 questionnaires had x’s on them, showing they were against the Communists. These were all students that Gladys herself led to Christ. And they explained to the leaders that they were against the Communists because they were for Jesus Christ. Of course, the leaders were very angry. After attempting to persuade the other 300 students to harass the 200 Christians, there were even more students who were against the Communists.
Then they marched over 200 of these students into the town square. They announced the name of a girl from a very wealthy family. She comes forward and the communist official asks her, “Who do you support now?” The crowd came to a hush. And the 17-year-old says, “Sir, three months ago, I thought Jesus Christ was real, and I thought the Bible was true… Now after three months of your hatred, I know Jesus Christ is real, and I know the Bible is true.”
The girl was pulled into the center of the square and shoved her knees as Gladys watched on. They then beheaded her… Gladys stayed while each of the more than 200 students were asked the same question and each one was killed.
It was given to them to trust Christ and it was given to them to suffer. And no doubt, in glory, our gracious Lord has rewarded them for their stand for Christ.
APP: It kind of makes you wonder what has happened to the church today, and to us! You know, if the winds of persecution did come, it would really separate the wheat from the chaff. And which would you be? Would you tenaciously defend the gospel, unified with others, fearless for His cause? This is the goal of Christian maturity!
Suffering for your testimony of Christ is a great privilege. Because in suffering you are giving yourself to God, your person or property and your literal life … a sacrifice to lay at the feet of Jesus … All for His glory … the giving of yourself, literally, for God. What a privilege!
And you testify through your suffering for Christ. You’re saying that he is worthy of everything you could possibly do on his behalf… That there is no hardship too hard but that for the sake of Christ you should happily endure.
Suffering like this is instructive for the world and its an evidence of God’s grace in your life. And it will be rewarded … Jesus says…
Matthew 5:11–12 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It will happen if it hasn’t already.
When you are suffering for your testimony for Jesus, don’t be discouraged. You trust in God; you trust also in Jesus … “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great”
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 1.27-30
Joseph Barber Lightfoot, ed., Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., ltd, 1913), 106. ↑
See Charles Simeon. ↑