A Christian person has dual citizenship. One “passport” is of an earthly nation (or multiple) and the other is of heaven. From time to time their values are in direct conflict. God or money? Jesus or Caesar? When this happens, the Christian must decide which takes priority. The citizens of Philippi were living in a leading Roman colony with a history of strong patriotism. Paul’s preaching there reminds them of another type of “colony” situation.
God makes us citizens of heaven who live in an earthly colony.
Living in this situation is challenging, but Paul is clear on some important points. Christian citizenship will have some distinctions that stand out and even cause persecution.
1. Heavenly citizenship is the priority. Paul counts all of his best worldly accolades as “rubbish” (v.8) when compared with knowing Christ, who offers a righteousness not based on works but faith. Grace is a gift and opposed to earning or deserving anything.
2. The Christian is internally righteous in Christ, but still in progress externally. Believers are simultaneous justified and sinners. Because Christ made Paul his own possession, Paul “presses on” (v.14) for the upward prize in Christ. Note that grace is opposed to earning but not to effort.
3. Paul’s maturity is worth imitating (v. 17). His pursuit of God is effective and transformative. The future coming of Christ is a strong motivator despite earthly conflict (v. 20). Christ’s call is upward but many live only for pleasure and sin (v. 18-19). Sanctification (becoming holy like Christ) is possible and apparent.
Taking It Home: Decide ahead of time which citizenship you’ll prioritize when the conflict comes. Consider whether or not your life is worth imitating and ask God to help you change anything that is lacking.