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Philippians 3:17-21 - Homilies By R.m. Edgar

Celestial citizenship.

Paul, having urged the duty of forgetting the things behind, now speaks of his own example still more pointedly. He has been minding this rule and walking before men as an illustration of its power. And in this occupation with the future his idea has been that he is a citizen of heaven, and is conducting himself daily as one who belongs to that better country. But, while advancing to the statement of this celestial citizenship, he pauses parenthetically over the state of those whose citizenship is of the earth and earthly. The contrast of this paragraph is between the citizens of the world and the citizens of heaven. We shall look at them in the order presented by the apostle.

I. THE CITIZENS OF THE WORLD . ( Philippians 3:18 , Philippians 3:19 .) And here we have several things to notice.

1 . The object of their adoration is the " belly-god. " In heathenism the aim of life is for the most part to gratify the flesh. Appetite is master. The mind and heart are simply the slaves of appetite. Now, it is clear that, as a worshipper can never rise above the object of adoration, the man who worships appetite sinks into a mere quivering mass of appetite. Lust calls for satisfaction. Eating, drinking, and the gratification of the fleshly lusts become the sum total of life. The meaning of this devotion is the degradation of the man below the level of the beast.

2 . Their glory is in their shame. That is to say, instead of being ashamed of their lustful courses, they actually glory in them. They parade their degradations. It is a terrible descent when men lose the sense of shame and brazen it out.

3 . They min d earthly things. That is, they look no further for their rest. They settle down in this plague-stricken land. They allow their notions to be bounded by the horizon of the seen and the temporal. They take no broader view than this life affords them.

4 . They are consequently enemies of Christ ' s cross , over which the holy are compelled to weep. For the cross is the great foe of worldly mindedness. It opposes the lusts of the flesh; it opposes the adoration of the appetites; it opposes self-indulgence in every sinful form; and consequently the citizens of this worm are its foes. But do we weep over these misguided men with the pathos of a Paul? Do we shed over them the tears of compassion, of zeal, of charity? We ought not to be content until the world's state evokes our tears.

II. THE CITIZENS OF HEAVEN . ( Philippians 3:20 , Philippians 3:21 .) Paul declares here that "our citizenship ( πολίτευμα ) is in heaven." Now, this idea suggests:

1 . That we ought to feel as " strangers and pilgrims here. " Just as citizens of a foreign country do not feel at home, so heavenly citizens cannot feel at home on earth. They will recognize a certain strangeness in their environment, and be evermore looking away from earth and things seen to their" fatherland" ( πατρίδα of Hebrews 11:14 ). But:

2 . Our hope should center in the heavenly city. Earth cannot satisfy our longings; our hope flits away from earth to heaven. "We look for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." Heaven is regarded as our home, and we feel drawn as by a home-sickness towards the celestial world. We have "a desire to depart and he with Christ, which is far better."

3 . We expect the advent of the Savior and the transformation of the body. The Lord Jesus has his home in heaven and is seated in the focus of power. His energy ( ἐνέργεια ) is such that he can subdue all things unto himself. And he is to appear for the special purpose of transforming our bodies of humiliation that they may be conformed "to the body of his glory" (Revised Version). His glorious body in the vigor of immortal youth is the type to which our changed bodies shall be conformed. Hence we hope for physical adaptation to an immortal career. And these gifts we expect from heaven and through the advent of our Savior. "Able-bodied citizens" we are yet to be. We are to lay down these tenements of clay and to be clothed with temples which will stand the wear and tear of an eternal existence. In these magnificent bodies we hope to serve God ceaselessly. As citizens of heaven, we shall need no respite from active service; there shall be no night and no repose in heaven; unwearying work shall prove life's lasting benediction.—R.M.E.

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