Calvary Road Baptist Church

“CITIZENS”

Philippians 1.27

The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Philippian congregation from Roman imprisonment. In Philippians 1.1-11, he told them of his thanks to God for their help in the ministry, of his confidence that God was working in their lives, and of his prayers to God that their love would abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment. The second main section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, 1.12-26, considers Paul’s circumstances as a prisoner in Rome and what impact his life and ministry was having on the spread of the gospel at that time, as well as what Paul anticipated would happen in the immediate future. You may remember that, despite concerns to the contrary, Paul’s imprisonment actually worked to advance the gospel because he was given access, through the Praetorian Guards shackled to him, to the elite soldiers in the Imperial Roman Army to preach to each and every day. Therefore, since Paul’s concern was not for himself, but for the advance of the gospel, he ended up being thoroughly delighted with the outcome of his imprisonment. In anticipation of the outcome of his impending trial, Paul knew that one way or the other Christ would be glorified, and that although his personal preference would have been to die and go to heaven as a martyr for the cause of Christ, he anticipated, because he felt it was best for the Philippians, that his life would at least be temporarily spared and he would be reunited with them again.

Beginning with our text for today, the Apostle Paul turns his reader’s attention from his situation and circumstances to theirs. Having shown them what he was doing in the midst of trials and tribulations, from inside a Roman prison and facing the possibility of execution at the hand of the emperor, Paul now seeks to encourage and exhort those dear people he loved so much to follow the example that he has set for them. With your Bible turned to Philippians 1.27, stand with me and read to the end of the chapter, taking note of the extremely high standard of behavior and conduct that Paul established for those believers:

27     Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

28     And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.

29     For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

30     Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Is it not amazing how much Paul demanded of those people? He did not expect part-time Christianity and a casual approach to the Christian life at all, did he? The Apostle Paul was an advocate of throttle to the fire wall, pedal to the metal, Christian living. I think he would have been nauseated with the type of laid back, Southern California, zero commitment, and “What in the world does it mean to sacrifice?” type of Christianity seen so often today.

The Philippians were experiencing opposition for their Christian lives and testimonies. They lived in a Roman colony city, whose citizens were proud of their Roman heritage and who took very seriously their relationship with the empire and their allegiance to the emperor. Therefore, when some of those folks who were reached with the gospel by Paul started serving God, and when they stopped offering incense to the emperor, and when it became obvious to their friends and relatives that their ultimate allegiance was to Christ and not the emperor, they began to catch a lot of flak. That is why, from Philippians 1.27 to 2.18, Paul exhorted the Philippians to come together in spiritual unity and to remain steadfast in the face of intense opposition. At this time, in Philippians 1.27, we will look at the first of two verbal pictures the Apostle Paul paints for his friends to show them, and to show us, what our duties are as believers and as members of Calvary Road Baptist Church.

Our text is verse 27:    “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

It may not be immediately obvious why I refer to the picture of citizens in this verse, but pay careful attention as three aspects of good Christian citizenship are developed for you:

First, THERE IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY.

The first phrase of the verse, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ,” throws a great deal of light on your responsibility as a Christian and as a church member. When Paul uses the word “only,” he is indicating what he wants to happen in the city of Philippi, from the time they receive this letter until he arrives on the scene. This is what he wants them to do. This is their duty. This is important. If they want to advance the gospel in Philippi as he has advanced the gospel in Rome, no matter what the circumstances, they need to do what he now says to do. The same is true for us. We need to do now what Paul directs us to do.

He writes that they are to “let you conversation be . . . .” Here is where I get the idea, and here is where Paul communicated to the Philippians the idea, of citizenship. The word “conversation” is a verb in the Greek New Testament. However, more than a verb, it is an imperative verb. That means, this is a command that is given by Paul, the founder of that congregation and the apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. This Greek verb translates the word we get “politics” from. Paul’s command is for the Philippians, already citizens of the Roman colony of Philippi, to conduct themselves like Christian citizens.[1] We might paraphrase with, “Only let your citizenship conduct be . . . .”

Therefore, these people, these Christians, are responsible to be more than just good citizens of the Roman colony of Philippi. The Ephesians were described by Paul, in a letter he would later write from this same Roman prison, as “fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”[2] Therefore, we see that Paul envisions Christians as responsible to demonstrate another citizenship than our citizenship in some earthbound nation. There is a more important citizenship than our American citizenship, our Mexican citizenship, or our Panamanian citizenship, and that it our citizenship in heaven.

Second, THERE IS OUR REQUIREMENT.

We now come to the high standard. How is the child of God who is a church member (and there are no non-church member children of God in the New Testament) supposed to exercise this Christian citizenship? “. . . as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” “Becometh” translates the Greek word for “worthily.”[3] Paul is commanding the Philippians to conduct themselves, as people who have a heavenly citizenship, in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. They are to behave themselves so that the gospel which is preached is reflected upon well by their lives and testimonies in the face of opposition and persecution.

That was what was required of them. That is what is required of us. Whatever you say and whatever you do, it must reflect well on the gospel, be worthy of the gospel, or not done at all. That was their responsibility, and that is our responsibility, as well. Here is a consideration for you. How can one expect to reflect well on the gospel under persecution when one does not reflect well on the gospel when there is no persecution? My friends, it is easy to live for Christ now. Almost no one opposes us in this country with much more than a raised eyebrow or a snide remark. Therefore, we must recognize that those who cannot live for Christ now, in the best of times, will not live for Him then in the worst of times.

Then, THERE IS OUR REPUTATION.

“that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs”

A church has a reputation. Every church has a reputation. When I went to Brawley, I became the pastor, I learned later, of the Smoking Baptist Church. There was also an American Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist Church, and the Republican Baptist Church in town. Over the years, our reputation changed from the Smoking Baptist Church to the only church in the entire city that preached against sin, that stood against sin, and that dealt with sin in our midst as we preached the unsearchable riches of Christ. What kind of reputation does Calvary Road Baptist Church have in the San Gabriel Valley? You tell me. To the best of my knowledge, we are the only church in this city preaching an orthodox gospel message. We are the only church in this city that deals with sin among our members. We are the only church in this city that stands against the apostasy of the Charismatic movement, the Pentecostal movement, and the neo-evangelical movement. We are the only church that seeks to make sure that folks who want to be saved are carefully and cautiously introduced to the Savior.

Therefore, do we have a reputation? You better believe we do. A preacher’s grown son told me some years ago that ours was the first church he had attended in ten years where he had heard sin named. That said, he did not return. Just let us realize this: As Paul heard of the affairs of the Philippian church (and he wanted to hear of them living up to a standard that would be a credit to the gospel), so should you and I conduct ourselves so as to be a credit to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus, Paul’s picture of Christian citizenship concludes. Let me pose a challenge to you. Does your conversation become the gospel of Christ? That is, are you living like a citizen of heaven ought to live, discharging your citizenship duties and responsibilities? Remember, what you do has to be worthy of the gospel of Christ. The reason for this, of course, is our reputation. Our reputation, the church’s, is actually made up, in great part, of all of our individual reputations, as well as our collective reputation. Many a good church’s reputation is been soured by a member who has committed sin, who has tolerated sin, or who has not done right ethically. If our entire church had the reputation you have, multiplied many times over, what kind of reputation would we have?

Would we be known for godliness? For evangelistic zeal? For obedience to God? For love of Christ and sinners? For holiness and integrity? From their view of you, what kind of reputation does our church have among the unsaved people that you know? How might you enhance our church’s reputation?

In our text, Philippians 1.27, the Apostle Paul directs his beloved brothers and sisters in Christ to conduct themselves as good citizens who behave in a manner worthy of the gospel. Indeed, people who know Christ, people whose sins are forgiven, have a different citizenship than folks who are not Christians.

For example: The Lord Jesus Christ informed a man named Nicodemus, though he was a brilliant Bible scholar, that unless he was born again he would neither see nor enter the kingdom of God.[4] However, citizenship in the kingdom of God is something every truly saved person already possesses.

Another example: In Ephesians 2.6, believers in Jesus Christ are described as those who are seated together with other believers in heavenly places in Christ, while lost people are shown to be dead in trespasses and sins. Thus, I have a citizenship that unsaved people, that perhaps you, do not have.

A third example: Colossians 1.13 describes saved people as those who have been delivered from the power of darkness, and who have been translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Though I have not been moved geographically, I have been moved spiritually, from Satan’s domain, if you will, to Christ’s domain.

A fourth example: First Peter chapter 2 is where believers are described as strangers and sojourners, illustrating that this world is not our home and that our citizenship lies elsewhere. By contrast, this world is your home, my gospel rejecting friend.

A fifth example: Throughout the book of the Revelation there is a distinctive phrase that is used to describe unsaved people; “them that dwell upon the earth.”[5] Yet another allusion to the fact that you have no heavenly citizenship, and that this world is the only home you have as an unsaved man or woman, until your death and relocation to the fiery furnace of Hell.

So you see, there is a great distinction, in God’s Word, between the citizenship of the saved person and the citizenship of the unsaved person. The citizenship of a person is determined by his country, his domain. If you are born in Turkey and raised in Turkey, your citizenship is Turkish. If you are born in Ireland and raised in Ireland, then your citizenship is Irish. If you are a citizen of heaven you are born again. In the time we have left, I want to speak to you about your citizenship, what dominion you belong to. Three things about the dominions that people can belong to:

First, THE DESCRIPTIONS OF THE DOMINIONS

Of course, you realize there are only two dominions, the dominion of the saved and the dominion of the unsaved.

 

Describing the dominion of unsaved people is quite easy. An unsaved person might very well describe his own life as one of pleasure and hilarity, one of fun and good times, especially if he was successful in business or socially active. However, looking past the facade, considering what God’s Word says about the dominion in which unsaved people live, this is what we find:

The dominion of the unsaved is a dominion of death:

Isaiah 59.2:   “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”

Romans 6.23a: “For the wages of sin is death.”

Ephesians 2.1: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

The dominion of the unsaved is a dominion of deviancy:

Isaiah 53.6a: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.”

The dominion of the unsaved is a dominion of denial:

Romans 1.28a: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.”

Second Peter 2.1:  “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”

The dominion of the unsaved is a dominion of defilement:

Isaiah 64.6a:    “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”

The dominion of the unsaved is a dominion of delusion:

Jeremiah 17.9:    “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Ezekiel 18.4:   “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

The dominion of saved people, on the other hand is quite different. Mocked by unsaved people as being a dominion of boredom and dullness, consider what the Word of God says about the life saved people live:

The dominion of the saved is a dominion of life:

John 10.28: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

The dominion of the saved is a dominion of obedience:

John 10.27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

The dominion of the saved is a dominion of truth:

John 17.17: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

The dominion of the saved is a dominion of holiness:

John 17.17:   “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

The dominion of the saved is a dominion of illumination:

John 16.13: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

Isaiah 55.8-9:  8      For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

9      For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Second, THE DESTINIES OF THE DOMINIONS

We usually think of individuals going to their eternal destiny, either to heaven or to Hell. However, the Word of God shows that individuals will go to their eternal destiny according to which dominion they live in and are a part of.

Consider the damnation of the unsaved. From Luke chapter 16, we know that the next moment after the unsaved man died he lifted up his eyes, being in torment in Hell. However, do you realize that the Word of God shows that all of you who are not saved will have the additional common experience after Hell of being cast, en masse, into the lake of fire, Revelation 20.14? Do you understand that it is your common destiny to go into everlasting fire for eternal punishment, Matthew 25.41 and 46?

The deliverance of the saved, on the other hand, is glorious. Delivered from the presence of sin. Delivered to an eternity of bliss. Delivered to fullness of joy. Delivered to a heavenly home. Delivered into the presence of our Savior. Delivered to ruling and reigning with Him. Delivered to life eternal. The destiny of the saved is as different from the destiny of the damned as the East is from the West, as life is from death, and as light is from darkness.

Finally, THE DOORWAYS TO THESE TWO DOMINIONS

These two dominions, these two citizenships if you will, being so different in their descriptions, being so different in their destinies. It would seem to be important to know what is required to enter in to these two dominions, how to become a citizen in each of these kingdoms.

The door to the dominion of damnation is a doorway everyone passes through. You see, to enter into this dominion which ends in eternal damnation you need but be conceived and born. All have sinned, Romans 3.23 tells us. And the consequence of sin is death, Romans 6.23 tells us. How is it that all have sinned and thereby are come to be citizens of this dominion of damnation? You were conceived and born, Psalm 51.5: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Thus, conceived a sinner, you live a sinner, you will die a sinner, and you will go to Hell a sinner.

The door to deliverance and to heaven, on the other hand, is a doorway only a few pass through. Listen to what the Lord Jesus Christ said about Himself:

John 10.9:  “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

John 11.25-26:   25     Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

26     And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

John 14.6:     “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

I have shown from scripture the life of an unsaved person as being a life lived in one dominion and the Christian’s life lived in another dominion. I call them dominions because they are obviously not countries, but are different realms. Therefore, two people in the same family can be in two entirely different dominions, with one heaven-bound and the other Hell-bound, with one living in a dominion of life, obedience, truth, holiness, and illumination, while the other lives in a dominion of death, deviancy, denial, defilement, and delusion.

You do not really do anything to become a citizen in either one of these dominions. After all, what did you have to do with your own conception and birth? Likewise, you have little to do with your new birth, John 1.12-13:

12     But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13     Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Here you sit on a Sunday evening, already a citizen of the dominion of damnation, already condemned to Hell, already caught up in death, deviancy, denial, defilement, and delusion. Condemned by God for your sin against Him, your only hope of salvation is to enter in through the Door Who is the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved from your sins, to be made a citizen of His dominion and to have heaven as your home. That takes place when you come to faith in Jesus Christ.



[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 548.

[2] Ephesians 2.19

[3] Sakae Kubo, A Beginner’s Guide For The Translation Of New Testament Greek, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1975), 189.

[4] John 3.3, 5

[5] Revelation 3.10; 6.10; 13.6, 14 (twice); 14.6



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