Posted by: Heather | September 10, 2008

citizenship in heaven

My most recent studying has been in the New Testament book of Philippians. Last Sunday our small fellowship began a series of working through the book and it was my honor to present an introduction to the book. (nothing like a homework assignment to make you study)

So, the intro went something like this:

The book of Philippians was written by the Apostle Paul from “prison” in Rome in about AD 60 to 62. I put prison in quotes because he was actually under house arrest as mentioned in the last chapter of Acts. (This was an earlier imprisonment than the one mentioned in 2Tim.) During this time Paul was confined to a house, and chained to a Roman guard at all times, but he was rather comfortable and was able to receive guests. He used this time to preach from his home. The book of Philippians was written at about the same time as the books of Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon.

The book of Philippians was written to the church in Philippi. Philippi was a gentile city of some influence in the Roman world. It was located at the north end of the Agean Sea in Macedonia. The city was named for King Phillip II (the father of Alexander the Great) Julius Caesar granted special rights to the city of Philippi, essentially making the citizens of Philippi Roman citizens as well. I think this citizenship is a key to understanding the book of Philippians.

We can read about Paul’s introduction to the recipients of the letter in Acts 16. (this story occurs in about AD 50 or 51 – about 10 years prior to the writing of Philippians) In Acts 16 Paul was responding to the direction of God in his dream of the Macedonian man asking him to come and help them. When they got to Philippi, there were apparently very few Jews there, because rather than go to the synagogue as was his normal practice, he went to a place of prayer near the river. This is because there was apparently no synagogue. (if there were 10 practicing Jewish households, there would have been a synagogue, I am told) Lydia is converted, and Paul begins to minister to people. As he is doing this, a demon possessed girl who could tell fortunes began to follow him and proclaim that these men knew the way to salvation. It is notable to me that while demons in these types of situations have correct theology, they are not allowed to speak. (Jesus shut them up as well in his ministry) Paul turns after a time and casts the demon out, but this causes her handlers to lose their livelihood. They get Paul and Silas arrested, beaten, and thrown into prison. Paul and Silas praise God from prison and there was an earthquake which opened the doors of the prison. At this point the jailer is converted. The next day when the city officials try to run them out of town in disgrace, Paul does something that he only did one other time on record. He accesses the privileges of Roman citizenship, and this changes everything.

Paul and Silas demonstrated the power of God in their lives in this visit. Not a power that necessarily changed their circumstances (they were still beaten and thrown in prison) but it enabled them to rejoice in spite of the circumstances.

I believe this is the backdrop we must keep in mind when studying Philippians. Philippians has 4 themes that keep occurring.
The theme of confidence (verse 1:6 -God will finish what he starts, 1:18 – Christ is preached, and I rejoice, 1:28 – no fear of opposition, 3:3 – no confidence in the flesh, 4:1-9 – the key to personal conflicts between fellow soldiers is that we are confident that the Lord is at hand, he sees, hears, and knows, I don’t need to fight you.)
The theme of joy and rejoicing (mentioned 16 times in 4 chapters) – Rejoice in Christ
The theme of contentment
And the theme of peace.

The key that ties these together is that (3:20) our citizenship is in heaven. The Philippians were Greeks with Greek heritage, however, they enjoyed a citizenship to another kingdom that allowed them to live differently than other Greeks. We enjoy a citizenship from another kingdom that allows us to have confidence that God will finish what he started in us. Our Joy is to be in our Lord and King, Jesus Christ. He will supply everything we need, so why would we worry or be discontented? He is the God of Peace (4:9). These traits of God do me no good if I am not a part of his kingdom.

So, these are my thoughts about Philippians at this point. Finally my brothers (and sisters) Rejoice in Christ!! (Phil. 3:1)





  1. Hey Craig,Nice to have a fellow blogger who likes to blog on scripture. Boring to most probably, but I don’t get enough of it. I liked some of the stuff you explained about Phillipians I did not know…I love the book. He says some of the most incredible things, and all while being in chains! Keep posting!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: