Philippians 3. 20, 21 (1)

Malcolm Horlock, Cardiff, Wales

Part 1 of 2 of the series Philippians 3. 20, 21

The purpose of these two articles is to provide an exposition of the closing verses of Philippians 3. It should be noted at the outset that there is no justification for placing verses 18 and 19 in parenthesis as in the Authorised Version. The teaching of verse 20 follows on naturally from verse 19.

"For". Paul had just spoken of some whose minds were set on "earthly things", v.19. The Christian stands in marked contrast to such men; his proper concerns and interests are directed not towards earth but towards heaven, v.20.

"Our conversation". The word ren­dered "conversation" is related to the Greek words for "city" and "citizen". This particular noun does not occur again in the New Testament, although its kindred verb is found in 1.27 ("conversation"). See too an associated word in Acts 22.28; "I obtained this citizenship with a great sum", lit. The expression should probably be trans­ lated "Our citizenship" as in the Re­vised Version.

To understand Paul's meaning it is necessary to understand a tittle about Philippi itself. It was founded by, and named after, Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, in the 4th century B.C. It fell under Roman domination about 168 B.C. and was raised to the status of a military colony in 42 B.C. following the victory of Antony and Octavian over Brutus and Cassius outside its walls. Luke speci­fically noted Philippi's status as a "colony", Acts 16.12. As such it was a replica in miniature of Rome itself.

Luke drew attention also to the pride and privilege of the occupants of the city as Roman citizens. Note the words of the owners of the spirit-possessed girl, ". . .us. . . being Romans", Acts 16.21. See also the reaction of the magistrates to Paul's words, ". . . us. . . being Romans", vv. 37-39. Roman citizenship counted for a lot at Philippi!

Against this background, the apostle points "the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi", 1.1, to a more important and exalted citizenship. Their (the word "our" is emphatic by position) citizenship lay in heaven!

The citizens of Philippi had heir names enrolled on the register of Rome. The believers at Philippi had their names in the book of life, 4.3; cf. Luke 10.20. The citizens of Philippi owed their allegiance to Caesar as Lord in the far off city of Rome. The Christians at Philippi owed allegiance only to Jesus as Lord in heaven itself.

'"Is". This is not taken from the common Greek verb "to be". The Greek word used (huparcko) lays stress on the actual existence of the Christian's heavenly citizenship. It occurs also in 2.6 and could well be translated "sub­sists". The heavenly "civic status" of the Philippian saints was no delusion or dream.

"In heaven". One of the best com­mentaries on this section is chapter 5 of The Epistle to Diognetus, an anonymous Christian work of about 150 A.D. The following is an extract.

"For Christians are not disting­uished from the rest of mankind either in locality or in speech or in customs. For they dwell not somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor practise an extraordinary kind of life . . . But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvellous, and confessedly contra­ dicts expectation.

They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships . . . They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh. Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven."

We too are called to be "strangers (those who live in a community but whose citizenship is somewhere else) and pilgrims (those who have no set­ tled or permanent residence and are just passing through)", 1 Pet. 2.11. "Seek the things above, where Christ is, silting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not the things on the earth", Col. 3.1, 2 lit.

"From whence also". That is, "out of which (ie. heaven) also".

"We look for". The Greek word (apekdechomai) is not found in the LXX and occurs only rarely in secular Greek. It occurs six times, however, in the writings of Paul, It indicates "eagerly expecting and waiting for". Is this our attitude to the prospect of our Lord's return?

There are 10 articles in
ISSUE (1985, Volume 36 Issue 6)

Behold the Lamb

Elijah (O. T.), Elias (N. T.), 1 Kings 17. 18; James 5. 16-18

Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities

Help from Haggai, Verses 1. 12-15; 2. 1-9

Jottings from John’s First Epistle (Paper 4)

A Luminary

Philippians 3. 20, 21 (1)

Presenting the Body, Romans 12.1-2

Purpose, Predestination, Pleasure, Praise, 1. 1-14

Responsibility: God’s or Ours?

There are 2 articles in this series

Philippians 3. 20, 21 (1)

Philippians 3. 20, 21 (2)

There are 71 articles by this author

1 Corinthians 14 (1)

1 Corinthians 14 (2)

1 Corinthians 14 (3)

1 Corinthians 15-16 (1)

The Coming of the Son of Man (3)

1 Corinthians 15-16 (3)

1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 15-16 (2)

So much Better than the Angels (2)

1 Corinthians 12

Isaiah saw His Glory and spoke of Him

So much Better than the Angels (1)

The Coming of the Son of Man (2)

The Coming of the Son of Man (1)

Jacob at Bethel (1)

Jacob at Bethel (2)

1 Corinthians 8 (1)

The Temptations of the Lord

1 Corinthians 8 (2)

All Things Work Together for Good

A Bird’s-Eye View of Philippians

What about Gambling?

What about Television?

Christ our Forerunner, Hebrews 6. 18-20

Philippians 3. 20, 21 (2)

Absalom and Christ

My Responsibility to Civil Authorities

He Shall Be Called a Nazarene (1)

He Shall be Called a Nazarene (2)

The Gift Laid at the Altar

Possessed and Possessing

This is our God - Introduction, Isaiah 25. 9

This is our God - The God of Unlimited Power and Authority (1)

This is our God - The God of Unlimited Power and Authority (2)

This is our God - The God of Holiness

This is our God - The Eternal God

This is our God - The Presence of God (1)

This is our God - The Presence of God (2)

Which Church?

Lessons in Service

Philippians 3. 20, 21 (1)

1 Corinthians 9-10 (1)

1 Corinthians 9-10 (2)

1 Corinthians 9-10 (3)

The Church in Ephesus

1 Corinthians 9-10 (4)

1 Corinthians 11 (1)

1 Corinthians 11 (2)

1 Corinthians 11 (3)

Cyril Hocking

The Seven Golden Lampstands (1)

The Seven Golden Lampstands (2)

God and the Gospel

His Own Son

The Lamb and the ‘Beast’

The Parable of the Good Samaritan - Part 1

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant - Part 1

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

The Parable of the Good Samaritan - Part 2

Thy Shield and Exceeding Great Reward

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant - Part 2

The Parable of the Workers in Vineyard - Part 1

The Parable of the Workers in Vineyard - Part 2

The Parable of the Unjust Steward - Part 1

Our Lord’s Outststretched Hands

The Parable of the Unjust Steward - Part 2

The Parable of the Pounds - Part 1

The Parable of the Pounds - Part 2

The Parable of the Unprofitable Servant

Miracles and the Revelation of God

Miracles and the Revelation of God - Part 2