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A Journey through the book of Genesiswith Willow Creek Community Church

Today's Reading

DAY 14 // CITIZENSHIP IN HEAVEN

Tyler Hoff

 

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ . . .

– Philippians 3:20 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

As chapter 3 comes to a close, Paul warns his readers about one last group of “enemies.” He writes, “For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame” (Philippians 3:18-19). There has been a fair amount of debate over what enemies Paul specifically had in mind in these verses. Some suggest Paul was referring to the same group of Judaizers that he had warned his readers about at the beginning of this chapter (Philippians 3:2). Others suggest Paul was referring to Christian libertines, followers of Jesus who thought that their freedom from the Law meant that they could indulge in all the pleasures that Roman society offered. 

At the center of the debate is what Paul meant by the phrase “their god is their stomach.” If he had Judaizers in mind, this was an allusion to their strict dietary laws. If he had Christian libertines in mind, this was an allusion to their gluttonous and promiscuous lifestyle. It could be that Paul had both groups in mind. This would explain why he is so vague. Both groups made their “stomach” into a “god.” Whatever the case may be, these enemies had “their mind . . . set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19). 

In this passage, Paul reminds his Philippian readers again that what matters is not whether they are Jews in practice, or that they are fully participating Roman citizens. As a “Hebrew of Hebrews” and a Roman citizen, Paul understood the limitations of both worlds as much as anyone (Philippians 3:5; Acts 16:37). What really mattered was that they lived as citizens of heaven because “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). 

This continues to be true for us today. We are no longer bound by the unique dietary laws that bound the people of God in the past. But our freedom from these laws does not mean that we are free to give in to every impulse of our bodies, even if we see others doing the same. Jesus wants us to discover that He is an infinitely better “God” than our “stomach,” and He’s inviting us to join Him in establishing the kingdom of heaven on earth.

An inscription at Philippi describing Augustus Caesar as divine

An inscription at Philippi describing Augustus Caesar as divine


SCRIPTURE

PHILIPPIANS 3:17–21

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. 


REFLECTION

1. Verse 18 says that Paul shed “tears” for those he criticized. Why do you think he wept
for them? Have you ever shed tears for someone in this way?

2. Around the time that this letter was written, it was common for the Roman emperor
to be referred to as “Savior” and “Lord.” What might Paul have had in mind when he
gave Jesus these titles in verse 20? In light of verse 21, what distinguishes Jesus from
Caesar, and why should we live in a way that honors Jesus with our bodies today?