The Marks of the Citizen of Heaven (Mike Riccardi)

Philippians 3:20–21   |   Sunday, December 15, 2013   |   Code: 2013-12-15-MR



One of the great blessings in a preacher’s life is the privilege of immersing himself in the text of Scripture as he studies and prepares to benefit his congregation by proclaiming the Word of God to them. Pastor John’s recent comments about never being in greater and more intimate communion with the Holy Spirit than when you’re wholly given over to studying His Word have definitely shown to be true in my life, even in just this short time since the Lord has given me the privilege of preaching regularly to this precious group of saints. The text of Scripture is just so rich—seemingly limitless as you immerse yourself in its context and dedicate yourself to tracing the author’s thoughts after him, following his argument, and bringing out of the text what he intended to communicate to God’s people. It’s an absolute joy.


This past week I was talking to a friend of mine from back home about this very thing—preaching and preparation and study—and I was talking about what a joy and a privilege it is to proclaim God’s Word to God’s people. But we were also talking about how challenging the process can be. Precisely because the text is so rich and so limitless, you can amass an enormous amount of information, and meditate on so many different things, that it always seems to prove to be a real challenge to coherently arrange all of that material in a way that will be faithful to the author’s intention, and helpful, understandable, and digestible to you, the people of God. It’s important for you to know that it is not the task of the expositor to read a text of Scripture, and then run off in 15 different directions in a sermon, running down every rabbit trail that we might see in the text. There may be many good, and sound, and truthful things that could be mentioned as one preaches a particular text. But the expositor’s job is to discover the particular point that the author wants to make, and to basically follow in his footsteps to make the point of the text the point of that sermon—seeking to arrange all of those details in a way that elucidates and supports that main point.


Rick Holland used to compare a text of Scripture to a majestic crown. And he likened the various elements of truth in a particular text to the many gems and precious stones that adorned that crown. And anyone admiring the majesty of that crown would be right to linger upon any one of those jewels and give their attention to it. But he likened the main point of the text to the crown jewel—that dominant stone that outshined and seemed to give life and luster to all the other stones. And he taught us that the preacher’s task was to discover the crown jewel of a text and work hard to make that crown jewel the point of the sermon. It’s not that we are to ignore the other gems; we’re just to display those gems in keeping with their relationship to the crown jewel.


And so the true expositor takes the main point of the text for the main point of the sermon. And what that inevitably means is there will be sometimes when certain glorious jewels will be skimmed over in a sermon, in order for the preacher to truly submit his ideas to the Word of God. But sometimes it’s good to revisit a text to meditate further on those smaller but nevertheless magnificent gems over which we would have liked to linger longer, if there was only enough time. And that is especially the case with the text we studied together last time.


Several weeks ago, we looked at Philippians chapter 3 verse 17 through chapter 4 verse 1, a sermon I entitled, “Gospel-Driven Holiness: The Heavenly Citizen’s Pursuit.” And we observed in that sermon how Paul sought to protect the Philippians from the heresy of antinomianism—that perversion of the Gospel that denies that the believer, trusting in the external, alien righteousness of Christ for salvation, has to make progress in practical righteousness in this life. In verses 18 and 19, Paul draws attention to the bad example that the Philippians had in the sensualists, who had become “enemies of the cross” by their habitually persisting in their sinful lifestyle. These were people who professed to follow Christ, but who denied Him by their profligate and undisciplined life.


And so against that bad example, Paul exhorted the Philippians to follow his example of pressing on with all his might toward the goal of increasing Christlikeness. He denies, against yet another false teaching, that perfection can ever be achieved in this life. But that doesn’t stop him from pursuing such a goal with everything he has. Look at chapter 3 verse 12: “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” And then he says, in verse 17, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”


And then, after contrasting his example with the poor example of the sensualists, in verses 20 and 21 Paul gives two reasons why we must follow his example of pressing on in holiness. The first has to do with our present position. We are citizens of heaven, he says in verse 20. And we spoke about how masterful it was for the Apostle Paul to use that metaphor of citizenship with the Philippians. I reminded you that Philippi was a colony of Rome, and that citizens of Philippi enjoyed all the rights and privileges of Roman citizenship, just as if they had been born in the capital of the empire itself. And they gloried in this. They spoke the Romans’ language, they copied the Romans’ architecture, and they even adopted the way the Romans dressed. They knew what it meant for everything in their lives to be shaped by a kingdom which they were citizens of but were not presently living in.


And so Paul tells them, “Just as Philippi is a colony of Rome, whose citizens would exemplify all the distinctive aspects of Roman life and culture in the distant province of Macedonia (cf. Fee, 379), in the same way—and in fact in an infinitely greater way—your truest citizenship is in heaven, dear Philippians, and so you must exemplify all the distinctive holiness of heavenly life in this distant province we call planet earth.” And the same is true for us, GraceLife. Our names are presently enrolled on the register of citizens in heaven. And so no matter the bad examples of professing believers persisting in patterns of sinfulness, our lives must be ruled and governed by the laws of the land of our citizenship—which is of course marked in every way by holiness and purity of life. And so in the everyday, daily battles with sin, when we’re confronted with temptation, part of our fight must be to take every thought captive and preach to ourselves, “That is not who I am. It is not who I have been recreated in Christ to be! I am a citizen of heaven. I will not yield to that temptation! I am dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11)!


And then Paul gives a second reason for following his example of the zealous pursuit of holiness. He switches from our present position to our future hope. Paul tells us that, not only are we presently citizens of heaven, but that we look forward to the return of Christ our Savior, and to the marvelous destiny of a resurrected, glorified body! And Paul’s argument is basically this: that if you’re body is destined to be purged from all sin, and to be transformed into conformity with the body of Christ’s glory, then we ought not to surrender our bodies as the willing instruments of unrighteousness! And so, in light of such a glorious present position and such a glorious future hope, we ought to stand firm, chapter 4 verse 1, against all temptations to slacken in our pursuit of holiness, and make every effort to press on in the race of the Christian life.


But in the process of tracing that splendid line of reasoning from the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—in the process of admiring that majestic crown jewel—there were some dazzling gems that we had to pass by much too quickly. And so this morning I’d like to spend some more time in this text—and particularly in verses 20 and 21 of chapter 3—and dig a little deeper into the marvelous truths that are contained here.


Let’s read verses 20 and 21 again together. Paul writes, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”


And this morning I want to draw your attention to three gems of biblical truth that are on display in this text—three precious stones on this crown that so marvelously display the crown jewel of pursuing Christian holiness, but whose brilliance and glory are deserving of admiration in their own right. And those three gems really amount to three characteristics of the heavenly citizen. And as we reflect upon these three attributes that mark the citizen of heaven, my prayer is that we will be more fully equipped to conduct our lives as citizens in a manner worthy of the Gospel (cf. 1:27).


I. The Heavenly Citizen’s Posture: Eagerly Anticipation (v. 20)


And that first characteristic of the heavenly citizen that I want to focus on this morning is, number one: the heavenly citizen’s posture. And we find that in verse 20. Paul writes, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior….”


This word that gets translated “eagerly wait for” in the New American Standard is the Greek word apekdechomai. It’s a very strong, very rare compound word—made up of the normal word for “to wait,” with a preposition added to the front of it to intensify it. One commentator said it describes “an eager anticipation with patience.” And so we learn that the heavenly citizen’s posture is one of eager anticipation. The heavenly citizen eagerly anticipates the return of his Savior.


The great 19th-century Scottish expositor, Alexander MacLaren, said it this way. He wrote, “The eagerness of the waiting which should characterize the expectant citizens is wonderfully described by the Apostle’s expression for it, which literally means ‘to look away out’ … like a sentry on the walls of a besieged city whose eyes are ever fixed on the pass amongst the hills through which the relieving forces are to come.” We usually think of “waiting” and “anticipation” as being passive endeavors. But as MacLaren’s illustration suggests, this eager anticipation is the active fastening of one’s gaze and attention on a dearly desired end. In fact, the force of this word is so active that one commentator described it as “eager pursuit” (Fee, 380). And that only reminds us of Paul’s earlier illustration in verses 12 to 14, of the runner of the Christian race who ever fixes his gaze upon the finish line, and by constantly focusing on the goal, he draws strength to press on in the present.


And the believer’s active, eager, enthusiastic anticipation of the return of Christ is emphasized throughout the New Testament. In Galatians 5:5, Paul describes the Christian as one who “through the Spirit, by faith…eagerly wait[s] for the hope of righteousness” (ESV). In his opening words to the Corinthians, he commends them for not lacking in any spiritual gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:7) In 1 Thessalonians 1:9 and 10, this is how Paul defines a Christian: one who “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven….” And of course, in that section of the believer’s future hope in Romans 8, in verse 23, Paul says, “…even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” And then in 2 Timothy 4:8, as Paul prepares himself to go to his execution, he looks forward to his heavenly reward and says, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” That is what a Christian is, in Paul’s mind: one who loves Christ’s appearing.


So what does that look like? What does it mean, practically, to be one who loves and longs for Christ’s appearing? To eagerly await the return of our Savior from heaven?


A. Reflection and Meditation


Well, it means, first, that we make the return of Christ a consistent theme of our reflection and meditation. It means that we give ourselves to the task of treasuring up and memorizing key passages of Scripture that speak about Christ’s return and the promises of blessing at His coming, and filling our minds with thoughts of that glorious time. It means a fervent devotion to praying that He would come, just as those Scriptures speak about. One of the most common prayers of my own heart is that Jesus would come to set up His kingdom on the earth, so that all the earth might know and worship Him as He is worthy of. And in such prayer and meditation, we seek to actively cultivate our affections for that day. We tune our hearts to longing to have Him with us, to longing to receive those blessed and magnificent promises upon which we have fixed our hope, and just to delighting in the fact that He will one day be honored by all creation in the way that He deserves!


B. A Steady Focus


And a mark of that eager anticipation is a steady focus. I’ve mentioned this already, but the heavenly citizen does not only eagerly anticipate Christ’s coming at certain allotted times. That is his constant and steady focus. In a few days, Janna and I will be traveling back to New Jersey to spend the holidays with our family. And preparing for that trip while meditating on this concept of eagerly awaiting Christ’s return has reminded me of my in-laws’ dog, Sammy. Sammy is a collie-shepherd mix, and so he’s big and tall, and he absolutely cannot contain himself when he knows that someone is about to come home. Before you even pull your car into the driveway, Sammy knows you’re coming. And—my in-laws have a little chest that sits under the front window—and when Sammy hears that car, he props his two front legs onto that chest, shoulders broadened, and eyes fixed on that car. And let me tell you something: he will not move! From the moment you pull up, to the time you get out of the car, to when you walk up to the door, he is absolutely fastened upon you. And if you mess with him, like I tend to do, and just sort of stop and wait and stare back at him, he will bark at you, as if to say, “Come on! I’m waiting for you!”

And friends that is a wonderful picture of the believer’s eager anticipation of Christ! The Bible tells us that we are living in the last days—that Christ is coming quickly—that He is, if you will, pulling into the driveway! And no matter what may seek to distract us from Him and His coming, our steady focus must be on that day! And even if it should seem like He’s delaying Himself a bit, that should only be an occasion for us to “bark,” as it were—to cry out in prayer for Him to come all the more quickly!


C. Joy


A third mark of that eager anticipation is joy. Steady and consistent reflection and meditation on Christ’s coming should make us the most joyful people on the planet! Have you ever seen a mob of people waiting for their favorite musical group, or actor, or some other celebrity to make their grand entrance at some event—a concert, the red carpet, or what have you? Well if you have, you’ve not seen a passively resigned or disinterestedly bored group! You see these people hanging all over each other, pressing on one another, getting on their tip-toes, craning their neck, trying to get a clear angle to see their favorite celebrity. And just before that person arrives, almost without fail, you see everyone in that group smiling. You see them all bubbling over with delight at the prospect of seeing that person they’re so eagerly awaiting.


Oh, and the same should be true of us, friends! We await a Savior of infinitely greater fame, of infinitely greater worthiness, of infinitely greater glory, than all of earth’s celebrities combined! And He is coming! He is almost here! Oh how great should be our joy! The Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:8, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”


D. Obedience


And finally, this eager anticipation should motivate us to obedience. If our Master is returning soon, we, the slaves of His household, ought to be on the alert! Turn briefly to Matthew 24:42. There, Jesus says, “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Verse 44: “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” But those who are unfaithful, He goes on to say, those who do not expect his master’s return and therefore plunges himself into sin and evil deeds, his master will not return and commend him as a good and faithful servant, but will bring him to a wretched end.


Friends, the Lord is coming quickly! And we don’t know when exactly He’s coming. And therefore we must be on the alert at all times. Alexander MacLaren says again, “If we are sure that a given event will come sometime and do not know when it may come, surely the wise man is he who thinks to himself it may come any time, and not he who treats it as if it would come at no time. … [Such anticipation] will stimulate all energies in pressing towards the goal, and will turn away our eyes from the trivialities and the transiences that press upon us,” and fix them upon the Savior (emphases added).


And I can’t improve upon the words of Spurgeon. He says, “Brethren, Jesus is coming! He is even now on the way. You have heard our tidings till you scarcely credit us, but the Word of God is true and it will surely be fulfilled before long. The Lord is coming, indeed! He promised to come to die and He kept His Word—He now promises to come to reign and you may be sure that He will keep His tryst with His people. He is coming! Ears of faith can hear the sound of His chariot wheels! Every moment of time, every event of Providence is bringing Him nearer. Blessed are those servants who shall not be sleeping when He comes, nor wandering from their posts of duty! Happy shall they be whom their Lord shall find faithfully watching and standing fast in that great day!”


And so, as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we are to be characterized by the posture of eager anticipation.


II. The Heavenly Citizen’s Prize: The Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 20)


But notice, secondly, not only the heavenly citizen’s posture, but also, number two: the heavenly citizen’s prize. What is it that we are eagerly waiting for? What is the prize upon which we have set our hope? Well, we learn at the end of verse 20 that it is not a “what” at all, but a “who.” Paul says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”


And the first thing that I want to bring your attention to there, is that the heavenly citizen’s prize is a Person. All of the Christian’s hope—all of our eager anticipation that we just spoke about—its proper object is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even at the stage of redemption that is glorification, we are taught that the greatest and most ultimate gift of the Gospel is fellowship and relationship with Christ Himself!


And we need to hear and heed this lesson, friends, because there are too many professing Christians who are happy to long for the return of Christ because their hope is set upon the benefits that His coming will bring them: freedom from sin, pain, and suffering; escape from punishment; reunion with lost loved ones in heaven. And while all those saving benefits are good things—things that should be hoped for—they are not ultimate. And without the prize that is ultimate, none of those things truly are benefits. Friends, Jesus is the heavenly citizen’s prize. We eagerly anticipate His coming because we want Him!


And you need to ask yourself if that’s true of you. Do you want Him, most deeply? Do you long for and pine after the Second Coming of Christ because you want Him? Or is He just the ticket to bigger and better things? Is He a stepping stone that you use to worship what you really love? Dear friends, if all Jesus is to you is a means to some greater end, then He is not your God; that more-greatly-desired end is your god, and you need to repent. All of the glorious promises of God and the blessings of Christ are wrapped up in the Person of Christ. And the one who has truly been a beneficiary of His redemptive work—the one who has truly experienced the new birth and has the divine lifeblood pulsing, as it were, through his spiritual veins—that one is he who loves the Person of Jesus Christ. So much is this the case that Paul could write in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.” And then, the very next word Paul writes is, “Maranatha.” “Come, Lord Jesus!”


And so the heavenly citizen’s prize is the Person of Jesus Christ. All of the attention here is fixed upon the One who is coming. But notice that He is described here particularly in terms of His relationship to us as Savior. “From Heaven we eagerly wait for a Savior.” And what a blessed reality that we may relate to the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior at His coming! There will be many on that day who meet Him as Judge. Scripture describes Christ the Judge as a warrior whose robe is dipped in blood, out of whose mouth comes a sharp sword to strike down the nations and rule them with a rod of iron, whose feet are as burnished bronze, and who treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of Almighty God (Rev 19:13–15; cf. 1:15). 2 Thessalonians 1:7–8 says, “The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” We know that the enemies of the cross who walk in unrighteousness—Philippians 3:19 tells us that their end is destruction.


Oh, but our citizenship is heaven, and from heaven, therefore, we do not fearfully dread a Judge, but we eagerly await a Savior. That same text in 2 Thessalonians 1—immediately after detailing the wretched destiny of the wicked at Christ’s coming—says that Jesus “comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.” We’re going to marvel! And in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul comforts the saints in chapter 5 verse 9, saying, “God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.” That is our great hope. We eagerly await a Savior.


And who is that Savior? It is, back again in Philippians 3:20: the “the Lord, Jesus Christ.” And I can’t resist commenting here on the juxtaposition of the titles, “Savior” and “Lord” with regard to Jesus. This is just brilliant on the part of the Apostle Paul. These Greek words Soter and Kúrios, used in such close quarters with the word citizenship, would have sounded extraordinarily subversive to a first-century Greco-Roman audience. In the Philippians’ world, the only citizenship that counted was Roman citizenship. And the titles of Soter and Kúrios were used exclusively to refer to the Roman Emperor. The confession, Kúrios Kaisar, “Caesar is Lord,” was the identifying confession of a Roman citizen. And a common title for Caesar was “the Savior of the World” (Fee, 381n25).


And so Paul is telling the Philippians, in no uncertain terms, that their heavenly citizenship matters infinitely more than their Roman citizenship, because whatever the claims of Caesar may be, Jesus Christ is Lord, and He is the Savior on whom we set our hope. And the same is true for us: no matter what hostile governing body may have power over our bodies, Jesus is the Lord of our hearts! And even if they were to destroy our bodies for our devotion to Christ, from heaven we eagerly wait for a Savior, who will raise our mortal bodies from the dead, and transform our bodies into conformity with the body of His glory! Oh, what a fearless people we ought to be! What a boldly evangelistic people we should be! The worst they can do to us is kill us, and we serve a Lord who will raise us from the dead, by the exertion of the same power, verse 21 says, that He has even to subject all things to Himself!


III. The Heavenly Citizen’s Prospect: Glorification (v. 21)


And that brings us to the third characteristic that marks the citizen of heaven. We have seen that the heavenly citizen’s posture is one of eager anticipation. And we have seen the heavenly citizen’s prize is the Savior Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. And now we come, number three, to the heavenly citizen’s prospect. And that we find in verse 21, where Paul says that the Lord Jesus Christ “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” In a word, the heavenly citizen’s prospect is glorification.


Glorification is that final stage in the process of redemption when Christ (a) raises the bodies of all believers from the dead and reunites those bodies with their souls, and (b) instantly changes the bodies of all believers who are alive at His coming into a perfect, sin-free body, even like His own (cf. Grudem, 829). John Murray describes glorification as “the complete and final redemption of the whole person, when in the integrity of body and spirit, the people of God will be conformed to the image of the risen, exalted, and glorified Redeemer,” and then he quotes our text: “…when the very body of their humiliation will be conformed to the body of Christ’s glory” (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 175).


That phrase, “the body of their humiliation,” is another way of translating the phrase that the New American Standard renders, “the body of our humble state.” Paul does not by these words in any way demean the body, as if the physical body was evil in itself. No, that was the teaching of certain pagan religious philosophers of the day, but not of biblical Christianity. I mentioned last time that Adam and Eve were created perfectly by God, in His image, as a body-and-soul entity. And so “the body of our humiliation” has nothing to do with some supposed inherent sinfulness of the body. Rather, it refers to our bodies, which are presently marked by the humiliation caused by sin—always characterized by weakness, physical decay, indignity, sickness and suffering, and the ultimate humiliation of death. And of course, the body, though not inherently sinful in itself, is too often the instrument of our sinful acts—the vehicle through which we gratify our sinful desires (cf. Rom 6:13). And knowing that that which should be set apart and consecrated as the temple of the Holy Spirit is nevertheless presented to sin as an instrument of unrighteousness causes it all the more to be regarded as “the body of our humiliation.” And so in this body we groan, calling out, “Who will save me from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24; cf. 8:23).


And the answer we receive in this text is that the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ is coming! And He’s not coming to rescue you out of your body, so you can live as a disembodied spirit in some ethereal existence for all eternity. He’s not coming to replace your body, as if He could only redeem part of you. No, He is coming to transform your present, lowly, sin-sick body into conformity with the body of His own glory!


What will these glorified bodies be like? Well, I want you to turn with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 15. In that great chapter, Paul is defending the bodily resurrection from the dead against those in Corinth who denied it. And towards the end of the chapter he gives us insight into the nature of our glorified, resurrection bodies, in contrast with our natural bodies.


A. Perishable vs. Imperishable


First, they will be imperishable. Look at verse 42: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body.” Our resurrection body will not be subject to the corruption and decay that our present bodies are subject to. They won’t grow old. They won’t wear out. They won’t contract any sickness or disease. We have every reason to believe that in the eternal state our bodies will show no signs of aging, “but will have the characteristics of youthful but mature manhood or womanhood forever” (Grudem, 832).


B. Dishonorable vs. Glorious


Second, they will be glorious. Verse 43: “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.” And it’s hard to capture all of the implications of what it means to for a body to be glorious. I believe it means that they will be attractive and free from shame. Why? Well, 1 Corinthians 12:23 talks about the members of our bodies that we deem “less honorable,” or, we could say, as it says here, “dishonorable.” But our resurrection bodies will not be characterized by dishonor in any way. Every part of them will be glorious.


C. Weakness vs. Power


Third, they will be strong and powerful. Second half of verse 43: “It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” We understand the physical limitations of our bodies, don’t we? We know what it is to be weak. In fact, there is even moral weakness that is associated with our flesh, Matthew 26:41: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is,” what? “Weak.” Not in the resurrection. Now, it’s not saying that we’re all going to be versions of the Incredible Hulk. But our glorified bodies will have all of the strength and power that God intended human beings to have when He created them apart from sin. One theologian comments, “It will therefore be strength that is sufficient to do all that we desire to do in conformity with the will of God” (Grudem, 832).


D. Natural vs. Spiritual


And fourth, our resurrection bodies will be entirely submitted to, and in perfect harmony with, the Holy Spirit. Verse 44: “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” Now, “spiritual” here, doesn’t mean “non-physical.” We know that our glorified bodies are going to be physical bodies, because Philippians 3:21 says they will be transformed into conformity with the body of His glory. And we know that Christ had a physical body! Luke makes it explicit in chapter 24 verses 36 to 43. After His resurrection, Jesus came to the disciples, and they were frightened, Luke says, because they thought they were seeing a spirit. And Luke 24:39, Jesus says, “‘See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet [which we know from John 20:25–27 still had the holes from the nails]. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them.” Disembodied spirits don’t have stomachs and digestive tracts! Jesus was raised from the dead in His body. And so will we be. But Paul’s point in saying that our body will be “spiritual” is to say that it will be a physical body fully submitted to, and in perfect harmony with, the Holy Spirit!


Friends, think of it! To have a heart undistracted and un-tempted by the deceitful lusts of sin—to have fully sanctified ambitions and truly godly aspirations—and then to have a physical body that is able to carry out those holy impulses without a moment’s distraction or weariness (cf. Martin), and enjoy the bounties of the physical creation as God designed us to enjoy! Oh friends, if that prospect doesn’t evoke worship from the very depths of your soul—if it doesn’t make you long for and cry out for His appearing—I don’t know what will! Surely if you soul has been quickened by the divine life, animated by the Holy Spirit of God, and therefore aroused to hate sin and to long for the day when that battle will be won, such a glorious prospect is the eager expectation and consummate desire of your heart!


And friends, if that is the glorious destiny of my body as it experiences such consummated salvation in Christ, how can I presently yield my body and its members as instruments to unrighteousness? With that glorious hope, I must make every effort, by the grace of God, to press on in the race of progressive sanctification!


I love the way Spurgeon puts it, as only he can: “That is what is going to happen to me and to you! Therefore let us stand fast. Let us not willfully throw away our prospects of Glory and immortality. What? Relinquish resurrection? Relinquish Heaven? Relinquish likeness to the risen Lord? O God, save us from such a terrible piece of apostasy! Save us from such immeasurable folly! Suffer us not to turn our backs in the day of battle, since that would be to turn our backs from the crown of life that fades not away!”


No wonder the Apostle John could write what he does in 1 John 3:2–3! He says, “We know that when He [Jesus] appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies. himself, just as He is pure.” That’s Paul’s conclusion back in 1 Corinthians 15. The climax of that magnificent chapter on the hope of our resurrection is this: verse 54: “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And what is the consequence—the conclusion to be drawn from such precious, worship-inspiring realities? Verse 58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”


Conclusion: Stand Firm (4:1)


And that is Paul’s conclusion in this very text. Look again at Philippians chapter 4 verse 1. He says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” Since we eagerly await the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, from heaven, and since we look forward to this magnificent hope of a resurrected and glorified body, free from sin, we must stand firm in our pursuit of holiness.


In a sermon on this text, Spurgeon tells the story of the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo, when the great conqueror Napoleon Bonaparte attacked the armies of England and Prussia. As the battle was raging, a British officer sent word to Wellington, saying, “Tell the Commander-in-Chief that he must move me; I cannot hold my position any longer, my numbers are so thinned.” And the word came back from the great Commander: “Tell him he must hold his place! Every Englishman today must die where he stands, or else win the victory!” And Spurgeon comments, “The officer read the command to stand, and he did stand till the trumpet sounded victory! And so it is now. My Brothers and Sisters, we must die where we are rather than yield to the enemy! If Jesus tarries, we must not desert our posts!”


Against every attack of sin and Satan, against every bad example from immoral men and women who falsely claim the name of Christ, and against every voice calling for you to slacken—to lighten up, and relax, and “don’t take this holiness thing so seriously”—you remember that this world is not your home, that you are a citizen of heaven. And like a good soldier, you hold your ground.