Therefore, my brothers dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.…
Celestial citizenship, "other-worldliness," as it has been called, should have a further issue than the expectation of the advent. It should have practical issues in a life of great peace and joy. It is, therefore, to such a life Paul calls his Philippian converts. Let us look at the interesting details.
I. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP CALLS FOR UNITY AND COOPERATION IN THE WORK OF THE LORD. (Vers. 1-3.) Nothing is so productive of unity as our assurance that we are citizens of the same heaven. Why should compatriots fall out in this distant land? Should we not bury our differences and march forward shoulder to shoulder? Euodias and Syntyche must be of the same mind in the Lord. The workers male and female at Philippi are cordially to co-operate. They ought to be a united band. As heaven overarches us all and unifies the population of the globe, so should the thought of our celestial citizenship make all one. For in heaven there shall be no divisions and vexations. The brotherhood shall never there be broken. For unbroken brotherhood, therefore, we should long and labor here.
II. CHRISTIAN CITIZENSHIP CALLS FOR JOY IN THE LORD AT ALL TIMES. (Ver. 4.) The art of enjoying life is what Christianity alone can teach us. Man's effort at first was to rejoice apart from God; to eat and enjoy the fruit, no matter what charges God had given. And this idea still haunts mankind. Prodigals and legalists imagine that they can enjoy life most away from the heavenly Father (Luke 15:11-32). But we learn a different lesson in the gospel. We learn that the Father's house is full of "music and dancing;" in other words, heaven is the home of joy - joy, too, that is everlasting. And we realize that in the Lord alone the sources of true and lasting joy are to be found. When we look to him and confide in him, then we come as citizens of heaven to rejoice in him at all times. In seasons of sorrow as well as in seasons of mirth there may be an undertone of celestial joy. Man is called to joy, not to trouble. The art is in going straight to Jesus the infinite Fountain, and in avoiding the broken cisterns that line our way.
III. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP BESPEAKS MODERATION. (Ver. 5.) It ill befits a citizen of heaven to be ostentatious and venturesome to the utmost brink of Christian liberty. Display is not the outcome or issue of a consciousness of our citizenship above. Especially when we live with the abiding persuasion of the Lord's speedy advent, all want of moderation seems out of place. In proportion as we rejoice in the Lord shall we be distinguished by moderation in our life and carriage. If God gives abundance, it is that we may manifest the spirit of moderation and never be the least intoxicated by success. Ostentation must be left to the world.
IV. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP CALLS FOR A LIFE WITHOUT CAREFULNESS. (Vers. 6, 7.) Just as in heaven the saintly souls keep nothing back from God and so live an unclouded life before him, so ought celestial citizens to live the open life with God here and be correspondingly free from care. And here it may be observed that an old divine has quaintly put our duty as expressed in these verses thus, that we should "be careful for nothing; be prayerful for everything; be thankful for anything." The result of such confidence is peace. "God's peace which passeth all understanding shall keep our hearts and minds," or, as the Revised Version has it, "shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." Freed from anxious care, why should we not be peaceful?
V. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP CALLS UPON US TO LOOK OUT FOR AND THINK UPON THE TRUE, THE HONOURABLE, THE JUST, THE PURE, THE LOVELY, THE GRACIOUS, THE MANLY, AND THE PRAISEFUL. (Ver. 8.) Now, it is truly wonderful how a joyful Christian spirit will discover upon his path, be it ever so lowly, such food for thought as is sketched for us here. It has been said with great beauty, "If we do but open our hearts at a single point, the spiritual water and blood will find an entrance, will purge our egotism and complete the sacrifice. In this confidence, 'as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,' we shall go freely on our appointed way, knowing that it may become to us a discipline of God, and that there is no way so beaten but that things true and honest, and just and lovely, may be found in it." The joyful, heaven-centred soul discerns food for meditation where others cannot find it, and moves upward upon a path of increasing light towards "the perfect day."
VI. THE GOD OF PEACE GRANTS FELLOWSHIP TO SUCH CITIZENS. (Ver. 9.) If we honestly enter upon the joyful, peaceful life of heavenly citizenship, the felt presence of God as the God of peace shall be always with us. Over the peace he has made in our once tempest-tossed hearts he will rejoice with singing, and in his love and fellowship we shall be enabled to rest. The King of the celestial country can keep his citizens company all the time they are here on earth; they are at home with God all their happy days; he takes their burdens from them and soothes them in sorrow and makes them somewhat worthy of their heavenly hopes. With such well-filled minds and hearts may we journey onward towards the fatherland above! - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.