For our conversation is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:…
1. By using this metaphor the apostle appealed to one of the strongest and purest feelings in the breasts of the men of that day. In modern times it is scarcely possible to appreciate the full force of such an appeal. One city will never again exert the influence of Rome, nor kindle a similar enthusiasm. Citizenship will never again be what it was in Rome. As a mother beloved her citizens cared for her, were proud of their connection with her, would spill their blood in her defence. For services endured, to enter Rome in triumph was the highest honour; to be banished for offences against her, the deepest disgrace. All that was worth living and dying for was implied in citizenship. It spoke of privileges to be preserved, traditions to be maintained, glory to be kept untarnished.
2. Such an appeal was appropriately made to the Philippians. Philippi was a military settlement (colonia), and its inhabitants had the privileges of Roman citizens. Here, too, it was that Paul stood on his dignity and right (Acts 16:17). Possibly the remembrance of these facts suggested the metaphor, though it would come naturally from the apostle writing from Rome.
I. The metaphor would suggest CERTAIN TESTS BY WHICH A CITIZEN OF THE HEAVENLY CITY MAY BE DISTINGUISHED FROM A MERE CITIZEN OF THE WORLD. A good citizen —
1. Will conform to the laws of his city. Are we obeying the laws of heaven?
2. Will oppose the enemies of his city. Are we fighting against sin, or are we at peace with evil?
3. Will be active and zealous in all that concerns the welfare and advancement of his city. Is the petition, "Thy kingdom come" an utterance of the lips only, or the acted prayer of our lives?
4. Will subordinate private and personal interests to the interests of his city. Are our lives characterized by self-seeking or self-surrender?
5. Will fear to disgrace the good name and honourable tradition of his city. Do we behave as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ? (Philippians 1:27).
II. The metaphor may remind us of THE NATURE OF THE EARTHLY LIFE. It is a pilgrimage. Man has not reached that perfect home where his full powers can be developed and exercised, and his loftiest expectations realized. The noblest of all ages have felt this. The "Republic" of Plato is an acknowledgment of it, while the testimony of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs is unanimous (Hebrews 11:13-16, cf. Genesis 43:9; 1 Corinthians 29:15; Psalm 29:12; 119:19; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 Peter 2:11). Pilgrims may admire the varied beauty, and enjoy the richness and fertility of the lands through which they pass, but their thoughts and deepest affections will be homewards. They will live in a condition of expectancy, which will determine the character of all their relations to the land of their sojourn. So the citizens of heaven, while thanking God for every good and perfect gift, will nevertheless regard all earthly beauty, richness, and joy but as a type of the spiritual things which God has prepared for those who love Him in the perfect city which "eye hath not seen," etc.
Parallel VersesKJV: For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: