Albert N. Martin
Eagerly awaiting Christ’s return is a distinctive characteristic of the true citizens of Heaven.
Now we turn to Philippians chapter 3. Here—in this church that was sort of Paul’s pet church in the right sense of the word—there was a peculiar bond between Paul and the Philippian church, and in this letter there are many indications of that unusual, pastoral, apostolic intimacy.
In chapter 3 he begins by warning these people of the influence of those we call ‘the Judaizers,’ those people that wanted to bring New Covenant believers back under Old Covenant rituals and ceremonies. So he says:
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not irksome, but for you it is safe. Beware of the dogs.
When you call these Judaizers—that’s what they called Gentiles: dogs, unclean creatures. He says, “You beware of the dogs. I’ll tell you who the unclean creatures are.” Beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision. Beware of those going around wielding their knife saying, “We’ve got to get you circumcised to become a full-fledged, kosher Jew!”
He says, “You beware of them. I’ll tell you who the true circumcision are.” We are the true circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh. You want to find a true Jew? Ask a man: do you worship by the Spirit of God? Do you glory in Christ? Do you put no confidence in the flesh? Those are the credentials, the spiritual credentials of a true Jew!
See, this is not the Judaizers. The Judaizers were legalists, trying to attain salvation by law. These were libertine, antinomian people. These were people who, though they professing to be Christians, still worshiped their appetites, Their god was the belly; their glory was is in their shame. They minded earthly things, and Paul says this must not be anything with which you show sympathy. Why? “For..” now he’s going to give a second reason for this warning.
For our citizenship is in Heaven, whence also we [here’s our Greek word again] eagerly wait and anticipate a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, you see the Apostle’s argument? This would have had particularly telling impact upon the Philippians. Philippi was a Roman colony. People had who had Roman citizenship settled in Philippi, and while they were in Philippi they were still very conscious of their Roman citizenship. Their true loyalty was to Roman constitution and Roman law. Paul knew that these people understood what it was like to be living in alien territory; your citizenship and your whole orientation was that not of a Greek, but of a Roman, because your citizenship was there in Rome.
Well, now he uses this play on this concept of citizenship. The politeuma, and he says that our politeuma is in heaven. We have a heavenly citizenship, and therefore we ought to live by the rules and the laws and the constitution of Heaven and of the Lord of Heaven. Our citizenship is in Heaven, and having mentioned Heaven, he then says whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Having said that your citizenship is in Heaven, notice what he says about all the citizens of Heaven. There is a distinctive characteristic of the citizens of Heaven, and what is it? He tells us.
Whence also we wait [eagerly anticipate, and patiently wait] for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Once again, the emphasis is upon Christ Himself as the focal point of their expectation, of their yearning, of their patient waiting. Eagerly awaiting, longing expecting for a Saviour, and this context—I’m not going to expound it now—that will await another message—it is in terms of the Saviour who will bring salvation to our bodies at His Second Coming. Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation. Will He do more than that? Yes, but here Paul focuses upon that dimension of our salvation, of our bodily salvation. For our purposes, we want the spotlight to fall upon the phrase from whence we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Once again we have an unqualified description of the people of God. As surely as they are citizens of Heaven, they eagerly await the return of the One whom they trust as their Saviour.
According to 2 Timothy 4:8, loving the return of Christ, not eagerly expecting, that’s not the family of Greek words that is used, but the standard word for the highest form of love agapao or agape. Loving the return of Christ has the distinctive promise of our being openly declared as righteous. According to 2 Timothy 4:8, loving the return of Christ has the distinctive promise of being openly declared as righteous.
Now we turn to 2 Timothy chapter 4. This is the last section of Paul’s last letter while here on his earthly pilgrimage. He knows that very shortly he’s going to be martyred, and so he’s bringing this final word of solemn charge to his spiritual son, Timothy. This is a passage that I often pray through on a Lord’s Day morning and try to picture this letter deposited in the chair where I read my Bible and pray on a Sunday morning, and feel afresh the solemn weight of this passage.
I charge you in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom. Timothy, keep these weighty issues constantly breathing over your shoulder as you think of your ministry in the light of these realities: God’s eye upon you, Christ Jesus the Coming Judge. Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
Then he tells him why he must do this, not only because of his accountability to God and to Christ, but because of the certainty of the erosion of a grasp upon sound doctrine.
The time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables. But be thou sober in everything, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry. Then he says, now Timothy, everything I’m telling you to do, in a very real sense he’s saying, “I want you to come to the place when your ministry is ending, that you can say with me: I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth.. This is what I have to look forward to, Timothy: There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.
After charging Timothy with his responsibilities, giving his own testimony of his soon demise, what is Paul’s confidence? His confidence is this, verse 8a: Henceforth, there is laid up for me.. It is already set aside for me, something that he calls a crown of righteousness. Now, this is metaphorical language. Paul is not looking forward to something made of olive leaves or made of gold and precious stones which is somewhere stored out amidst the galaxies in a special rewards chest, waiting the Second Coming and the Lord will haul them out and make sure that they’re the right head size, and put them on us. No. This is metaphorical language. He says, “There is a reward awaiting me,” and it has to do with righteousness. It is the crown of righteousness, something which the Lord Himself—notice the play on words—the Righteous Judge.
It’s a crown which has to do with righteousness, laid up waiting for the Righteous Judge to confer it upon me. “He shall give it to me on that day.”
Now, what is Paul talking about? Well, I believe this is what he’s talking about from the analogy of Scripture: because, by the grace of God, this proud Pharisee who once thought that his righteousness consisted in his good, Jewish bloodlines, in his proper circumcision, in all of his zeal to keep the Old Covenant law and all of the Pharisaic trappings overlaid upon it, this man had been brought to the place where he saw that all of his bloodlines and all of his religious zeal and all of this stuff was nothing but a pile of rubbish, dung, refuse!
He said it in Philippians 3, and he said, “I came to see that the only righteousness any sinner can have that will stand the gaze of the Righteous Judge—the God who sees the heart and the motives—is a righteousness alien to me. To be found in Christ, having a righteousness not of my own, but the righteousness which is of God and in Christ, and received by faith.” When that proud Pharisee repudiated all kinds of confidence in his own works, in his own performance, and cast himself upon Christ alone, He was declared righteous in the court of Heaven.
That’s what the Bible calls justification. It is a declarative act of God, that on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Christ comprised of His perfect life and His substitutionary death, God credits that righteousness to every believing sinner.
Paul says, “There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,” that is, there will be an open declaration before the entire assembled world that in Christ I have been accepted! Also, there is probably a reference to the imparted righteousness, that is, when God justifies a believing sinner who by faith has been united to Christ, God transforms that sinner, gives him a heart to be a holy man, a holy woman who though imperfectly, yet really and purposefully pursues a path of righteousness.
In the Day of Judgment, God will make it evident that when He identifies men and women in saying “they are my righteous ones,” that they not only have an imputed righteousness based on the work of Christ, but there is an evident imparted righteousness, because of their union with Christ and the transformation by the Holy Spirit.
Bible Reference: Philippians 3:1-21; 2 Timothy 4:8