A COLONY OF HEAVEN
By Larry White
August 26, 1984
The Bible word 'conversation' (KJV) is from the Greek word POLITEUMA where we get such words as 'politics' and 'political'. It referred to the condition or life of a citizen; citizenship; the status of a member of a certain group or colony. This is the word used in Phil. 3:20.
Philippi was a Roman colony. A Roman colony is described by an ancient writer as a miniature likeness of the Roman people with Roman laws and magistrates and other officials, but in a foreign land. That's why Paul's Roman citizenship carried such weight when he was arrested and beaten in Philippi, (Acts 16). Here in the Philippian letter he is addressing people in a Roman colony from the Roman metropolis – a citizen to citizens. So he uses the word that would go along with their political status and privileges as figurative of their heavenly calling. In 3:20 he says, "For our conversation is in heaven.." or you could translate it, "For the commonwealth of which we are citizens has its fixed location in heaven." (Wuest) That's where our "political" loyalties are. Even though we are in a foreign land for a season, we share in the customs, laws and privileges of our true home, our heavenly country. Think about what some of your privileges are.
This citizenship, along with privileges, carries responsibilities also. Paul says in Phil.1:27, "Only let you conversation (the manner of life of a citizen) be as it becomes the gospel of Christ." The context seems to be referring to the stand we take as citizens of God's kingdom against the ungodly practices of the world. The conduct becoming of the gospel is a holy or sanctified stand against sin and error. A true citizen of heaven will be holy and separate from sinners; not partaking of the fleshly lusts of the world, but walking as Jesus walked – the first citizen of heaven. Jesus also never allowed error to be maintained in his presence. As citizens we should not allow ourselves to be compromised by false teaching, but stand for the revealed will of God only. We can maintain this attitude by remembering where our loyalty lies.
When Olympic athletes from the U.S. compete for awards in another country, they must carry themselves with the stature that is befitting our great country. They are emissaries of our nation representing us to the world. They must keep this in mind and remember that they are not just athletes, but Americans. Their conduct should become their heritage.
This word teaches us that Christians are citizens of heaven, having a heavenly origin, and a heavenly destiny, with the responsibility of living a heavenly life on this earth in the midst of an ungodly world, telling others of our hope. The Church as a "colony" of heaven is to live heavenly lives representing our King. We should live as citizens. For our citizenship is in heaven.