The TREE OF LIFE is a weekly teaching summary. The Tree of Life for the week ending 02-11-01
Living in Our Politeuma Privilege, Part 1
What is the final destination of every member of the Royal Family, every Church-age believer?
Many believers fall by the wayside. The majority never break the maturity barrier. They never even get close to spiritual maturity and the fantastic forms of blessing that come with it.
Most Christians fall out of the plan of God long before supergrace, and will never see ultra-supergrace. There are those who will never know the great blessing of dying grace. So what happens to these children of God who fail in time? As we reach the end of Philippians chapter three, the Apostle Paul is pressing toward the objective, advancing toward ultra-supergrace. He is looking toward the intensification of the happiness and blessings reserved for him in the plan of God. However, in this passage, he is dealing with those who have rejected that plan. Therefore, God the Holy Spirit says in effect to the apostle Paul, "Stop at this point and remind even the loser believers about their eternal destiny."
We have already introduced the failures of losers in the two verses on reversionism in PHI 3:18-19. When dealing with reversionism, we must be thoroughly aware of what is meant by failure. Carnality does not mean failure because it was covered on the cross, and rebound provides instant recovery. Reversionism, however, is spiritual failure. The reversionist is a born-again believer, still a child of God, who has received Christ as Savior and knows it, but who is confused and anti-doctrine, opposed to what the Word of God really teaches, and disoriented to the plan of God. God the Holy Spirit in effect says to Paul, "Give them some encouragement. They are not going to make it in time; they're going to lose their escrow blessings, and all the divine blessings of the 'overflowing cup.' They're going to lose blessings in eternity."
However, there is something very important that they have in common with the believers who make it, the ones who crack that maturity barrier and advance from supergrace to ultra-supergrace, and on to dying grace. Paul tells us what it is in the next two verses.
PHI 3:20-21 "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."
Paul states that "our citizenship is in heaven..." This is the final destination of all members of the Royal Family of God, winners and losers, those who love Bible doctrine, and those who couldn't care less. Whether they make it or not, whether they grow in grace and knowledge or not, and whether or not they understand and follow the road to glory, there is a perfect security for them that they can always depend upon-grace! This is the concept of ultimate sanctification, in "phase 3" of our existence. This ultimate sanctification means a resurrection body without the old sin nature.
The "Road to Glory" leads us from saving grace (at the cross) to living grace, to supergrace, to ultra-supergrace, to dying grace, and finally to surpassing grace.
Phase 1: Pre-salvation
Phase 2: Post-salvation
Phase 3: The eternal state
PHI 3:20 "For our citizenship is in heaven..."
The Greek word for "citizenship," which we are now studying, is the nominative singular subject form of the Greek noun "politeuma." "Politeuma," originates from the root word "polit," from which the English word "politics" is derived. It means a state, a commonwealth, or the entire body of people constituting a nation, a state, or a body of politic. It also refers to a body of people united by a common interest. "Politeuma" came to mean a group of people who were residents in a foreign city while their citizenship and allegiance were elsewhere. Paul's choice of words here is significant because the Philippians were primarily Roman citizens. In fact, Philippi was a Roman military colony. It was in Philippi that the retired officers and enlisted men from the Roman army lived. Philippi developed such a reputation as a great city that it was almost always accredited for the advancements and accomplishments of the empire in that region. In fact, it was the location of the first Christian church to ever be established in Europe.
The fact that Philippi was a center for retired Roman military, and that its residents were citizens of SPQR, Senatus Populas Que Romanus (the people and senate of Rome), gave the city very special privileges. Paul uses this word because it is an excellent analogy (easily understood by the Philippians) to the members of the Royal Family of God, who live in the devil's world. The Philippians were Romans surrounded by Greeks, Macedonians, and Jews. They inhabited Philippi as a politeuma of Rome. This colony in northern Greece, 800 miles from the city of Rome, was just as much Rome as any other part of the empire.
"Politeuma" therefore was a very significant term for the believers at Philippi, and provides us with a perfect analogy to the Royal Family living in this world as aliens and ambassadors for Christ. We live in a foreign land, the devil's world, and yet we are just as much Royal Family as anyone in heaven. "Politeuma" therefore applies to every member of the Royal Family of God.
"Politeuma" is also a hapax legomena, a word used only once in the Bible. Therefore, we rely heavily on extra-biblical uses of the word and isagogics (the historical setting of the passage) to discover its true meaning. At the time Paul wrote this epistle, the term "politeuma" had come to mean a place of Roman citizenship, a Roman commonwealth, or a Roman community. The context and background of Philippi as a Roman military colony suggest that "homeland" or "commonwealth" would be the most accurate meaning of "politeuma." As a Roman colony, the Philippians owed allegiance to their homeland Rome. They followed Roman traditions and customs and looked to Rome for protection. As Christians, however, the Philippians were aliens whose real homeland, or commonwealth, was in Heaven, and they owed their ultimate allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who resides in Heaven. To them,"politeuma" meant privilege. At that time in history, Roman citizens enjoyed many special privileges. Paul used this word when writing to the Philippians because he knew it would have enough significance to establish one of the greatest analogies in the word of God.
While its noun form is only found once in the Bible, Paul also used the verb form in PHI 1:27, "Only 'politeuomai' your life [live in your Heavenly privileges] in a manner worthy of the good news doctrines of the Christ."
PHI 3:20 "For our 'politeuma' is in heaven..."
This word actually means that we must always live our lives in the light of our eternal future. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, each one of us is going to spend trillions upon trillions of years in Heaven, our real home. While our time on this earth is very short, even if we live to be 100, it is still like a drop of water in the ocean compared to eternity. The "politeuma" metaphor develops the principle that when you live your life in the light of eternity, whatever problems and adversities you have in this life, you realize that they cannot compare to the "eternal weight of glory," which is far beyond all comparison, 2Co 4:16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." The "sufferings of this present time" are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us, ROM 8:18.
We should live our lives with Abraham as our example...
HEB 11:9 "By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;"
HEB 11:10 "for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God."
HEB 11:13 "All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth."
We are not of this world - we have a Heavenly citizenship.
MAT 6:19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal."
MAT 6:20 "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal."
JOH 18:36 "My kingdom is not of this world."
JOH 15:19 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."
Certainly, we all have problems and pain that we must endure. The goal of the Christian life, then, is to live in our true citizenship and advance to spiritual adulthood, so that the tragedies and difficulties of life actually become blessings. The greatest blessings in life belong to the believer who goes through undeserved suffering and reaches spiritual adulthood. As spiritual infants, most problems are a source of great difficulty because we really have only two problem-solving devices fully functioning on the FLOT line (Forward Line Of Troops) of the soul-rebound and the faith-rest drill. Once you reach the first stage of spiritual growth, spiritual self-esteem, you now have the beginning of the four great problem-solving devices of spiritual adulthood-grace orientation, doctrinal orientation, a personal sense of destiny, and personal love for God the Father. Apart from occasional divine discipline because of sins or failures, all your adversities are designed for blessings even greater than prosperity as you know it.
All of this is related to the politeuma metaphor, always being conscious of the privileges of your Heavenly citizenship, and living your life accordingly. Like Roman citizens of Paul's time, we have great privileges, special advantages, immunity from many dangers and attacks, and the ability and permission to accomplish many things that no one else can. Rights and benefits have been granted to us as a special group of individuals called the Royal Family of God. The Christian way of life is a life of privilege. The greatest privileges that God ever gave, He gave to born-again believers of the Church-age. Therefore, no matter how your circumstances may depress you at the moment... no matter how dissatisfied you may be and no matter how frustrated... you must not forget that since the day that you believed in Christ, the greatest privileges that could ever be given to human beings have been given to you. And of course, all these privileges have come one way and one way only-through our union with the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus Christ.
This great concept of the politeuma connotes citizenship in the sense of great privilege and taking advantage of those privileges. There are citizens of many earthly nations who are mistreated, and who do not possess equal rights and the same privileges as others. However, our politeuma is in Heaven, and there is equal privilege and equal opportunity for all.
1PE 2:9 "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;"
1PE 2:10 "for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
1PE 2:11 "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul."
1PE 2:12 "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may, on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation."