November 13, 2020
Let’s continue to cultivate our understanding of ourselves as dual citizens: first allegiance to the Kingdom of Heaven and secondarily to the particular nation state or kingdom of this world into which we were born, or to which we were naturalized through a process.
Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven – but we also know Paul was a Roman citizen, and when that designation served to advance the Gospel, he made mention of it.
But Paul’s allegiance was not to Rome nor the Emperor. Paul understood that although his birth certificate mattered – he describes himself as both a Roman citizen and a Jew – he made most of the reality of his re-birth into a living hope, namely Jesus.
Roman citizenship in the days of the New Testament was lorded over those who were not citizens of Rome. Roman citizens enjoyed rights and privileges non-citizens did not have. Roman citizens had the right to suffrage – or prosecute their case in court. And they had the right to appeal to the highest law in the land, the Emperor. They could avoid certain punishments like whipping, flogging and crucifixion and only treason was a capital offense punishable by death.
So Paul, a Jew from the city of Tarsus of Cilicia located in modern day Turkey, obtained his Roman citizenship by virtue of place of his birth and the social status of his family of origin. And Paul experienced the very real tension of his dual citizenship.
And, when necessary, Paul used his citizenship to advance the Gospel. Acts 22:24-26 recounts the event where Paul was being stretched on the blocks to be flogged and said to the Roman Centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen without a trial?” The centurion quickly sent the question up the chain of command. And the commander is described by Luke as “alarmed” that under his watch, a Roman citizen had been put in chains.
The commander then inquires of Paul and they have the following exchange: (Acts 22:27-29)
The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I am,” he answered. Then the commander said, “I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied. Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
The value of citizenship was well understood and to be a citizen of Rome was of great value. Which makes Paul’s confession in Philippians 3 all the more curious. In Philippians 3:20 Paul acknowledges his first allegiance is to Christ as the King of the Kingdom of Heaven. And in verses 8-9 of that chapter we hear Paul weigh that in the balance against everything else – his status as a Jew and his citizen of Rome: “I consider everything as a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”
As we consider the dual nature of our own citizenship, let us, like Paul, consider it all as nothing compared to knowing Christ and being found in Him.
Dane Ortlund – Book Spotlight: “Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers”
Today we talk with Dane Ortlund about his book, “Gentle and Lowly,” a look into the heart of Jesus Christ for Christians. Dane quotes Jesus from Matthew 11:29 saying, “Jesus said He is ‘gentle and lowly in heart.'” Dane walks us through what it means for us today as we, as suffering and weary sinners, take Christ’s yoke upon us.
Chris Martin – Editor at Moody Bible & Writer of the Terms of Service Blog
Chris Martin is back again to discuss all things social media and a bit more! Today we talk about some articles from his writings on his blog and ask him what’s on his thanksgiving to God list.
Here are some of the topics from today’s discussion with him:
- The rise of alternative social media platforms and the conservative mass exodus to them
- Our continued look at Facebook’s polarizing algorithm
- Spotify makes a $235 acquisition of podcast company, Megaphone