While doing some studying this morning, I was reminded that the city of Philippi (a Hellenistic Greek city) was a Roman Colony, largely populated by and governed by veterans of the Roman military. Though not in Rome, they were citizens of Rome – subject to its laws and beneficiaries of its privileges. These people were known as ‘Patriots’ (lit. ‘Loyal to their Father-land’) and although they lived in a foreign country, surrounded by a foreign culture, they tenaciously held on to their Roman identity.
- Latin (the “official” Roman language) was spoken;
- Roman dress was worn;
- Roman customs were observed;
- Their Magistrates held Roman titles, etc.
In a word, they were tenaciously Roman! Meaning? Among other things, they would never have considered – even for a moment – to become assimilated to the people or the culture where they were sent.
We can hear their Roman pride ‘seething’ in their charge against Paul & Silas, prisoners in a Philippian jail – “These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city… and teach customs which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, seeing as we are Romans” (Acts 16:20). Perhaps it was in response to that prevailing attitude that Paul later wrote to the believers in Philippi, declaring: “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).
I like It from the ASV – “You are a Colony of Heaven!”
Perhaps you are wondering if I have a point? I do, and it is this: Just as the Roman ‘colonist’ never forgot that he was Roman – no matter what culture or environment he was in – so, we as Christians must never forget who we are and whose we are.
We (the church) are a Colony of Heaven on Earth. The Bible declares that we are the Ambassadors of Christ… representing both our King and His Kingdom to a lost & dying world. As an Ambassador, His reputation is at stake in my life. Therefore, I want to be careful to maintain it, and not stain it!
Let us never underestimate the power of our example as an instrument in the hand of God to lead others to faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said that we were the light of the world, and that we should let our light so shine that others would see our good works, and so Glorify Him. He also said that we were the salt of the earth – and what happens when you eat something salty? You tend to get thirsty.
Oh(!) that we would live lives that would cause others to thirst for Christ; that we might be ever mindful of the fact that our lives might very well be the only Bible some people ever read.
Again, we are ‘Ambassadors for Christ’ and representatives of the Kingdom of Heaven here upon the earth. Meaning what? The concept and the understanding of God that many people have, will be that which they derive from watching our lives. With that thought in mind, may we take time to honestly examine ourselves… and see if we are living in such a way so as to bring Glory to God, and sinners to the Foot of the Cross.