January 24, 2021

Online Worship for Epiphany Three, Sunday January 24, 2021

Passage: Philippians 3:20-21
Service Type:

Sermon for Epiphany Three – Sunday January 24, 2021
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria

Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

Philippians 3:20–21 (NKJV)
20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Our King and Savior from above,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –

It’s not a political statement, it’s a spiritual one. It’s a pertinent reminder for American Citizens in times of peace and times of war; during the election process and when a man is already in office. This isn’t a soundbite plucked from a democrat or republican in the house or senate, it’s a declaration of our God, who holds the universe together by His mighty power.

It’s found in the 118th Psalm. There the Spirit of God directed the psalmist to write (118:8-9):

8 It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man.
9 It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in princes.

This past week, Joe Biden took the oath of office to become the 46th President of these United States. Some of the 332 million people in our country are joyfully optimistic as he takes office, while others are sorrowfully pessimistic. Whether optimistic or pessimistic, remember again what our God says in the 118th Psalm (8-9):

8 It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man.
9 It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in princes.

I’m not trying to throw water on the optimistic or give a hug to the pessimistic. We both need the reminder that whatever our personal opinion of the man in office, he is our president appointed by God (Romans 13:1). Our God is in control of the universe and He’s neither a democrat nor republican. He is omnipotent, just and holy. He doesn’t make mistakes.

A few moments ago, we confessed, “I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body.” While not one of us has ever witnessed a man, woman or child who was dead return to life and arise, still we declare that we believe in it. This is a matter of faith because none of us was present to see Lazarus shuffle out of his tomb. We didn’t see the corpse of the young man outside of Nain sit up alive (Luke 7:11-15). We weren’t among the detachment of troops sent to guard the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.

In the Word of God before us this morning we are told what will happen to these bodies after the Resurrection of the Dead on the Last Day. This isn’t a scary zombie picture. This event will be brought to you by the power of the Resurrected Jesus.

We begin with the prayer of Jesus that we may be sanctified, separated from sins and dedicated to the service of our God by these words – “Sanctify them by your truth, O Lord, your word is truth.” Amen.


Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a Baptist preacher born in 1834 in the United Kingdom. He was highly thought of in his time and came to be known as ‘the Prince of Preachers.’ When he disapproved of one of the fashionable hairstyles of his day, he took to the pulpit to express his disdain for the ‘topknot’ hairstyle. He took Matthew 24:17 as his text and declared, “Topknot come down!” The problem is that the passage has nothing to do with hairstyle, for it reads (Matthew 24:17):

“Let him who is on the housetop not go down
to take anything out of his house.

In other words, he used only a portion of the passage, and that he took out of context, to put it mildly. If we are to understand a passage in God’s Word and the meaning of the Holy Spirit, the context is vitally important.

So also, the words of Philippians 3:20-21 are closely connected to what has been said before them. There is a contrast made between the enemies of the cross of Christ and those who believe in Christ. He tells us that those who are enemies of the Gospel of Christ are recognized in part because of their earthly focus (Philippians 3:19):

19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame— who set their mind on earthly things.
In contrast to this, the focus of those who trust in Christ is not to be earth bound…

20 For our citizenship is in heaven,
from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Roman Citizenship was important in the Roman Empire because of the benefits that it afforded. Citizenship was also important in Philippi, because it was a Roman Colony. In fact, some of the people of Philippi were retired Roman soldiers who had established a colony in the city. They lived in Philippi, but they still considered themselves citizens of Rome (in which was kept a registry of every roman citizen). They still dressed like Romans. They still spoke the language of Rome. They still enjoyed the protection of Rome. They belonged to Rome even though they lived in Philippi.

When a Roman Citizen became a Christian, their attitude changed. They still retained all the rights and privileges of their Roman Citizenship, but they no longer thought quite the same way. When they became followers of Christ the King, they became citizens of His Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven. They belonged to Heaven, even though they lived on earth.

We are Americans. There are also certain rights and privileges that are ours as citizens of the United States. But as Christians, we don’t consider Washington DC or Lansing our capital city. For us, the capital is in the heavens. We are happy to be Americans, but even more because we belong to Christ. We rejoice because our names are written in the Book of Life (cf. Revelation 3:5, 21:27, 22:19). Our prayers are not directed to Washington, but heavenward.

In a sense, we are like the Philippian Christians. We live here as citizens but we long to see the capital city in Heaven. We are like a colony of heavenly citizens gathered here by the Holy Spirit around Word and Sacrament.

This is what the Apostle Paul is declaring when he says, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” It means that we live here, but we don’t put down permanent roots or fix our hearts on the things of this world. God blesses us through them, but these things pale in comparison to the inheritance preserved for us in heaven.

Now if it happened that a Roman Citizen was in trouble in a distant colony, all he needed to do was appeal to Rome, the capital, to the Emperor. A citizen could appeal to the man on the throne and simply wait to be delivered and heard.

As Christians we also eagerly wait for final deliverance from our King and Savior. Our Lord Jesus has promised that He will return from the heavenly capital to receive each and every colony, each and every citizen to himself. In fact, some of our Christian Colony have already departed for our homeland, to the capital in heaven. The souls of those who die trusting in the King depart to be with the King and we bury the remains in the earth where they will remain until the day of His Return. We eagerly await that day because on it we will be forever delivered and transformed by the King.

21 who will transform our lowly body
that it may be conformed to His glorious body,

In the 2nd Chapter of this same letter (2:7-8), the Holy Spirit moved Paul to describe how the Son of God humbled himself and became human. Even though He was fully God, He (2:7):

“…made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

The Eternal Son, who was equal with the Father and Spirit in power and authority…humbled himself in attitude (form) and in appearance (likeness) in when He became human. He didn’t just ‘appear to be a man’, He was found in every way a man. He stepped down from the throne to become a servant. He stepped into flesh and blood.

Jesus humbled himself to become like us. The same Jesus suffered and died and the third day rose again from death. After His Resurrection, Jesus’ body was glorified. Then after 40 days, He ascended into heaven.

The very same glorified Jesus will return to earth to judge all of humankind. When He does, every single human being who has ever been born will be raised up from the dead, whether buried, burned or lost in the depths of the sea, all will be re-constituted at the command of the returning, all powerful Jesus.

Where Jesus once humbled himself in becoming human; when He returns the earthly body of every one of His followers will be upgraded, glorified. It’s almost described in reverse order of Jesus’ humiliation.

Jesus will transform our re-constituted earthly bodies (bodies that are like the one He took on in becoming human) so that they are like His glorious body. Our ‘corruptible’ bodies that break down with age, that require sleep and recovery and are susceptible to death; will be made ‘incorruptible’ no longer to change with time, no longer to need rest, no longer able to die. We mortals will be clothed with immortality.

In the 1st letter to the Corinthians, the Holy Spirit directed the Apostle to write of the very same upgrade, worked by the Lord Jesus, saying (1 Corinthians 15:51-54):

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

It would not do for God’s Children to live forever in bodies that don’t last. For this reason, our master will transform our mortal, earthly bodies so that they become like His human, yet glorified body. This also is part of our inheritance as Children of God. In both soul and body, we will share in eternal glory.

This is just one of the benefits of citizenship in Christ’s Kingdom. It’s one of the promises of God that we treasure especially as we grow older and our bodies fail and show years of mileage. When no longer able to walk, when in need of nursing care…we long for glorified bodies and to dwell in the presence of our King.

For we are promised (Colossians 3:4):
4 When Christ who is our life appears,
then you also will appear with Him in glory.

How will Jesus do it? Well, according to the working of His mighty power. He is the Son of God, who sits at the right hand of God. It will be done:

according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

“I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body.” I’ve never seen anyone rise from death, but I expect to…because that’s what my Father promises me in His Son, Jesus Christ.

 Yes, I am thankful to be an American (no matter who is President); but I also understand it’s only a temporary dwelling place. Furthermore, I’m blessed and happy to serve this little colony of believers.

However, I am eternally grateful to be a child of God and a citizen of heaven. I currently live at 448 West Ohio, but Heaven is my home.

I’m but a stranger here, Heav’n is my home;
Earth is a desert drear, Heav’n is my home.
Danger and sorrow stand Round me on ev’ry hand;
Heav’n is my fatherland, Heav’n is my home.

Therefore I murmur not, Heav’n is my home’
Whate’er my earthly lot, Heav’n is my home;
And I shall surely stand There at my Lord’s right hand.
Heav’n is my fatherland, Heav’n is my home.


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