"Will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?" The disciples' question—and Jesus' answer—teach us what we ought to be anticipating.
[Scott Delamater] In the first century, in Palestine, the Jewish people were eagerly expecting a Messiah. They knew that the time was right. They were expecting a Christ, a King. They were expecting someone that would come and usher in this new age, this new era, this new kingdom for Israel. Let's turn over to Luke 3. We'll get a little glimpse of their expectation. Luke 3:15 Luke 3:15And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;
American King James Version×, here, it's people who have come to see John the Baptist, and they're, kind of, wondering about this guy. Who is this guy? What is this guy? They know he's something different. He's something special. In Luke 3:15 Luke 3:15And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;
American King James Version×, it says, "Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was a Christ or not," he goes on to confirm that he's not the Christ. But you can see it says here, "All the people were in expectation." There was this expectation of a Messiah. They knew the time was right. Is he the Christ or is he not? Because He's got to be showing up here somewhere, sometime soon. They expected it. They had various expectations.
The ideas that were around what this Messiah would be and who He would be, they varied some. But generally, they expected a King coming from the line of David. They knew from the prophets that this would be a King that was from David's lineage. He would be endowed with power, and with wisdom, and with might, and He would be this human. It would be a man who would come, and who would conquer, and who would restore Israel, and make them a special nation once again, Let's go to… turn a few pages back to Luke 1. Because even the prophecies that we read about Jesus Christ in the New Testament, you can view them through this lens. You can read them through this lens of this great king who's going to come, and conquer and restore Israel to greatness. Luke 1:33 Luke 1:33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
American King James Version×, here this is the angel Gabriel coming and giving a message to Mary, about Jesus. It says, "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” He's going to come and reign over the house of Jacob. He's coming as a King. He's going to come and He's going to rule."
If you go down later in the chapter in verse 68, Zacharias, John the Baptist's father, is prophesying here. And in verse 68, he says, "Blessed it is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant, David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us." This was the expectation that they had, that there would be a Messiah who would come and save them, who would save their nation and restore them.
So it's not surprising when we turn over to the book of Acts that we see a very interesting question. Let's go over to the book of Acts 1. And let's look at something the disciples ask here. Now, this is after Jesus Christ has been resurrected. This is just prior to His ascension, just before He's going to leave the earth. And they have this expectation, right, this great expectation that here now He's risen. Okay. Now, this is time. This is time for this King to come in and restore the nation.
And so they ask him, in Acts 1:6 Acts 1:6When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
American King James Version×, "Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, 'Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’” You know, we look at this and maybe we give them a little bit of a hard time because we know where the story goes from there. We know how it unfolds. And we see the great purpose that God was working out. And so we can, kind of, look back and chide them a little bit maybe. They had the right Guy, though. They did have the right Messiah. They had the right King. They knew who the King was. They had identified Him correctly. There were other people who had identified other messiahs, other people, right, incorrectly. And when Peter had identified Jesus Christ correctly, Jesus Christ commended him for it. So, they at least knew and understood Jesus Christ was the Messiah. He was the King, and they believed that fully. So we can give them credit for that. But we give them a little bit of a hard time for thinking that the next big thing that would happen is that He would make them a great nation. But that was their expectation.
It reads to us as very nationalistic. It reads as something that it's like, well, really you're thinking, you're just going to have this guy come who's going to restore your nation? Who's going to kick out the Romans? Who's going to make life good for you here and in the Holy Land? And that's the purpose of Jesus' coming? Their idea of salvation, right, if that's what salvation was, right, that He would save the nation and that He would make this little corner of the world, right, something that was great again, if that was the idea of salvation, we can look back at that and say, "Well, that's a little short-sighted, a little bit myopic." Right? Salvation is so much bigger than that. They had the right King, but they had the wrong kingdom. They were thinking about their little kingdom there. They knew the prophecies about that kingdom, and there are prophecies still yet to be fulfilled about restoring Israel as a nation. But it's in the context of something far, far greater than just national importance.
And it wasn't just about getting the Romans out of there. That was a very small piece of what God was doing. And so Jesus answers them in the next verse, in verse 7, "And He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.'" He just waves them off completely. All right. He had told them before that only His Father knows the day and the hour that He will return in power. So, He, kind of, just waved him off. He says, "That's a bad question. Let's not worry about that right now. I have something else in mind." And He goes on, and He answers them, but not answering them. He's not answering, when is this going to happen? He's giving them a different answer. He says, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." He's telling them, there's something far, far greater that He has in mind here, something bigger that He has planned.
Expositor’s Commentary points out, it says, "In Jewish expectations, the restoration of Israel's fortunes would be marked by the revived activity of God's Spirit, which had been withheld since the last of the profits." So, remember, just before His crucifixion, He has told them that He's going to go to the Father and send this comforter, send this Spirit that will be the Helper for them. And so they're thinking, "Well, God's Spirit is going to be revived. The nation is going to be revived. And we're going to be this great and powerful nation again." It hadn't been since the times of the prophets, right? They had, sort of, gone into decline and they were barely identifiable as a nation. So that's what they were expecting and hoping even with the giving of His Spirit. So when He tells them here, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you," they go, "Okay. Great. This is exciting." But again, He's not pointing to their national greatness. He's not pointing to what's going to happen to them in that context. It's a very personal address that He gives them here. He doesn't say, "You this nation is going to have this." He identifies them individually and specifically. He says, "You." Three times here in this verse," He says, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me." He's not talking about the nation now being a witness and a light to the nations around them. He's talking about them as individuals receiving God's Spirit in them individually and being witnesses to the world around them, the whole world, not just in Jerusalem, not just in Samaria, but to the whole world.
He's talking about a very personal thing that was going to happen, not a national thing, but an individual thing. So, in that sense, He kind of blows up their whole idea of salvation. But if their whole idea was national greatness, He kind of obliterates that and lays it aside for the moment. He says "No, no, no. Here's what it's going to be for now. For now, what I have in mind for you is something very different. And it has far greater scope. It's not just Jerusalem. It's not just Samaria, it's to the ends of the earth. It's the whole world." They had the right King, but they had the wrong kingdom in mind. And so here He is clarifying what that kingdom is going to be. He starts planting the seeds of the scope of that kingdom and how big and how broad that kingdom would be. "Witnesses to the whole world," He calls them. This is how the book of Acts is introduced. This is the beginning of the book of Acts. It's Jerusalem and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. That's really, sort of, the introductory statement to the book. And then you see the book unfold. And it goes from Jerusalem into Samaria, and then on outward to the whole empire. Rome was the world in a way at that point in their life, in their context. And so we see it expand. We see the gospel taken out, individually by individuals, right, God working through them and it expands into the whole world.
We see this, especially, in the life of Paul. So I want to look at the life of Paul today, and I want to look at a couple of incidents in particular because Paul vividly demonstrates this idea of becoming witnesses to the whole world, this purpose that Jesus Christ laid out there. When they looked to their king and they looked for the restoration of their kingdom, He did give them an answer. And His answer was that they would be witnesses to the whole world. Paul goes on to show us how that connects into this kingdom. He shows us through his life and through his examples that there's a very strong connection here to how that kingdom unfolds and what that kingdom looks like. Let's look at Paul's life here for a little bit. We'll consider one story from his ministry in particular. But let's start out as a little bit of a background. Let's go back to Acts 9:1 Acts 9:1And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,
American King James Version×. Acts 9:1 Acts 9:1And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,
American King James Version×, it says, "Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them down to Jerusalem." So, we understand that Saul is somebody who is persecuting the Church. He's actively going after the Church, right? He is not somebody who even identified Jesus Christ as the King.
He didn't have the right king. He didn't really have a kingdom. He was just persecuting. He was very zealous for this way that he lived. Right? He was a Pharisee. His parents were Pharisees. Pharisees were a very nationalistic sect. They believed very much in Israel and Israel's national greatness. And that was Paul's history and upbringing. So he was very passionate about his country. And he understood the threat that this new way introduced. And so he was very zealous about making sure that it didn't spread. And he went out and he found these people and beat them, and in some cases, had them put to death. Verse 3, "As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. And then he fell to the ground, and he heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' And he said, 'Who are you, Lord?'" Again, he didn't recognize who this King was. He didn't have a king.
This was the King that he was working against. This was somebody that he thought was a heretic. He didn't recognize Him. “He said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” Here, Paul receives a very interesting lesson that I think we'll see come into play a little later, but Jesus Christ doesn’t… It's so curious that He doesn't scold him here. He doesn't tell him, "You're being so awful. You're a rotten person for persecuting people and killing people." He just identifies that it's hard for Paul to do what he's doing, Saul, at this point, right? It's hard for him to do what he's doing. He identifies some sort of inner conflict within him and says, "This is hard for you." And so, it's a very sympathetic statement in a way. Right? He's identifying with Paul and saying, "You know, I love you. I'm concerned about you. I see that this is hard for you. I have something else in mind." And so in verse 6, “So he," Paul, "trembling and astonished, said, 'Lord, what do You want me to do?" So immediately, we see here this transition. He understands that this is not just, you know, some weird vision that he's seeing. Right? He understands that this one that He had been persecuting and going against is indeed a King.
Paul would have understood the notion of a Messiah. He was looking for, expecting a Ruler, expecting the Christ. And so, here just in this moment, we see it flip immediately. And he recognizes Jesus Christ as King. He understands that this is the Messiah, this is the King. And he submits to Him immediately and says, “'What do you want me to do?’ And then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told that you must do.’" And so that's what he does. We read on and we see that Jesus appears to Ananias in a vision and says, "I need you to go to this guy because he's seen a vision of you." And Ananias basically says, "Are you sure you've got the right person?" And Jesus says, "Yep, this is the guy." And He sends him to him. Notice what He says in verse 15. He says, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake."
He was a chosen vessel for the same purpose that Jesus had described to His disciples back in chapter 1 when He says, "You will be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in Samaria, and in the whole world." Right? This was the same purpose that He had in mind for Paul. He said, "This is a person that I have singled out to go and do this in a very big way, in a very powerful, in a very meaningful way." And He also adds that note that, "I'm going to show him how many things he must suffer for Me." There was both. So here, we want to take a look at one of those stories. We'll see a story here that demonstrates, sort of, all of these qualities. It demonstrates Paul going out and being willing to go to the ends of the earth, about him being able to witness to others, about him suffering when he needed to suffer. And then, he has a lot to say about it in retrospect. Let's go to Acts 16 and we will dig into this story.
Acts 16:11 Acts 16:11Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;
American King James Version×, “Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. But we were staying in that city for some days." Some commentaries or some historians have described Philippi as Little Rome. They called it Little Rome. This city Philippi was in Asia Minor in present-day Turkey. And it was the site of a famous battle during the Roman civil war in 42 BC. This is where… So after Julius Caesar had died and he left his empire to four generals, two fought two, right? And Mark Anthony and Octavian who later became Emperor Augustus, the two of them defeated Brutus and Cassius, right, at this major battle. And this here in Philippi was where that battle had occurred. So it had status in a military sense as a famous site. As a result, many Roman veterans retired there. Philippi was the site of their retirement. And so there were a lot of ex-military guys living here in Philippi.
It had also been designated as a Roman colony, which is something that was a very distinguished thing. There were not many cities that were actually designated as an official colony of Rome. Being an official colony of Rome gave you a little bit of a stamp of pride, right? You were a real colony. You didn't report… As a colony of Rome, you were not obligated to the local authorities. The local authorities had no control over your city. You were responsible directly to Rome. So the authorities there in Philippi were directly connected to Rome, proud of their Roman heritage, many who had served formerly in the military or had that history in their families, right? These were people that were very Roman. They were very proud to be Roman. So here, we find Paul, and Silas, and Luke, they're there in Philippi, and they're going there to preach, going there to teach. They get themselves in a little bit of trouble though. Let's go to verse 16. "Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, 'These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.'" You all remember, in Jesus' day, there were demons that would identify Him as the Son of God.
And they'd call that out and they'd identify Him, they'd make this, sort of, real public statement, and Jesus Christ would cast those demons out because they weren't doing it from good intentions and from a pure heart. Right? Demons are not good-intended, good-hearted beings. Right? They're doing it to cause trouble. They're doing it to wreak havoc on those people and on their purpose. And so that's what this demon was doing through this girl. "And this she did for many days." So this wasn't a single event. This girl was following them around, right, after, "And for many days," it says, following them around, screaming this out after them, right, not announcing this in in a great way, but announcing this in a harmful kind of way. So after many days, Paul was greatly annoyed.
We know Paul had… He could get a little bit fired up. We see that in some of his other stories. So, kudos to Paul for putting up with her for many days. But here he's greatly annoyed and he "said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities." So, they do something that is ultimately in this girl's best interest, a very loving thing that they did here for this slave girl but it meant that her masters were going to lose a whole bunch of money. So, they weren't too happy about that and they were trying to get their revenge.
In verse 20, "They brought them into the magistrates, and they said, 'These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city.'" This was not a good accusation. The calling them out as Jews was something that would immediately get the magistrates ruffled. Claudius had recently expelled all of the Jews from Rome. So there wasn't a lot of love for the Jews in the Roman Empire, especially in this era. The people there would not have been very happy to hear about Jews coming in and stirring up trouble. Verse 21, "And they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe."
Remember there are many Roman citizens here living in Philippi. And Roman citizenship was extremely rare. So you have a bunch of Roman citizens in a very Roman city, very proud of their heritage. And they've got these Jews that have come in and now are stirring up something that's contrary to what Rome taught. In verse 22, it says, "Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods." Now, Roman law actually forbade beating. It was forbidden to beat a Roman citizen without a public accusation and a public trial. And both Paul and Silas were Roman citizens but here they are beaten and thrown into prison without any of that. So we see that the law has been violated here. And for whatever reason, Paul didn't identify himself as a Roman prior to the beating. Maybe he didn't have an opportunity. Maybe the crowd was too loud. We don't know.
But Paul didn't identify his Roman citizenship before the beating. We see him do that in a later instance. Over in Acts 22, you can find an instance where he does. He identifies that he was Roman and he avoids a scourging. But here, he doesn't do that. He doesn't call it out. And so he's beaten. Verse 23, "When they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. And so, having received such a charge to make sure they're secure, make sure these ones have no shot of getting away, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks." The inner prison was really a cold, sort of, torturous place. And the stocks were pretty terrible instruments of torture in themselves. If somebody was put in the full stocks, your arms, and your head, and your feet could be put into these things, and you'd be forced into some horrible, awful position for a long time, which could really wreck your body. Here, he only puts their feet in the stocks, which is maybe a little bit merciful.
But still, here's Paul and Silas, laying in a prison, right, probably laying on their backs, feet in the stocks. Their backs are beaten and destroyed. They're all bloodied and broken and bruised. Their bodies are probably still in shock. This is, kind of, a cold, dungeony place that they're now cast into. And when you're in the stocks, by the way, you don't get a bathroom break, right? So, you're just there and you go where you are. That's the kind of environment that they're in.
Let's go to verse 25. "But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,” so we find them coping with this situation in the best possible way that they can. They're praying to God. They're singing hymns to God “and the prisoners were listening to them.” Here we get a little glimpse of what they're doing. They're not just there enduring. They're actually they're setting an example to the other prisoners in this prison. Right? They're there as witnesses, in a sense, right? They've been put into this awful situation. And in spite of this awful situation, they are witnesses to all of the people around them.
Verse 26, "Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called out with a loud voice, saying, 'Do yourself no harm, for we're all here.'" Right? The keeper of the prison was responsible for every prisoner in his charge. And if a prisoner was found to be not in his charge, the keeper of the prison would almost certainly be executed, possibly tortured beforehand. So here, he's hoping to avoid some torture and he's ready to just off himself. But Paul says, "Wait, stop, don't do that. We're all still here. Nobody has left," which is, kind of, mind-blowing. Like, why did nobody leave? We'll talk about that a little more later. "And he brought them out and he said…"
Well, so verse 28, "Paul called with a loud voice, saying, 'Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.' Then he called for a light, the jailer, and he ran in, and he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and he said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' So they said, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.' Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household." This is the calling. So when Jesus Christ says we’re to go and be witnesses that He wanted to call those to be witnesses of Him, that this is exactly what Paul does here. He is a witness of Jesus Christ to his jailer. He sets that example because this is the purpose that he was called to go out and be a witness of Jesus Christ and of His kingdom to the world.
Let's keep going, verse 35, "And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, 'Let those men go.' So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, 'The magistrate has sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.' But Paul said to them, 'They've beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No, indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.' And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. And then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city. And so they went out of prison and entered the house of Lydia; before they left Philippi. And when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed." Paul here used his Roman citizenship to his advantage. Right? They came and they were going to get rid of him, and he says, "No, no. I know what's gone on here and I know what's been done." And he asserts his Roman citizenship because now it gives him leverage over the administrators in this city, the magistrates in this city that he can use to make sure that the church there is going to be left alone.
They had done something to a Roman citizen that was illegal, unlawful for them to do. Right? And they could be punished for it. They could be killed for it. There were laws about beating Roman citizens, and this was not allowed. So Paul has leverage over them now. And he uses that to make sure that the Church there is going to be okay. It worked out for the Church's advantage. And so he goes and he meets with the Church before leaving. And certainly, he tells them the story. He tells them what's going on. That's the backdrop of Paul's story in Philippi. He wrote a letter to the Philippians.
Let's go back to Philippians 3. So that's sort of the… This was his first encounter in Philippi and the establishment of the Church. And he's thrown in prison, and wrongfully beaten, and miraculously rescued, and then he leaves. And that's the backdrop to his letter to the Philippians.
In Philippians 3:3 Philippians 3:3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
American King James Version×, let's look at verse 11. He talks about where "There is neither Greek nor Jew, there’s neither circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all in all." Here, he's talking about this identification that we have. If you remember going back, he was a Pharisee. He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees and he was a nationalist, right? That was Paul's identity. That was who he was. In verse 5… I'm in Colossians. That's why I'm so confused.
There we are. Philippians 3:3 Philippians 3:3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
American King James Version×… We'll get back to Colossians. We really will. Philippians 3:3 Philippians 3:3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
American King James Version×, "We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit." Philippi was being… They were trying to be convinced to go back into Judaism, to become circumcised, that that was an important part, a critical part of following Jesus Christ. But he says, "We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit. Rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Here's where he talks about his past and his history. He says, "I'm also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he might have confidence in the flesh, I'm more so." Now, he's going to give us his credentials. He's going to tell us why he is qualified. He's circumcised the eighth day, right? He is doing it right. He was not one of these proselytes who came along and was circumcised later to become part of Judaism. He was “circumcised the eighth day,” the way that it was commanded, right, the way that God commanded Abraham. He got off to the right start.
He was “of the stock of Israel,” probably referring to the fact that both of his parents were Jews. He was full-blooded Jewish is what he's saying. He was of the stock of Israel. He wasn't a convert. He wasn't a proselyte. He had every reason to be able to identify as Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin, you'll remember, was the one tribe that aligned itself with the house of Judah when the kingdom split, and they split into two. There were the 10 northern and then the two southern kingdoms, right? Benjamin was the tribe that stayed with Judah. And so he's saying, "I'm of the tribe of Benjamin. I'm not just an Israelite. I'm one of the good Israelites that stayed on board," right? He was one of the good guys, “a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee.” Again, we talk about that, that this was the nationalistic party that saw Israel as being the thing, the most important thing that God was going to come and restore. He was going to restore their kingdom. He was also a Roman citizen, we remember, right?
So he was both a very good Jew and a Roman citizen. He had these two identities that he could align himself with, that were very valuable in both of their contexts. And he had these two things that he could say, "These are my qualifications. I'm better than anybody in the Empire," he could claim maybe. But he continues. In verse 7, he says, "But what things were gained to me, these I have counted loss for Christ." It's very likely that Paul lost everything that he had, that he would have been perhaps disowned by his family. There's speculation that he may have been married, and that he would have been abandoned by his family.
So, here, when he says that he counted all these things loss that had once been gained to him, he's talking about everything, right? He had lost all of that. And he considered these things too, his identity as a Jew, his identity as a good Israelite, right? He counted that as loss, He counted his Roman citizenship as loss. "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him."
He loves his people. He's not disowning his people. If you look back in Romans 9, he wishes himself accursed on behalf of his people. He wishes fervently that the Jewish people would believe in this King, right, and would follow Jesus Christ. He wishes that he could give up his salvation for their sake. And so it wasn't that he didn't love Israel. It wasn't that he didn't love his people, right, but he counted his identity as a Hebrew, as a Pharisee, as an Israelite, he counted it as nothing. And he counted his Roman citizenship as nothing. All these things he counted as nothing.
Let's drop down to verse 17. Verse 17, he says, "Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern." So he's encouraging them to follow his example. "For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ."
It's very likely, it's very possible that these who are enemies of the cross of Christ were people who had formerly been a part of the church, maybe even still considered themselves to be a part of the church. All right, it's speculated that this is why he was weeping. He's telling them with tears, right? These weren't just people who were enemies, as so many of the people that you would encounter in these towns would be. These were people who had been a part of the Church, who now were walking according to a different way. They had something else in mind, "that they're the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame— who set their mind on earthly things." We want to think about that idea, especially here today. These are those who set their mind on earthly things, on the things of this world and its kingdoms, right? This world has many kingdoms, right, many physical kingdoms. There are many ways that you could set up your own, sort of, little kingdoms now in this world, but they're all earthly kingdoms. They're all earthly ideas. And this is what people build their lives around is, sort of, these earthly kingdoms.
And Paul is lamenting that so many had turned away from the true King and the true Kingdom. And we're now focusing on earthly things, things that really are only pertaining to this world that are going to be eliminated, ultimately burned up, things that are going to be replaced when Jesus Christ returns as King when He establishes His Kingdom. Here, he says, "These people who set their mind on earthly things," in verse 20. So, I think, generally we kind of know this verse, and it's one that we can, kind of, read and, kind of, rattle off. But read it from now the context of his experience in Philippi, right, recognizing what he understood about national identity, about citizenship, right, what the people in Philippi understood about citizenship and the value of citizenship and its importance, right?
The example that they had seen him set, right, in how he used his citizenship to their advantage, that's the backdrop for this verse. He says, "For our citizenship is in heaven,” it's somewhere far off. It's not Roman. And this is something that the Philippians may have even especially identified with being a colony. They understood they were citizens of a place that was very far off that they could not see. So, they would have understood this concept, that citizenship meant belonging to something that was not necessarily there yet. He says, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." This is the citizenship that he valued most. This was the important one. There were other citizenships that he had that were of extreme value in his world. But this citizenship is the one that was most valuable. He's not saying this as some, sort of, ethereal loose idea of citizenship. He's not using citizenship as a metaphor and saying, "Oh, it's kind of like this thing." This was the citizenship that mattered. Today, on this Feast of Trumpets, right, we are looking forward to a time when we have a King who's going to come and set up a Kingdom. And he's saying, "We're citizens of that Kingdom." It's a Kingdom that already exists. It's a Kingdom that's not here yet but when it gets here, it will rule over the whole earth.
But we already have opportunities to be citizens of that kingdom to claim citizenship there. He said that should be our focus. He contrasts that with those who set their mind on earthly things and on earthly kingdoms. He says our focus should be this heavenly Kingdom, the one that exists in heaven right now that will be here, eventually. That's the citizenship that we should care about. Let's go back to Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
American King James Version×because I think sometimes it can be a little bit easy to still even think of citizenship as being a theoretical thing, sort of, this lofty idea. But if you look at the message that Jesus Christ wanted His Church to carry, that He wanted His Church to preach, that Paul carried and preached as a witness, we'll learn a few little things just in these couple of verses. Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
American King James Version×, "Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God." That's the gospel that we preach. That's what our whole being is about in this period, right, is seeing the advancement of the gospel of the kingdom of God.
And he says, "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand." Why was it at hand? It was it at hand because the king was there. Here's the king. He's presenting this message. He's the one proclaiming it. The kingdom is at hand because here is its king. And he's telling you about it. He says, "Repent and believe in the gospel." Jesus Christ didn't come as some like emissary of this kingdom who's coming to, sort of, look your country over, and visit your museums, and tell you how nice things are. And He wasn't, sort of. that kind of diplomat coming from this kingdom. He was coming as a king essentially declaring impending invasion. That's what he was doing. That's what got Him killed. He was coming as a king. When he says, "Repent, the kingdom is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel," that's a borderline threat. Right? There's judgment coming. He says, "There is judgment coming and you need to repent because the kingdom is coming." And it's going to invade this world and it's going to tear down all of these kingdoms. His idea of kingship was not an ethereal one that was, kind of, this nice idea. It was a literal kingship that He came, and lived, and died for. It was a foundational reality, that He was a king of a kingdom that will come, right?
By comparison, citizenship is that same thing. If He is coming as a real King, Paul is telling us we are real citizens of a real Kingdom. Okay. Let's go over to Colossians 1. Colossians for real this time because he talks about this idea with the Colossians as well. Colossians 1:13 Colossians 1:13 Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
American King James Version×, he says that "God has delivered us from the power of darkness." And in the New King James, it says, "He's conveyed us into the kingdom of the son of His love." Expositors Bible Commentary on this says that conveyed here or some translations will just say brought, that He has brought us into the Kingdom, It says it translates this word that was “used in secular literature in reference to removing persons from one country and settling them as colonists and citizens in another country." I'll read that again. "Used in secular literature in reference to removing persons from one country and settling them as colonists and citizens in another country. It might be rendered reestablished. The tense of the verb points to the time of conversion.”
Not to the future time. It points to the time of conversion. So when we are converted, we are reestablished. We're relocated. We're resettled as citizens of whatever our earthly kingdoms were and we become citizens of this new kingdom. As truly as He is king, we are citizens in His kingdom. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he actually… We won't turn there, but he wrote to them and he says, "Conduct yourselves worthy of the gospel of Christ." But the verb he uses there, it literally means live as citizens. It means live as citizens of the kingdom of God. Live as citizens worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One translation renders that it says just one thing. "As citizens of heaven live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ." He's writing to them about this very real citizenship that we have. The Feast of Trumpets forces us to consider our citizenship. Are we like Paul? Are we like Paul who embraced his status as a citizen of that Kingdom? That was his primary identity. He used his other identities for the advantage of the Church at times, but his primary citizenship and his primary identity was as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
Are we like that or by contrast are we, kind of, like the pre-conversion disciples? Are we like the disciples were before they really understood before they had God's Spirit before they really got what Jesus Christ was doing? Because we look back at them and we, kind of, laugh at how small scale they were looking. Just you think Jesus Christ came to make Israel a great nation again? Like, is that what they thought it was all about, right? But will we look back on ourselves today and look at the things that we are promoting and look at the Kingdom that we stand by, and look at ourselves the way that we looked at them? Will we look at ourselves as being very small-minded, as not getting the picture, as not really understanding what it was that Jesus Christ was doing here in our lives? I sure hope not. I sure hope that we're able to look back at where we are today and on our lives, and see that we're growing in that understanding of our citizenship and our purpose.
Let's turn over to Hebrews 11. Hebrews 11:13 Hebrews 11:13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
American King James Version×talks about those who went before us, and it says that "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, they were assured of them, embraced, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." They didn't have an identity in the kingdoms of this world. That's what a pilgrim is. That's what a stranger is. Somebody who doesn't really have an identity as a national, as a citizen somewhere. That's what strangers and pilgrims are. "For those who say, such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland." They're seeking a kingdom. “And truly, if they had called to mind the country from which they had come out, they came out of a country. They had an identity, right? There was some sort of identity that they had associated and tied to the kingdoms of this world. But they had come out of that. It says, "If they had called those to mind, they would have had opportunity to return. But now, they desire better, that is a heavenly country. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them," a capital of that kingdom.
When we really internalize what it is to be a citizen of that kingdom, our lives are going to change drastically. We will allow the government of God to rule in us first, right? It has to change us. The government of God is a really curious one because all human governments are these outside-in governments, right? It's the government that's established and imposes its rules on its citizenry. The Kingdom of God is different. It's an inside-out government. It's a government that has to be imposed internally, self-imposed, right, that we have to individually be willing to submit to, and then it grows out from there. It's the complete opposite of the kingdoms of this world, of the governments of this world. We have to accept Jesus Christ as our King. Most of us will… If you're baptized, you have done that. You've accepted Jesus Christ as your King. We have to also accept His Kingdom. And then, as members of that Kingdom, as citizens of that Kingdom, He expects us to live our lives as witnesses of Him. That's what He's called us to. That's what our purpose is.
Sometimes we talk about being emissaries, or ambassadors, or representatives. You can't be a representative of a place that you're not a citizen of. And so we are citizens, witnesses in foreign lands. It's what all of us are, by our words, by our presence, by our actions, by our whole lives. We are witnesses of Jesus Christ. Earthly citizenship is different. If we're citizens of this world, it'll look different. Citizens of this world reject God's authority or the scarier part is that maybe they partially accept God's authority, but reject some of it. Citizenship in this world rejects, to some degree, some of God's authority. It rejects His sovereignty. And it looks to others in some part for that sovereignty. It looks to maybe God is your main King, and then we have these other little kings that we establish here and there that we look to that become our kings, that become our, our rulers, our guides, our teachers. Maybe we look to somewhere else for deliverance. And it's an election year and there are a lot of people looking for deliverance in some, sort of, human king. For citizens of this world, we're going to allow the principles of this world, the governments of this world, the agendas of this world, to be the thing that rules in our hearts, that dominates our hearts, our desires. And that's going to change us.
In the same way that God's government in our heart will change us, submitting to the agendas of this world. The governments of this world will change us. And we'll end up serving as witnesses of this world's purposes. We'll be emissaries of this world's governments and this world's agendas. We can get so caught up in those things that they can become our kingdom. This world's issues and ideas, and we can dress them up in Biblical ideas if we want. We can make them look however we want them to look, put Biblical terms around them, right, but they're still the world's agendas and the world's issues. And the result is that we end up putting our focus on something else. We set our mind on earthly things, as Paul said. We end up lending our time, our energy, our voice to those purposes, and those agendas, instead of the purpose that our King has given us. And the result is in the long-term, you end up serving some other king. If we have the wrong kingdom, if we're building our lives around the wrong kingdom, we'll end up serving the wrong king.
Let's turn back to Acts 16. Paul lived… He lived his life under pretty severe government oppression. He lived in an environment that I think we can only imagine. The oppression was far heavier than anything we've experienced but he wasn't focused on that system. And we don't see anything in his… And we don't see letters piling up about, you know, he's railing against the Roman government for all their injustices or whatever it is. That wasn't his focus. That's not even on his radar. We get a few verses where he says, "Submit to authority. Submit to the authorities over you." He understood his citizenship. He understood the Kingdom that he represented. He understood the purpose for his existence. He had the right King and he had the right Kingdom. When we look at Acts 16:25 Acts 16:25And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God: and the prisoners heard them.
American King James Version×, we'll go back… Let's go back through this story, just sort of this little bit in the middle here because I think it's very instructive.
So here in verse 25, “at midnight Paul and Silas were praying, and singing hymns to God.” At midnight, most people would be sleeping. But when you're in the state that they were in, sleep was probably impossible. They've been beaten and there probably just couldn’t… There wasn't any human way to get comfortable. They're in shock, right? They were likely still naked, laying on the ground in a dungeon, their feet in the stocks. But they're praying and singing hymns to God. Verse 26, "Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's chains were loosed." So here they have this miraculous freedom. They had been oppressed by the powers that were over them. They had been put down and they were given miraculous freedom. Now, if I'm in that situation, and I see that there's this great earthquake and this great miracle, I'm going to assume God is getting me out of a jam. And I'm up and out.
I'm not sticking around to find out what happens next because I'm just assuming God did this. He caused this great miracle. There's no other way this could have happened. He must want me to go. And so, I'm leaning over to Silas and saying, "Let's get out of here,” and we run. That's not what Paul did. His first thought was not escape. His first thought was not self-preservation. His first thought wasn't, "Let's get back to normal." His first thought was about being a witness of Jesus Christ. Verse 28, "Paul called with a loud voice, saying, 'Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.'" Maybe Paul kept everybody there. Maybe he encouraged them all to stay. His first concern was for his jailer, which is certainly not where my first concern would be. But Paul's first thought was witnessing for Jesus Christ, was being a citizen of that Kingdom to the man who had put him there. That was his understanding of his purpose was to use that opportunity, to use that freedom, to use that miracle and that liberty to represent Jesus Christ to somebody else.
That's the kind of, focus that we want to have on our own purpose, individually. All of the politics that we're going to see in the coming months ahead, all the issues, and all the stuff going on in our world, it's all just a sideshow. It's all a distraction, right? Today, this day reminds us that in a moment, all of that is going to be rendered meaningless and irrelevant. It's going to be replaced by a Kingdom that's never going to end. And we have an opportunity to claim citizenship in that Kingdom. We have the privilege to claim that as our own and we have the privilege to claim that now. Let's claim it.