“For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar” (Acts 25:11, NKJV).
Paul had been falsely accused of sedition against Rome and crimes against the Jews and kept imprisoned by an unscrupulous governor (Acts 24:5-6, 22-27). Two years later, he is before another Roman governor (Festus) answering these false charges (Acts 25:7-10). His appeal to Caesar’s court for judgment indicates several things worthy of our consideration and practice. (1) Paul put himself under the authority of civil government. We do not see Paul arguing against the government’s authority to adjudicate disputes of its citizens. Although the government was suppressing his rights (as Felix detained him, hoping for a bribe), Paul did not become violate. Neither should we when those in authority oppress us (1 Pet. 2:14-20). (2) It is right to seek justice from civil authorities. God ordained civil government to address the primary purpose of protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty (Rom. 13:1-4). Paul’s “appeal to Caesar” was the exercise of a legal avenue for justice and protection from the Jews who were trying to kill him (Acts 25:2-3). (3) If we violate the law, we should accept our punishment without objection. Paul was willing to be executed if he “committed anything worthy of death.” If we are guilty of violating the law, we ought to admit it, accept our punishment, and repent of our transgression against the Lord (Rom. 13:4-5). While our citizenship is in heaven, we are to be honorable citizens of society (Phil. 3:20; 2 Cor. 8:21).
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. (Philippians 3:20–21, NKJV)
Citizenship identifies a person as a legal member of a nation. It qualifies that person to participate in the rights and privileges of that nation. In contrast to “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 minds on earthly things,” Phil. 3:18-19), Christians are qualified “to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12). By faith, we eagerly wait for the Savior’s return, living in hope of the glorious resurrection in anticipation of our heavenly estate (Heb. 11:14-16). Christ will subdue (subjugate, defeat) death in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Kingdom citizens will be delivered up to God the Father to dwell forever in the eternal city of God (1 Cor. 15:23-24; Rev. 21:22-27). These great assurances compel the wise and faithful of heart to answer the gospel call to be saved, to become citizens of heaven (Acts 2:37-41; Col. 1:13). Christians set their minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2). Let us live for the glory of heaven daily, not for things that end in destruction.
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29, NKJV)
Jesus had previously explained the kingdom of God is not entered by the power of money and human expectations, but by the power of God (Matthew 19:23-26). After assuring the apostles of their reward of service in the kingdom, Jesus went on to explain how kingdom entrance requires sacrifice and devotion by everyone who wants kingdom citizenship (19:29). One is not entitled to kingdom citizenship who does not enter it correctly. I cannot simply enter the kingdom by expecting citizenship. Everyone who wants to be in the kingdom of God must leave behind (forsake, yield up, let go) everything for the sake of Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus said. Whether it is possessions or people, Christ demands first place in our hearts and lives or we will not be regenerated (born again, saved, and conveyed into the kingdom, cf. Luke 14:33, 26; Colossians 1:13-14). Many spiritual blessings accrue here and now to the disciple of Christ (Ephesians 1:3). And finally, the inheritance of eternal life is the faithful Christian’s reward (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Blessings from heaven belong to all who submit to the will of Jesus (Acts 3:19). Every attempt to enter God’s kingdom without doing the will of God will fail (Matthew 7:21).
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9–10, NKJV)
If the incentives for proclaiming the praises God of verse 9 are not enough, Peter now expands upon our spiritual condition before we answered God’s call to salvation. By doing so he gives crucial insight into our priestly service unto God. In the darkness of sin we were without faith and hope. Aliens and strangers to God, we were not God’s people. As we lived under the dark forces of Satan our allegiance was only to the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:13). But now, people of faith are the people of God who have been given heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20). Likewise, we were without mercy under the rule of Satan as we were held in the merciless bondage of sin (John 8:34). But now we have received mercy from God in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). Because we are the recipients of God’s compassionate forgiveness we are compelled to proclaim His matchless grace to others. Once aliens, we are now citizens. Once oppressed, we are now forgiven. The grace of God we have in Christ demands we proclaim His excellence and serve Him faithfully (Titus 2:11-12). May we keep our charge with diligent faith.
27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. (Philippians 1:27–28, NKJV)
Our lives must be worthy of the gospel of Christ. How we live is to reflect that we are citizens of heaven even while we live on this earth (Phil. 3:20). We cannot hold the values of the world, make decisions like the world, and practice the sins of the world, without in fact being of the world (1 Jno. 2:15-17; Jas. 4:4). A life lived “worthy of the gospel” stands steadfast, united in spirit and fully engaged in the struggle for the faith of the gospel. With boldness and not fear, let us persevere in the face of every adversary who opposes the salvation God assures us in Christ.