Lesson # 1: Part 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Philippians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Pray About Everything!

Pray About Everything!

Date: 3/15/18

Lesson # 1
Title: Salutation
Text: (Philippians 1:1-2)

Scripture: (Philippians 1:1-2, NIV)

1 Paul{P1] and Timothy{P2], servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons{P3]:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[P1} Paul, commonly known as Saint Paul and also known by his Jewish name Saul of Tarsus was an apostle (though not one of the Twelve Apostles) who taught the gospel of Christ to the first-century world. We know a lot about Paul already from our study of his other epistles, so I will be brief and remind readers of just a few things. Paul is generally considered one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age and in the mid-30s to the mid-50s AD, he founded several churches in Asia Minor and Europe. He took advantage of his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen (Paul’s Roman citizenship gained his freedom and silenced his enemies.) to minister to both Jewish and Roman audiences; preaching that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God. Approximately half of the book of Acts deals with Paul's life and works.

[P2} Timothy (Greek: meaning "honoring God" or "honored by God.") was an early Christian evangelist and the first first-century Christian bishop of Ephesus, who tradition relates died around the year AD 97. Timothy was from the Lycaonian city of Lystra in Asia Minor, born of a Jewish mother who had become a Christian believer, and a Greek father. The Apostle Paul met him during his second missionary journey and he became Paul’s companion and co-worker along with Silas. The New Testament indicates that Timothy traveled with Saint Paul, who was also his mentor. Paul entrusted him with important assignments. He is addressed as the recipient of the First and Second Epistles to Timothy.

P3} The word deacons refers here to Christians designated to serve with the overseers/elders of the church in a variety of ways; see Romans 16:1and 1 Tim. 3:8, 12. There are some who believe that their work may have been patterned after the seven of Acts 6:1-6, but they are not called deacons.

In Paul’s time letters typically began with the name of the sender, the name of the recipient, and a brief salutation. That Philippians was written by Paul is virtually unquestioned. Tradition holds that the apostle wrote the Philippians from Rome, while in prison, and by the hand of Epaphroditus. But according to Acts 16:12-40, Paul and his missionary companions founded the church during his so-called second missionary journey (A.D. 49), after having answered a call at Troas to enter Macedonia to help there. Philippi received its name from Phillip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.

Christianity which began with quiet meetings in the humble Jewish homes, or oratory, by the river-side, had spread in Philippi and has by now settled down into a stable and permanent church organization. Of all his churches, the Church at Philippi was the one to which Paul was closest; and he writes, not as an apostle to members of his Church, but as a friend to his friends.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is practical. It gets right down to where we live. It is a wonderful little epistle and we will be enriched by the sweetness of it.

1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the servants of Christ Jesus and deacons:

“PAUL AND TIMOTHY”—Paul associates Timothy with himself. Paul brings this young preacher and puts him right beside himself, and he encourages him. Paul loves this young man, Timothy. He was Paul’s son in the Lord, that is, he had won him to Christ; and Paul was very interested in him. Paul is constantly identifying certain young preachers with himself.

.” In the greeting, Paul identifies himself and Timothy as the servants{A.6] of Jesus Christ, not because Timothy played any part in the composition of the letter as Paul’s prompt return to the singular demonstrates (1:3), but because he wishes to prepare the Philippians for Timothy’s forthcoming visit (2:19) by showing them that they are colleagues engaged in the same work. This is further emphasized by the joint designation, “bondservants of Christ Jesus”, which is not an honorific title, but an expression denoting their complete submission to the lordship of Christ. Having been redeemed by Christ from the bondage of sin, they are now totally at the disposal of their New Master. A servant is free to come and go; but a slave is the possession of his master forever.

When Paul calls himself the slave of Jesus Christ, he does three things.
I. He asserts that he is the total possession of Christ. Christ has loved him and bought him with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20{A.7]), and he can never belong to anyone else.
II. He states that he owes an absolute obedience to Christ. The slave has no will of his own; his master’s will must be his. So Paul has no will of his own; his master’s will must be his. So Paul has no will but Christ’s, and no obedience but to his Savior and Lord.
III. In the Old Testament, the regular title of the prophets is the servants of God (Amos 3:7; Jeremiah 7:25). That is the title which is given to Moses, to Joshua and to David (Joshua 1:2; Judges 2:8; Psalm 78:70; 89:3, 20). In fact, the highest of all titles of honor is a servant of God; and when Paul takes this title, he humbly places himself in the succession of the prophets and of the great ones of God. The Christian’s slavery to Jesus Christ is no cringing subjection. As the Latin tag has it: “to be his slave is to be a king.”

The word servants actually means “bondslaves (or bondservants).” It suggests not only the idea of a special calling (as it had done when applied to the Old Testament prophets), but also a complete devotion to the Lord. This is in contrast to his epistle to the Galatians where he was defending his apostleship. He began with “Paul, an apostle.” He did the same thing to the Corinthians. He had to declare and defend his apostleship and wanted them to know he was apostle not of men, neither by man. He didn’t need to defend himself with these Philippians. They love him, and they’ve accepted his apostleship. They had all been led to the Lord by him. So Paul takes a humble place, his rightful position; both “Paul and Timothy,” are “servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The significance of the words of a salutation depends upon the character and reputation of those from whom it comes. Paul was honored by the Philippians as their father in the gospel, and as one who had won a high distinction by his conspicuous abilities and labors in other spheres; and Timothy was well-known to them as a devoted minister and fellow helper of the apostle. Words coming from such a source would be gratefully welcomed and fondly cherished.

This is the first instance in which servants and deacons are mentioned, and addressed in the apostolic salutation. The former is sometimes called elders, pastors, presbyters, ministers, rulers, or presidents, and were empowered to take the oversight of the whole church, to instruct, exhort, and rule the members; the latter was chosen to take care of the poor and to manage the finances of the Church. The servants of Jesus Christ tended to the internal, the deacons to the external affairs of the Christian community. Since the Apostles due to their frequent absence were unable to take the personal oversight of the Churches they founded, they appointed pastors in each church and deacons to assist them.

“TO ALL GOD’S HOLY PEOPLE IN CHRIST JESUS AT PHILIPPI.” Paul is not writing to one little clique in the Philippian Church; he is writing to all the saints, and every believer is a saint by virtue of their spiritual union with Christ, but are also objectively “holy” in Him because His perfect righteousness is freely put to their account (3:9{A.8]; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
The term “saints” (“holy people,” NIV) reminds the Philippians that they are united with one another not by their own decision but by God’s having chosen them out of all the peoples of the earth to be His treasured possession (Exodus 19:5-6{A.5]). He reminds them that their status as “saints” implies their unity as the people whom God has called to be his treasured possession. The nation Israel is called “a treasured possession, kingdom of priests, a holy nation” in the passage we just read, Exodus 19:5-6{A.5]. They were holy unto the Lord; God had severed them from other nations, so that they might be His (Leviticus 20:26{A.9]); it was they of all nations on the face of the earth whom God had especially known?“You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins” (Amos 3:2). The Jews were different from all other nations, for they had a special place in the purpose of God.

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