“Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all God’s people in Philippi and the ministers of the Church and their assistants: Grace and peace be to you, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (paraphrased)
A decade before writing his letter to the Philippians, Paul responds to a vision and travels to Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). Philippi is Paul’s first stop, and thus becomes the first city in this region to receive the Gospel. Due to his continuing relationship with the church family there, he feels no need for a formal introduction in his letter. He begins by addressing them in terms of deepest affection. Paul loves this church and visits them at least twice during his second missionary journey. Unlike Galatia, there are no hostile factions within the Philippian church. He writes to them with no distinct doctrinal purpose, desiring only to see them grow in grace. He joins his name with Timothy as fellow servants of Christ. As we read Paul’s other letters, we find the name of Timothy more closely associated with his own name than any other.
The word Jesus means “Savior” (Matthew 1:21). It is a very common Jewish name, for the Hebrew equivalent is “Joshua.” Christ means “the anointed one” and refers to the Messiah.
By his use of His full title here, Paul affirms Jesus is indeed the Jewish Messiah, the divine Son of God. By linking the words “Jesus” with “Christ,” Paul reminds us of the Lord’s messianic mission.
The word servant simply means “a slave.” As servants of Jesus, we cannot simultaneously be the servants of men (I Cor. 7:23). Hundreds of books are in print today concerning leadership, but few on servanthood. As members of God’s family, the highest title we can give to another is “brother” or “sister.” Paul writes to them, not as their superior, but as a fellow servant. Christian character is manifested through our selflessness, not by our titles. A spirit of selfless service to others is foundational to Christianity.
Paul writes to “all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi,” without racial or gender distinctions. The prominence of female names associated with Philippi, both in Acts and in Philippians, strongly suggests the generosity of this church is due to its godly women. The root word saint means “holy.” The fact that we identify ourselves as Christians means we recognize our responsibility as His representatives to live lives totally dedicated to God. Our primary goal must be self-consecration, sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit. By addressing “the bishops and deacons” Paul affirms godly leadership is already established within this church.
The Greek term “grace” is difficult to translate. At its root is the word charis, which refers to the unmerited favor of God. All who identify themselves as “Charismatics” must bear in mind the word charis involves the concept of absolute unworthiness. All believers should recognize how little we deserve the privilege to be servants of Jesus. Paul prays the Philippians will come to fully appreciate the richness of God’s love, grace and peace in Christ Jesus.
INVOCATION – STUDY QUESTIONS
1. Who is the person named in the first verse of Philippians who is also named in the first verse of II Corinthians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians and the first verse of Colossians?
2. In I Thessalonians 3:2, this same man is described as:
A. A minister, fellow laborer and minister
B. A reserved and timid person
C. A man who needs to hold his temper
D. An individual who deserted Paul
E. None of the above
3. In Philippians 1:1, Paul refers to himself as:
A. A leader
B. A pastor
C. An elder
D. A servant
E. A prisoner
4. In verse two, what two things does Paul desire the Philippians will receive from God?
(See also Colossians 1:2 and II Thessalonians 1:2)
A. love and harmony
B. Grace and peace
C. Patience and understanding
D. Faith and mercy
E. None of the above
INVOCATION – REFLECTION
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR COUPLES
1. Paul hopes the Philippians will receive God’s grace and peace. List specific ways in which you demonstrate graciousness to your spouse.
2. It is Paul’s desire the Philippians will live peaceful lives. In what specific ways do you create a peaceful environment for your mate?
3. The word grace refers to the unmerited, undeserved favor of God. Have you let your spouse know that he/she is truly a gift from God? Discuss this right now.
ESSAY QUESTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS
1. Paul hopes the Philippians will receive God’s grace and peace. List specific ways in which you demonstrate graciousness to others where you work.
2. It is Paul’s desire the Philippians will live peaceful lives. List an instance in which you have demonstrated an attitude of peace in a potentially hostile situation.
3. The word grace refers to the unmerited, undeserved favor of God. Write a paragraph listing some of the ways God has demonstrated His grace in your life.