The Bible says in Phil. 1:1, “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” Paul was writing this letter from prison. That fact is all the more amazing when we consider that this letter to the Philippians is one of the most positive of all the writings of the Bible. When things seem to be going against us, it is that much more important that we look on the bright side and the positive side and the good side. Of all the people on the earth Christians should be the most positive.
Paul began his letter by identifying himself, which was a necessary thing to do, but he did not do it in a proud or conceited way. He placed Timothy on an equal basis with himself. Paul was not so insecure that he had to have the spotlight on himself. More people would get involved in the spread of the gospel if those who had established positions of leadership would share opportunities with those who are willing to get involved. We live in a day when people who are hungry for power and authority view someone with ability as a competitor. But Paul was not that way. He viewed someone like Timothy as a person to be encouraged and to be accepted as an equal.
Paul also spoke of himself in a humble way. Notice that he identified himself and Timothy simply as “servants of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word that is translated “servant” also means “slave.” You become someone’s slave, if they have paid for you in the marketplace. The ancient Greeks and Romans knew about slaves. Human slaves were bought and sold in the marketplace just like other commodities. Jesus Christ paid for us with His precious blood. We are bought with a price. We are not our own. Every believer should view themselves just like Paul did: a servant to the One who has paid for us. We belong to Jesus. We have no right to anything but to serve Him. Hopefully that whatever you do, you are consciously doing it out of service to Jesus Christ. You are not doing it for yourself. You are doing it as a means to serve Jesus your Master.
Paul mentioned himself and Timothy once in Phil. 1:1, but he mentioned Jesus twice. That’s a good ratio to remember. Often it’s best not to talk about yourself at all, but if you must do so make sure that you talk about the Lord at least twice as much. “He that speaks of himself seeks his own glory, but he that speaks of him that sent him the same is also true.”
In Phil. 1:1 Paul said that he was writing this letter “to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi.” The word “saint” means holy. The idea in organized religion that only some Christians are saints is a false idea. God views every believer as a saint because of what Christ has done for us. The righteousness of Christ is credited to our account. All of our own righteousness is as filthy rags, but God views us as holy. He calls us saints. You can never attain to this kind of righteousness by your own good works. It’s given to you freely through Christ as soon as you believe. It’s a wonderful thing to know that God thinks you are holy. He calls you a saint. Paul wrote “to all the saints in Christ Jesus.” If you are “in Christ Jesus” then you are a saint. It’s not what you have done that makes the difference. It’s your relationship to Jesus Christ that makes the difference.
Paul wrote “to all the saints.” There certainly is an equality to all believers. The Bible has been given to us all equally from a loving God who cares for us all equally. We are all sinners, and none of us deserved to be saved. Jesus died for us all. If we are saved, we all got saved the same way: by grace through faith in Christ. We are all “saints.” The equality of believers should be emphasized first of all. Of course, there are differences among believers because there are differences of gifts and callings. Two of the gifts and callings are mentioned in this Bible verse: “the bishops and deacons.”
A bishop is the same as a shepherd. A bishop is the same as a pastor: someone who takes care of the sheep. A shepherd leads the sheep, feeds the sheep, and protects the sheep. Of course, they feed the sheep with the Word of God. Jesus said to Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” In order for the bishops and shepherds to have time to do the things they have been called to do, the deacons are needed to perform some of the more mundane duties that are required in taking care of a congregation.
In Philippians 1:1 we see the organization of the church that God has established on earth. Everyone in the church has the same status as a saint. There are bishops and shepherds and pastors and deacons who have responsibilities in the church to help lead and care for and teach and encourage the saints. That’s it. That’s the church organization. That’s why the church has adapted over the centuries to the different organizations as manifested in the various denominations. The New Testament organization of the church from the Bible is given some general guidelines, but no hard and fast rules. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Paul said that he was writing “to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi.” Because Paul was writing to all the saints in the city of Philippi, he was probably writing to more than one congregation. At this early stage in the history of the church, there usually were no church buildings and believers met in each other’s homes. That’s why the breaking of bread was often a part of their gatherings. Obviously, there was a lot of hospitality and the sharing of meals. Because the congregations were small, there were many of them in each city. In spite of the problems that many of the churches had, they had not yet broken up into different denominations. All of the believers in that one city were considered the church in that city. In reality nothing has changed. The church of Jesus Christ in your city is made up of all the true believers in your city. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the church is only those in your congregation or only those in your denomination. Paul wrote to all the saints in Christ Jesus, which were at Philippi.
The Bible says in Phil. 1:2, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul hoped and wished and prayed that these Christians in the city of Philippi would be the recipients of two important things: grace and peace. Grace refers to God giving to us freely and unconditionally through Christ and because of Christ. Grace is unmerited. We do not earn it or deserve it. We simply receive it. There is saving grace that a person must experience to initially become a Christian, and then there is more grace that a person can receive and experience after becoming a Christian. With the grace of God you can do anything and endure anything and accomplish anything. If you find grace to help in time of need, you will find all that you need. God giveth more grace. He has a great storehouse of grace to which the believers can always come and find an abundant supply. Paul prayed that a thorn in the flesh would be taken from him, but God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” It may be that what we are praying for is not what we really need. We may simply need more grace. If we accomplish anything, it will only be by the grace of God. Be careful about praising man for anything that is done, because if anything truly is done in the will of God it’s only by the grace of God. Don’t rely on your own efforts and strength. Learn to rely upon God’s grace.
Paul knew that these believers needed grace, and he knew that they needed peace. One of the last things that Jesus said to the apostles after He rose from the dead was, "Peace be unto you.” There is a peace that passes understanding. No matter what you may be going through, there is peace like a river for your soul if you go to the right source to find peace. You find peace at the same place as you find grace: from God. Paul said that he hoped these believers in the city of Philippi would find grace and peace from “God our Father.” It’s important to remember that God is our Father. He is the eternal Father, the perfect Father, and the loving Father. One of the things that a good father does is provide for his children. God will give grace and peace to those who come to Him.
It’s important to notice that in the same verse Jesus Christ is mentioned right along with the Father. They are given an equal status and importance. That’s because they are equal. God the Father is one with God the Son. In this verse Jesus is called “the Lord Jesus Christ.” The emphasis is on the fact that He is Lord. The Lord is the master, the One who has all power. Since He has all power, He can surely give us grace and peace when we need it. Jesus is Lord.
The Bible says in Phil. 1:3-5, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” This little book of Philippians is perhaps the most consistently positive of all the books in the Bible. That’s one of the reasons that it’s such a good one to study. Notice the positive emphasis in these few verses. Paul is thankful. He said, “I thank my God.” Paul is joyful. He said, “making request with joy.” Paul is thinking about the good news. He spoke of “fellowship in the gospel,” and the word gospel means “good news.”
When Paul thought about the believers in Philippi, he was thankful. When Paul prayed for the believers in Philippi, he was joyful. These believers had not yet become everything that they should be, as the next verse will emphasize, but they had their good points as everyone does. Obviously, Paul thought about the good points. When he remembered these people, he remembered the good things. No wonder Paul was happy even though he was in prison. He had trained his mind to think good thoughts. You will never find true happiness if you try to base your happiness on your circumstances. True happiness will come when you are able to think good thoughts no matter what are your circumstances. The reality that you are experiencing is in large measure based upon how you interpret what you are experiencing. Think what you ought to think. Think good thoughts. Interpret things on the positive side. The better that you do that: the better that you will be what you ought to be in this world.
The Bible says in Phil.1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Again Paul uses positive words to describe his mental state. This time it’s “confident.” But it’s not self-confidence that Paul is talking about. His confidence is in God. If you are self-confident, then you are likely to be confident in the flesh. The flesh refers to the human physical life. If you have no self-confidence, then you have all the more reason to place your confidence exactly where Paul placed his: in God.
Paul was confident in God because Paul knew how God works in the lives of people. Human beings may leave some work unfinished, but God does not. Once God starts a work, He finishes it. Paul said to the believers in Philippi, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” In this verse the word “perform” in the Greek means complete. He which hath begun a good work in you will complete it and will finish it until the day of Jesus Christ. That’s the work of God in this world. God starts a good work in the life of someone by giving that person the new birth, which is salvation by faith in Christ. Being born again is just the start. After being saved, there is a lot more to come. There is a lifetime of learning and growing and changing. Just as the salvation experience was a good work; the learning, growing, and changing are a continuation of the good work that God is doing in your life.
Rom.8:29-30 says, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” God will not give up on you. He has a plan and a work that He is accomplishing in your life. God will keep doing this great work in your life from the day you are saved until the day that Jesus Christ returns, and life as we now know it is transformed forever.
Copyright; 2001 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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