Philippians 1:1-2

Philippians 1:1-2 – Greeting

Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ,To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s epistles (with the possible exception of Hebrews which can’t be positively attributed to Paul for this very reason) all begin with a standard form of greeting which was common in letters of the time…
1)    Identifies the writer
2)    Identifies the intended recipients
3)    Offers blessings

He begins by stating who the letter is from. This is the basis as we talked about before for our belief that this letter did indeed originate with Paul. The word translated “bondservants” here is δοῦλος doulos – which could also be translated as “slave.” But in this context, the word slave doesn’t carry the connotation of forced labor, but of willing, permanent, and total servitude.

Exodus 21:2-6 (God speaking to Moses)
“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.”
By using the word δοῦλος doulos to refer to himself and Timothy, Paul is plainly stating that he loves his Master – Jesus Christ, and does not want to go free, but wishes instead to serve Him forever. So it is with us when we choose to make Jesus our Lord, and repent of our sins. In response, Jesus presents us before the Judge – God the Father, and seals us, not with an awl and an ear ring, but with His Holy Spirit. In this we see a beautiful picture of the Trinity with each person of the Godhead taking a specific role in our salvation.
 
In greeting the “saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi,” Paul means to refer to their status in Christ rather than their character. In modern society, perhaps largely due to the traditional canonization of saints practiced by the Roman Catholic church, the word “saint” has come to carry with it the connotation of a notably pure and holy character. But the Greek word ἅγιος hagios used here by Paul connotes something quite different. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, this word and a similar Hebrew word…
“…have the meaning of consecration and divine claim and ownership. They are not primarily words of character,” … “but express a relation to God as being set apart for His own.”
So, in essence, Paul is writing to those in Philippi who belong to God, having been set apart by Him as His possession. This “saintliness” has nothing to do with their (or our) own character or actions, but everything to do with God’s will in choosing us as His own, and setting us apart as His possession by the cleansing of our sins in the blood of Jesus, and the sealing of God’s title to us by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.
Bob Dylan – I Believe in You
Don’t let me change my heart
Keep me set apart
From all the plans they do pursue.
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the One I love.
Here’s my heart, Lord. Take and seal it.
Seal it for thy courts above.
Paul also gives a special greeting to the “bishops” (literally overseers), and “deacons” (servants). From this, we can discern that the church in Philippi had grown to the extent that it needed leaders to oversee church activities, and no doubt instruct and guard the flock in doctrine, as well as servants to carry out the day-to-day work of tending to the flock. This pattern of church organization was modeled in Jerusalem as we see in…
Acts 6:1-4
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
This, too, was modeled by the organization of the nation of Israel in the desert following the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 18:13-27), when Moses appointed “rulers” from among the people to rule over blocks of thousands, hundreds, and tens.
 
In any church of more than just a few families, it is essential to establish such a framework of leadership, so that those who minister the Word of God to the flock can focus on that supremely important task rather than the details of day-to-day ministry. This isn’t to say that the pastor should be locked in an ivory tower, and only come out of it to preach. After all, we see the wisdom of the system Moses established in…
Exodus 18:22
And let them (the appointed church leaders) judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you
That said, in verse 1, we can conclude from the fact that bishops and deacons had been appointed that the Philippian church had grown considerably since its humble beginnings as a gathering of believers in the home of Lydia some 10 years before.
 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul begins each of his epistles in the New Testament (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon) with this blessing (with some slight variations). Paul’s Greek-speaking Gentile readers would have traditionally greeted one another with “grace,” (χάρις charis) while his Hebrew-speaking Jewish readers would have used the Hebrew word for “peace” – שָׁלוֹם shalom – (Greek εἰρήνη eirēnē) as their greeting. So, in a sense, Paul is covering both bases in wishing his readers both grace and peace. Interestingly, in the pastoral epistles to Timothy and Titus he also wishes “mercy” to them.
 
Grace may be defined as unmerited favor, or getting what one doesn’t deserve. This grace is the core of Jesus’ offering to us by His laying down of His life on the cross, so that we might be enabled to receive by simply asking God’s forgiveness for our sins, thus allowing us to enter into our inheritance with Christ, our spiritual brother and co-heir, by the giving of the Spirit of adoption…
Romans 8:15-17
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Peace is the traditional Jewish greeting/blessing/prayer even today. The peace we seek is another part of God’s grace. Paul will write more deeply about this peace of God a little later in this letter…
 Philippiians 4:6-7
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Before we press forward into the body of the letter, we need to take a look at a very important phrase – from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Non-trinitarians – especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons seize upon this verse (and similar verses in the greetings found in all of Paul’s epistles) to promote the idea that God the Father and the Lord Jesus are not the same person. Similarly, they also read Thomas’ exclamation of faith upon encountering the risen Christ for the first time found in…
John 20:28
And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!
…to claim that Thomas was referring to two people. These contentions might seem silly on their face, but they are extremely dangerous because the logical conclusion arising from them is that Jesus is not God!
 
Once again, we need to take a look at the Refuge Church Statement of Faith…
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit. We believe in His virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, and teachings; His substitutionary atoning death; bodily resurrection; ascension into heaven; perpetual intercession for His people; and personal, visible return to earth. We believe that He is one and the same as God. He is fully human and fully God.
There are a number of Biblical bases for this belief…
John 10:30-33
I and [My] Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”
John 5:16-18
For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
John 8:51-58

“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

In this last passage, Jesus clearly refers to Himself using the covenant Name of God – I AM – given by God to Moses while speaking the him from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Note also that in each of these passage, Jesus’ immediate audience clearly recognized His claim to deity, and sought to kill Him for this “blasphemy.” Indeed they seemed to have eventually succeeded in doing just that apart from what Jesus Himself said beforehand…

 
John 10:17-18

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Having said all that, I am very suspicious of anyone who claims to understand how it is possible for a single Godhead to encompass and exist in three distinct persons simultaneously, or how one Person of this blessed Trinity could somehow come to the Earth in the flesh as a human being, yet continue to be in all respects God, or that this Jesus could then be separated from God in death – albeit temporary. Perhaps it is possible to come to grips intellectually with these concepts, but I believe anyone who claims to have done so simply has not considered the matter fully enough. As for me, I simply believe it, with full acceptance and assumption that I will never fully understand, even in Heaven.

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