I have decided for at least the month of January – and possibly February – I am going to study the book of Philippians. For the past couple of days, I have read through the entire four chapters straight through two or three times a day. Tonight, I am going to start a very intense study. Each post will only cover a few verses at a time – maybe two or three at the most. This is not something that must be rushed. At the end of this study, I hope to have accomplished something I can look back on and enjoy. Though I am sure my thoughts concerning different parts of this book will be challenged and provoked, I am sure it is a great way to learn the Word of God – I have to start somewhere after all. On that note, we will begin with Philippians 1: 1-3. I will be using the ESV (English Standard Version as my main English text) if you would like to follow along.
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,”
First off, Paul does not write this letter alone. In recent conversations with a couple of individuals, books like Philippians and Colossians have been called, “Paul’s letters.” Here though, we are challenged to think perhaps a little differently about that statement: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus…” This was not a solo missionary letter.
This letter was written to “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi.” Notice they do not write, “to all the saints who LIVE in Philippi.” This leaves an open door for this letter to be shared with anyone who is a passerby or someone who has made Philippi his or her home.
The next phrase is also interesting: “with all the overseers and deacons:” What would have made this letter much different is if the saints and the overseers and the deacons were switched in their letter. What I mean is, suppose the letter read like this: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to the overseers and deacons who are at Philippi with all the saints.” Paul is emphasizing the importance of the community of people in Philippi but recognizes that there is an elder group as well as a group of deacons who minister to the saints there. This message is for the people and the overseers and deacons are in charge of sharing this letter with everyone who is at Philippi.
Grace and peace come from God – both the Father and through Jesus Christ. Grace is a free gift we are given and peace is something we can enjoy because of God’s grace.
The “you” in this sentence is in the plural – not the singular. This is a community thing.
Paul seems to be a guy who attempts to be overly thankful to God and to the Philippian people.
Paul remembers these people – he loves them.
The term, “servants” is an interesting term in the Greek. It refers to a “bondservant.” In the OT, bondservants were men or women who chose to serve a Master or Lord his whole life. He would demonstrate that symbolically by driving a nail in his or her ear. This would be a sign to everyone that they “belonged” to someone. Bondservants would give up their freedom to serve a Master. Paul and Timothy have decided to give up their personal freedoms to serve God as Master and Lord for life.
Overseers and deacons were qualified men who led a community of believers in worship and lifestyle living. We read about how deacons were chosen to take care of widowed women in Acts 6 and how Paul said it was important that they were men that were respected by the community. They would have had hands laid on them and they would have been prayed over. To find out more about overseers and their qualifications, you can read 1Timothy 3 and Titus 3.
The term ‘peace’ here refers to the ability of the community to listen and to be calm. It is not the kind of peace that refers to peace after a war. Paul is basically saying, “Take a few moments and rest while I share with you (plural) something that is significantly important for you (plural) to hear.”
This ends our small study on Philippians for now. The next two or three verses are soon to follow. Each day, I will continue to add to this study and, by the end, there will be a small commentary of sorts that you are more than welcome to share with others and use if you would like in your personal or group studies. God bless.