First we have to go to Acts 16 for an interesting story about Paul’s stay in Philippi. There was Lydia a wealthy merchant and possibly Paul’s first convert in Europe. The slave girl who was used by her masters to tell fortunes and the civil servant who was a Roman jailer. Three people who represent a cross section of ancient life. Lydia was from Asia, the slave girl was a native Greek and the Jailer was a Roman citizen. From all over the empire people were coming to the Christian Church. Think about this. Not long ago and it still may be so, the current “buzz” word was inclusion. All kinds of programs and encouraging articles were written about how the church needed to be more inclusive. Paul had no program or written words about the need for inclusion, the all-embracing faith which Jesus Christ brought to men and women spoke to all peoples and that was all he needed. The Holy Spirit, faith and love of all people couldn’t be constrained in written words, it was best understood in life changing actions. Read Acts 16 for a better understanding of this part of Paul’s ministry, now Philippians.
Philippians is a special letter because it is just that. You get the feeling right off that this is a letter to friends. Paul does not, as he does in other letters, feel the need to state his position or why he has the right to write to them. Paul knows they will read, listen willingly with love and respect. This is a letter from a friend to his friends. A lot of information is here in just the first two verses. Paul does make one claim for himself and Timothy, they are slaves of Jesus Christ, but interestingly enough he expands that to include the people of Philippi who belong to God because of their relationship and acceptance of Jesus Christ. He makes it very plain that he is there to serve them also in their faith walk; I am your friend because you are my friend. There is an important difference here between a servant and a slave.
-A servant could pretty much come and go but a slave was the possession of his master forever.
-He makes note of the fact that he is the absolute possession of Jesus Christ. Christ bought him and paid a price for him and he could never belong to anyone else. Just as a slave has no will of his own, he too has absolute obedience to the will of Christ in his life. To be a slave to Christ is not a matter of cowering subjection but an honor of the highest order. As Paul is known to have written and I paraphrase, to Die for Christ is to Live. “To all the saints in Christ Jesus”as found in the Revised Standard Version could be a bit misleading. The word saint is translated from the word Hagios and the Hebrew equivalent Kadosh usually translates as holy. As a layman I can easily get confused and in this case I am reading three references trying to get this right. So…to keep it simple, to a Hebrew it all washes out to mean set apart. That which is holy is different from other things. The word Holy is often affixed to the Jewish Nation. They had been called out to be different and they were different for they had a special place in God’s purpose. Paul refers to the Philippians as saints in Christ Jesus. If you live a Holy life, strive to be a saint in Christ Jesus you are to be different from other people. You are different because of your special relationship to Jesus Christ – and that is what every Christian should strive for.
PAUL’S greeting to his friends is: Grace be to you and peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ
These being the normal greeting phrases of two great nations, we are reminded of the weaving, binding or could we say, inclusiveness of the power of Christianity to bring together God’s people, Greek and Jew. Grace and Peace, Paul’s prayer for his people. The joy of knowing God, being reconciled to God and having a grace and peace in their life that can come only through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Quite a revelation for just two verses. Hope you come back next week as we look closer at Paul’s love and friendship for the Church at Philippi.
Life is Good