V11Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:. In his usual style Paul first mentions that he himself is the writer of the letter. Then as he often does, he includes someone with him as he writes this letter. This time he has Timothy who is his “true child in [the] faith“ (1Tim 1:22to Timothy, [my] true child in [the] faith: Grace, mercy [and] peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.). Young Timothy was of special value to Paul as his trusted companion in his work (Phil 2:20-2220For I have no one [else] of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.21For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.22But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child [serving] his father.). He was also well known to the Philippians. Paul mentions his name also as co-sender of this letter to make it clear that he also stands behind the contents of the letter. That was important because Paul was hoping to send him shortly to them.
That Paul mentioned Timothy’s name also as co-sender does not mean that they had written this letter together. In many places Paul uses the word ‘I’ which shows that he is the real writer.
Also note that Paul does not write as an apostle. He introduces himself and Timothy as “bond-servants of Jesus Christ“. That means the servant or slave has been purchased by Christ so that he or she is free. The one who is convinced about the price the Lord Jesus paid for his redemption will always want to be His slave. By saying bond-servants of Christ, he places himself and Timothy on the same level with the Philippians. The contents of the letter do not carry any greater weight when it is connected with his apostolic authority. The important matter is to show its contents in everyday life. That is seen in his life as a bond-servant and not on the basis of his position as apostle.
If he had written as an apostle, then he had given the impression that one must have the position of the apostle to have Christian experience. The Christian experience he presents here is not apostolic in nature, but it is an experience in the range of ordinary Christians. It relates to every ordinary Christian who is a bond-servant of the Lord. Love for the Lord Jesus is the motive to show in our life the contents of this letter. This letter is not a command from above.
Paul really has in his mind all the saints. We see this in the manner in which he addresses his readers. He writes to “all the saints” and that means no one is excluded. By the use of the word “all” he makes it clear that he stands above all parties and differences. He writes not to the church in Philippi but to the saints because the Christian experience is something personal. These saints are “in Christ Jesus”. That is their spiritual position. They are also the saints “in Philippi”. There we see their earthly position.
It is in Philippi their role in their social and church life takes place; there they have their responsibility, and there they bear their testimonies. You can apply this to yourself. You have been set apart in Christ from this world, and that is the meaning of saint. You no longer belong to the world. In Christ Jesus you have been separated from the world to live for God. In the place where you live you do this in everyday life.
It is true that the “overseers and deacons” have been specifically mentioned, but that does not mean they had any special status. The word “including” shows that. They have been put on a par with the saints (cp. Acts 20:2828Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.). It is clear from Acts 20 and Titus 1 that overseers means the same as elders (Acts 20:17-2817From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.18And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time,19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews;20how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house,21solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.22And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there,23except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.24But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.25“And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.26Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.27For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.28Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.; Tit 1:5,75For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,7For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,). Elder denotes the maturity of the person and his experience in life. Overseer denotes the nature of the work or the task.
I would not be surprised if you have questions about the appointment of elders. I can say a few things about it. In the New Testament we read three times about the appointment of elders (Acts 14:2323When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.; 20:2828Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.; Tit 1:55For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,). These passages do not suggest that the church appointed them. You read of the apostles who appoints them for the purpose of the church (Acts 14:2323When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.). We read that overseers were first made by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:2828Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.; and you read that someone else appoints them in the name of an apostle (Tit 1:55For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,). Since we have no more apostles, no one can handle in the name of an apostle, and therefore it is difficult to appoint elders today.
Are not elders necessary? Does not 1 Timothy 3 speak about the qualifications of overseers (1Tim 3:1-71It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires [to do].2An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.4[He must be] one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity5(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),6[and] not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.7And he must have a good reputation with those outside [the church], so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.)? Certainly I did not say that they are now redundant. What I assert is that they cannot be officially appointed by the church. Believers who know the Lord and walks with Him for a considerable period of time are encouraged to seek the position of an overseer (1Tim 3:11It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires [to do].). Blessed are those local churches that have such men in their midst.
“Deacons” are people who are responsible for the material things of people in the church. This is not a lesser service than that of the overseer, but another one. The overseer is mainly responsible for the spiritual needs of the believers. Both these services require a direct dependence on the Lord. They cannot show any nepotism. They are no respecters of persons. Then only their service can be of any use to the saints and to the honor of the Lord.
V22Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.. Paul closes his salutation with the usual words of blessings. He wishes his readers the consciousness of “grace” and inner “peace” for their everyday life. Grace means free and unmerited favor. To live a life in the consciousness of grace bestowed is a life lived in which the peace of God is experienced.
He wishes that this peace and this grace will be given to them by the two Persons in the Godhead Whom they are associated with. The Father and the Lord Jesus Christ have a great interest in the believers. Believers enjoy peace and grace when they have this great interest in everything related to the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. In the light of this letter we can say that grace and peace encompass the total Christian experience. You can relate these two blessings to everything you experience in the shaping of your character as a Christian.
V33I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,. The basic tone of the letter is gratitude. Paul begins to thank spontaneously when he thinks of the Philippians. Sometimes you also could have experienced similar feelings. When you think of certain people you cannot easily suppress certain feelings. The feelings correspond to what these people mean to you. If you had negative experiences with them your heart will not overflow with gratitude when you think of them. But if they are people to whom you owe a lot then things are different.
How good memories make a man happy and grateful! It is the same here with Paul when he thinks of the Philippians. He makes them know that he thanks God when he thinks of them. God also saw to it that this bond of fellowship exists.
V44always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,. Paul’s thoughts are filled with the involvement of the Philippians and therefore he always prays for them, and thanks God upon every remembrance of them. One can also learn another fact from this. His prayer for them is not a burden, nor a lamentation before God. It builds up confidence in him. He prays “with joy” and that is “for you all”, so for all of them.
It looks as if there are no exceptions in this church. They were all totally involved in the gospel Paul preached. Even now while he was in prison they were all participants in the gospel. They always stood behind him. The gift they sent him testified to it. I am jealous of such a church. Aren’t you?
V55in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.. The Philippians were not just nice people; they were his brothers and sisters. With them he shared his testimonies and with them he shared his faith in the Lord Jesus. They had accepted the gospel on the first day they heard it from him (Acts 16:14,33-3414A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.33And he took them that [very] hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his [household].34And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.). They then supported him in the preaching of the gospel, not simply once as people do it at the spur of the moment in emotional excitement.
There are Christians who are excited momentarily when a gospel outreach is organized. It is wonderful to do something for the Lord along with many people. But again when the action is over and normal life resumes its course, their activity for the gospel is also over. It was different with the Philippians. Their attachment to the gospel was not out of impulse or out of a temporary emotion. It continued “until now”.
V66[For I am] confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.. Paul is realistic enough to see that “until now” is not the end of the line. The Philippians must go ahead a further distance. But he has full confidence in them and sees the end ahead with joy. The fruit witnessed in their life was the result of the good work God worked in them. That gave him the confidence for the future. He knew that God would continue His work in them and complete it. The completion will take place on “the day of Jesus Christ”.
The “day of Christ” is the day when Christ would appear in His glory. The whole Christian life spans between two days – the first day (verse 55in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.) and the day of Christ. The first day is the beginning of the race, the day on which they (we) heard the gospel and accepted it. The day of Christ is the period when Christ will openly take control over the world (Psa 2:88‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the [very] ends of the earth as Your possession.
). For us that day begins when we believers “shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1Thes 4:16-1716For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.), after which we will immediately “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2Cor 5:1010For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.). Then we will look back upon our life with the eyes of the Lord and arrive at the same judgment as His. “We will be like Him” (1Jn 3:22Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.). Then God’s work in us is completed.
Now read Philippians 1:1-6 again.
Reflection: What can you learn from the way Paul gives thanks and prays for the Philippians?