Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi was written around A.D. 61, while Paul was in house arrest in Rome. Paul was writing to the church that he planted while in Macedonia about ten years earlier.
This letter is mostly a letter of thankfulness and joy, in these four short chapters, Paul mentions Joy or rejoicing nineteen times. Paul begins the Letter by introducing himself and Timothy as servants of Christ, the Greek word he used is Doulos, which means bond-slave. Picture this, Paul, the accomplished church planter, missionary, Roman citizen, premier theologian in all of history and he introduces himself as a bond-slave. Paul understood that by becoming a follower of Jesus, he surrendered all his rights, as he wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
Hudson Taylor the missionary to China, once said, “Let us give up our work, our thoughts, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into God’s hand; and then, when we have given all over to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about or to make trouble about.”
This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Paul goes on to address the recipients of the letter and says, “to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi…”
The term Holy People is usually translated as “saints”, the Greek meaning is to be set apart, separate from the rest of the people. The church is made up of people who are different and separate by being in Christ.
To be in Christ, is a positional statement of being set apart unto God and exclusively belonging to Christ.
In verse two Paul proclaims a blessing on them. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Grace and peace are promises from God for believers in Jesus Christ. Grace is unmerited favor, getting something that we don’t deserve.
Justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve and grace is getting what you don’t deserve.
Additionaly, term used for peace here is more than just peace with God, it can best be described by the Hebrew word Shalom. Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility and can be used like the term Aloha in Hawaiian to mean both hello and goodbye. Paul is reminding his beloved readers that in Christ they have received grace, and experience peace.
Are you experiencing peace? True peace is not a life without trouble, rather it is knowing God’s peace in the midst of troubles (see Philippians 4:7). Maybe today you need to repent of your sins and allow the grace of God to refresh you by the blood of Jesus so that you can know the peace of God in your life.
Paul continues, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Paul must have been looking back to what took place in Acts 16 some eleven years earlier. He must have remembered Lydia, the cloth trader, the demon possessed slave girl and the jailer, all who became miraculous followers of Jesus. Paul loves these people, he has great memories of spending time with them and he is thankful to God for them (verse 4).
Notice Paul’s prayers are not simply generic prayers, he remembers them and prays diligently for them because they were true partners with him in the ministry (verse 5). Paul was financially supported by churches that he planted. This letter was to his financial supporters and he thanked them for their partnership. But this partnership was not simply a one-way transaction, Paul gave of himself for the church and prayed diligently for the church that sent him finances and encouraged him.
As we look at the ancient church in Philippi, we will see that we are very similar to the Philippian church, and what Paul wrote to them applies to us today in the 21st century. They were a missionary sending and supporting church.
This is what healthy churches do, we must never see sending missionaries as a financial transaction, rather sending and receiving is all part of the Grace and Peace of God in the church.
Looking at verse 6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Paul is confident, he has faith that what was begun ten years earlier will continue to grow and be fruitful until Jesus comes again. Paul was confident that Jesus will build His church, just as he promised in Matthew 16:18. Sometimes we need to be reminded, that this is not our church, this church belongs to Jesus and he is continuing to work out his plans and build his church until he comes again to receive his bride.
I hope you see that the church is something so much greater and more glorious than a social gathering on a Sunday morning. Even this small church, is a part of the bigger church, the universal Body of Christ, and we feel those connections through the missionaries we pray for and other Christians we meet from other churches, and as we remember and pray for the persecuted church.
Growing individually and corporately as the church, is not a matter of making ourselves better people, rather it is the power of God working in us, as we lay down our preferences and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us for God’s glory.
Are you daily being changed by the Gospel?
If someone was to write a letter to your church, would they see the three characteristics that Paul saw in the church in Philippi.
- Would they see a true partnership? Are you all in? Or are you just attending church.
- Would they see that you are motivated by the Gospel? The Good News must be the driving force of the church.
- Would they see that we are looking towards Jesus coming again? This world does not offer hope, our only hope is found in Jesus Christ.