DAILY DEVOTIONAL, FRIDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2021

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Paul and Timothy, slaves  of Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones  in Christ Jesus that are in Philippi, with the overseers  and servants (Philippians 1:1)

Paul and Timothy

In this first verse, Paul starts by identifying the letter’s writer.  Letters of this time period were often written on scrolls, and these scrolls were rolled up and delivered to the recipient.  Because one would have to unroll the complete scroll to see who the letter was from, the custom of that day was to list the letter’s author at the very start.

It was common for Paul to combine someone else with him in his epistles. For example, in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Paul, called as an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother.” (1 Cor. 1:1) We see here that Timothy was with Paul at Rome. There is nothing here or elsewhere in the NT that explains his presence. However, we find in the book of Acts and the fourteen letters of the apostle Paul, over one hundred persons of the first-century church who had aided the “an apostle to the Gentiles.” (Romans 11:13) Over his thirty-year ministry, many persons played an enthusiastic role in supporting Paul under challenging circumstances. We have ones like Aristarchus, Luke, and Timothy, who spent many years working side-by-side with Paul. Some even spent time with him while he was in prison or throughout his travels, some hosting him and his fellow workers in their home, giving him a place to stay. It has been calculated that Paul traveled some 10,000 miles [16,000 km]. In the days of Paul, travel was very strenuous, grueling, not to mention treacherous. Paul himself tells us,

“Are they servants of Christ? I reply like a madman, I am more outstandingly one: I have done more work, been imprisoned more often, with countless beatings, and often near deaths. Five times I received 40 strokes less one from the Jews, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I experienced shipwreck, a night and a day I have spent in the open sea; in journeys often, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own people, in dangers from the nations, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers among false brothers, in labor and toil, in sleepless nights often, in hunger and thirst, frequently without food, in cold and lacking clothing. Besides those things of an external kind, there is what rushes in on me from day to day: the anxiety for all the congregations.” – 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.

Fittingly, then, Paul was hardly ever by himself as he traveled from one place to another. The many traveling companions would have kept him company, offering him support, encouragement, and helpful assistance as he carried out his ministry. Timothy was not in prison with the apostle Paul. Timothy was an evangelist and a traveling overseer with Paul for many years. He was one of his companions who had gone to Rome to help Paul through this trying time and aid him in whatever way he could. Paul sought out Timothy’s help, as many others, such as Alexander, Demas, Hermogenes, and Phygelus, did not endure in the faith. (2 Tim. 4:10) It is special that Timothy could assist Paul in this time because he had been with him from the beginning.

Slaves

Timothy was with Paul and Silas at the beginning of the Philippian Church. He was apparently with Paul at the writing of this letter. So, Paul included him in the salutation to the church. He referred to Timothy and himself as “slaves,” a servant (δοῦλος doulos), meaning one who was owned by another and whose entire livelihood and purpose were determined by their master. A bondslave (doulos) was a slave that had voluntarily committed himself or herself to be a servant forever to their master. A Christian by this extension voluntarily commits himself to Christ and becomes his servant forever. This was a term of humility and expression of position in relation to Christ Jesus.

To all the holy ones in Christ Jesus

Paul then goes on to identify to whom it is he is writing. His statement of the “the holy ones” is translated in many translations as “saints.” Holy Ones, Saints: (קָדוֹשׁ qadosh; ἅγιος hagios) Persons who are dedicated to God physically, mentally, spiritually, and morally. These ones are God’s people, who have been accredited a righteous standing before God based on the ransom sacrifice of Christ (Matt. 20:28), who are declared holy, pure, and clean in God’s eyes. (Mark 6:20; 1 Cor. 6:2; Php 1:1; 4:22; Rev 18:20; Rev 22:21) It means to be set apart under the Holy Spirit, who is making the believer reflect the character of God. There are three parts to sanctification in the New Testament.[1] As Paul understood his position as a servant, he also understood that we do not attain our holiness but are privileged to have the state that God in grace calls us to.[2] It is also a reminder to each of us that we are not to be deadbeats, but light-bearers, showing Jesus to a world darkened by sin.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS

That are in Philippi

We need to notice at this point that this letter is written to the members of a local church located in the city of Philippi. This means that in around 25 to 30 years following the crucifixion of Jesus, there were local churches established, and they appear to recognize some form of membership and organization.

When we correctly study the Scriptures, hermeneutic[3] concepts must be observed and maintained.  Such concepts as if the plain sense makes common sense seek no other sense unless it becomes nonsense. Another concept is to determine to whom the passage is written.  From this, we can determine if the passage deals with an individual, nation, church, etc. This will help us not misapply Scripture.[4]

With the overseers and servants

Here in this salutation from Paul, we see that his audience is the individuals who make up this local congregation of holy ones in the city of Philippi. By knowing this, we can see that what he is about to write is first for these believers, then because they would tend to pass Paul’s letters around from church to church, to other believers in this time period. Finally, we can see that we can take these writings to heart individually today.

Seeing that there was an organized church meeting in Philippi by the time Paul writes this letter to them, it is not surprising that Paul also addresses the letter to the “overseers and servants” – or the congregation’s leaders.  The message of joy in adverse circumstances is applied to the individuals and the church organism.

Overseers: (ἐπίσκοπος episkopos) literally “an overseer” (epi, “over,” skopos, “to look over” or “to watch over.” (1 Tim. 3:1-2; Tit. 1:7; 1 Pet. 2:25) The word elder (πρεσβύτερος presbuteros) is often connected with this term. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words comments: “Presbuteros, an elder, is another term for the same person as bishop or overseer. . . . The term ‘elder’ [older man] indicates the mature spiritual experience and understanding of those so described; the term ‘bishop,’ or ‘overseer,’ indicates the character of the work undertaken.”[5] The word “elder” tends to pertain to the spiritual maturity and experience of the person, while “overseer” indicates the character of the work that that person undertakes.[6] So, we tend to have a picture of possibly what we would call a Pastor in this term, the person who is called to oversee the ministry and the people in the congregation.

Servant (διάκονος diakonos) is a person in the office of minister or deacon who assists the pastor in caring for the needs and livelihood of a congregation of believers. On a few occasions, this word means “deacon” (an English word that is derived from this Gk. word). While the word doulos views the individual in relation to his master, the word diakonos views the individual in relation to his work. So, all who receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior are servants (doulos), while some are apparently called into a special position of being a servant (diakonos). The church at Philippi had an organizational structure – Overseers, servants, and members.

After identifying the writer and recipients of this letter, Paul continues in his fashion to pronounce God’s grace and peace upon those receiving this letter.

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[1] (1) We are forgiven and set apart to God in salvation. (2) The believer is continually being set apart by grace in his life. And, (3) the believer will be completely sanctified when Jesus returns or death – he will be completely sin free at that point. 

[2] W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996).

[3] The term hermeneutics means the science of interpretation, particularly that of the Holy Scriptures.

[4] Bernard Ramm’s Protestant Biblical Interpretation and Henry A. Virkler’s Hermeneutics: Principles and Process of Biblical Interpretation are two of this author’s favorite references.

[5] W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 195.

[6] IBID.

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