To All The Saints In Christ Jesus
Key Verse 1:5
“Because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
Paul’s letter to the Philippian congregation is a personal letter, not intended to be also read among the churches in the area as his letter to the Ephesian congregation was for example. Paul simply wanted to thank them for helping him when he needed help. He also wanted to them why he had a heart full of joy in spite of him being in prison awaiting trial. It’s a practical letter that encourages the congregation towards humility as well as unity. These people were truly beloved of Paul— he really loved them very much and wanted the best for them. Ever since they accepted the gospel from him, they had been a joy to him as they pursued the gospel way of life he laid before them as entrusted him by Jesus. He wanted them to know that, and he wanted to give them encouragement how to grow closer to Jesus in their practical lives.
Read verse 1. “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.” He starts out his letter with these words: “Paul and Timothy.” Listen to what else he says in this letter about Timothy (in 4:19-22). “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” Paul always associated himself with the young man Timothy, his son in the faith. He brought him along with him on his journeys and taught him many things. He encouraged him as one would to a young and promising preacher of the God’s word. Paul considered him as a son in the Lord, and trusted him to carry on Paul’s own ministry.
In verse 1 he says: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus”. Paul identifies himself as well as young Timothy as servants of Christ Jesus. Here the word “servant” is better understood as a “bond-servant” or even “slave”. This is interesting considering that when Paul wrote to the Galatians and the Corinthians, Paul identifies himself as an “Apostle”. In those letters Paul had to defend his position as an Apostle, called by God and not by men. But he didn’t see the need to defend his apostleship here with these Philippian believers. They loved him and accepted his apostleship. They had all been led to the Lord Jesus by Paul him. So Paul, in writing them, takes a humble place, the position he really belongs in— that is a bond-servant, a slave of the Lord Jesus.
He says to them in verse 1: “To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.” “To all God’s holy people is also better read as “To all the saints.” Paul is not writing this letter to one small group at the church in Philippi. He was writing to all the saints there, to all the Lord’s holy people, to all the believers because all the believers are saints in the sight of the Lord. The human family can be divided into two groups, one is either a saint, or not. There is no third group of the human race. The saints Paul is writing to are the believers. They are the holy people of God. Actually “saint” means “holy” and set apart for God. Anything that he holy is separated or set apart for the use of God. Even the old pots and pans that were used by the people of God in the wilderness and later in the temple were called the “holy vessels”, and they were probably looked beaten and worn out. They may not have looked holy, but the truth is that they were. Why? Because they had been set apart for the use of God. Accordingly, this should be the position of every child of God. We are set aside for the use of God. If you are a believer, then you are a saint.
Paul goes on to say in verse 1: “To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons”. He says God’s holy people (or saints) “In Christ.” This is remarkable. “In Christ.” Let’s think about what it means to be a holy people, a saint, a man or woman redeemed by the Lord and set apart for God and his kingdom— saved to eternal life? It means to be “in Christ Jesus”. When a person puts his or her trust in Jesus, the Spirit of God comes to dwell in that person. If you put your trust in Jesus, then the Holy Spirit comes to live in you. The Holy Spirit baptizes you into the body of Christ. You are put in Christ by the Spirit of God. Now the Philippian saints were in Christ. They were in Philippi but they were in Christ. It doesn’t matter where a person is, or where that person is in life— they can be anywhere. But what really matters is if that person is in Christ or not.
In a sense this short phrase “In Christ” may be the most important words we have in the New Testament. What does it mean to be a saint, a person rescued for God’s use and for eternal life? We may look it up in the theological dictionary or even ask a Bible man or woman, and they may explain it with words such redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, and such. As much as these words are truly deep and wonderful because they are Bible words, yet neither of them covers the whole truth or concept of salvation, or sainthood. God’s Holy Spirit has chosen one word to explain everything to us, and that is “Christ” and then Paul added the word “in” to it to explain sainthood and being a holy people, a people set apart for eternal life and for God’s use. It is to be “In Christ”. How does one get “in Christ” then? You get “In Christ” when you accept him as your Lord and Savior.
Read verse 2. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” He greets them saying: “Grace and peace to you”. We can find this form or address in all of Paul’s letter, and grace and peace will always be in this sequence, Grace first and then Peace. And both of these greetings were common in Paul’s day. The word “grace” meant “blessing” or “favor” as a form of greeting. But it mostly held no genuine affection associated with it, much like someone might insincerely say to you: “have a nice day”. But Paul’s greeting of grace, came from the depth of his heart, and it is based on truth. God’s grace has been given to these Philippians the moment they received Jesus as Lord and became consecrated to God. It was the best day of their lives when by God’s grace they were snatched out of this perishing world and brought into the fold of our Lord Jesus and his family. “Grace to you” may be the most precious greeting one can give another, because within it is all of God’s gracious love and sacrifice for us who do not deserve it. Grace to you is indeed God’s blessing and favor in increasing measure when we are in Christ.
Paul also greets them with “Peace to you” as well. This peace always follows Grace. It never goes before it. Like the word grace, in greeting peace also was another common word of greeting in Paul’s day. Most people long for peace. The Bible talks about Jerusalem being a city of peace. Jeru-Shalom. But in reality there has never been peace in that city but it has been a place of war. And there will never be peace neither there nor anywhere else in the world until the Prince of Peace comes to take his rightful rule. But the peace here that Paul offers them in greeting is not a worldly peace. It comes to the believer in Christ Jesus through the grace of God. (Romans 5:1) This is the kind of peace that a sinner can have with the holy God because Christ died for us, because he paid our penalty for sin, and not for anything that we have done or can do for our salvation. God himself gives this peace to the heart of those who believe. We come to God empty handed and have nothing to give him except our sins. Christ paid the price for my sins so that the holy God can receive me and you. In this world of turmoil and trouble, of tension and things that are wrong, who can find peace? Anyone may have the peace of God in their hearts when they know and accept the grace of God. Then they can have this peace reigning in their hearts. Paul makes it very clear that both the grace and peace are from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Read verse 3. “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Paul begins this letter to the Philippians in this lovely manner. And it reveals the sweet relationship between Paul and this church congregation. And this is the way it should be today as well among believers, especially between pastor and congregation. Paul says: “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Every time he remembered them or someone would mention Philippi, Paul would just thank God for the believers there. This is truly a wonderful thing. If Paul had not said anything else about his relationship to this church, these words here would be enough to reveal how special this church was to him. He certainly did not say this about the Galatians nor the Corinthian church.
Look at verses 3-4. “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” He says: Always and not just sometimes. In every prayer Paul remembered the Philippian believers. The phase “For all of you” makes it very clear that Paul was talking about all the saints that were in that church, the whole body of believers in that church. Why might this be necessary to mention? Because as we reach the final chapter of this letter, there seemed to be a ripple of discord among two women in that church, Snytyche and Euodias. Perhaps Paul was very careful from the start to include all the saints so that no one group could possibly say that Paul was writing to this group or that group within the church.
He also says: “I always pray with joy”. Some may consider that the heart of this letter is “I rejoice, you rejoice”. We understand what an amazing expression this is when we consider where Paul had been when he wrote this letter. He was in a Roman prison cell. But although the word joy appears 19 times in this letter, we might not call this letter a letter of joy, even if joy is overflowing throughout the whole letter. If we were to choose one word that occurs more than any other word in this epistle, we have to pick out the name of Jesus Christ. That holy name appears over 40 times in this letter. He is the center of the letter— he is at the heart of this letter. He is the one who is the very source of Joy. Therefore, the emphasis should be upon him rather than on joy. As we will be seeing throughout the letter, the very philosophy of Christian living has to do with Jesus Christ; the pattern has to do with him; the price of Christian living has to do with him; and the power for that has to do with him. Actually it is a personal relationship with Christ Jesus that brings joy to our or any believer’s life.
We try to produce joy in the church sometimes by external means. We create programs and ask others to join us in our activities. We say “come you will enjoy this.” Our programs and activities may be truly appealing. But actually joy does not depend on outward circumstances at all. Real joy depends upon the inward condition of the person. It depends on his or her proper attitude towards life. If you are complaining and whining about your lot in life, about your circumstances, surely you will not be experiencing joy. You may be able to go to a church function and have a good time at it, but that will not be joy. When you and I get to the place where we find ourselves at the center of God’s will and know we are in his will, regardless of our circumstances, then and only then there will be joy in our lives. Paul said: . “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” The time of prayer was sweet time for Paul. He was in prison. But he was sincerely praying for them all the time and with joy.
And now having told them how much he thanked God for them, he tells them the reason for his gratitude. Read verse 5. “Because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” He says: “for your partnership in the gospel.” another word for “partnership” is “fellowship”. And this is a very important word in this letter. We need to think about this word: partnership or fellowship. This word, fellowship, is used widely in the church as well as outside the church. But in truth most people do not know what the word really means, and for that reason they do not use it properly. Some people might say: “come have some fellowship with us” or “I am happy for our partnership.” Their idea is simply to have a good time together, or to work together over some project. That is not fellowship nor partnership in the Biblical sense of the word.
The Greek word for this is “Koinonia”, and it means that which believers share of the things of Christ. In that sense there are three elements that must define this fellowship or partnership. There is first, godly communication; and second, affectionate teamwork; and third, loving communion. The first element of fellowship is godly communication. In other words, there must be a sharing together the great truths concerning Christ Jesus. And second, affectionate teamwork or cooperation. And that entails working together for Christ. That is why, when Paul used the word partnership in the gospel, he could have been talking about Bible reading or Bible study or prayer together or even the Lord’s supper or the collection of offering. And the result of all that would certainly be loving communion with each other. It makes us partners in Christ and with Christ. This is true fellowship. This is true Koinonia.
Paul wrote that this church was having fellowship or partnership with him. He had given them the gospel at one time. In other words he had had spiritual communication with them. And they had shared with Paul in a friendly teamwork. They were truly partners in Christ, they had true fellowship with him. When the time came for them to help him and his ministry, they ministered to his physical needs, and had sent him a gift to help him financially in fulfilling his work of preaching the gospel. They had also learned how the share the truth of Christ with others, and had brought many into the church. That was the great work of fellowship and partnership that Paul said had brought him joy. He had sweet communion with them. There was no tension or resentment or friction in this fellowship. It was truly a partnership and fellowship in Christ and with Christ and each other and a fellowship for Christ. Paul also said: “From the first day until now.” He had enjoyed this kind of fellowship and partnership with them from the first day, and it got better and better until the church was a thriving haven of a fellowship for the whole world to see.
Read 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.” “He who begun…. will complete.” That is the truth. He will surely finish what he had begun. And he will do it, “until the day of Christ Jesus.” We are living in the day of Christ— Until Christ returns and takes us home to be with him. His work will be done on that day, because we are sealed in him until that day comes, and we are waiting patiently on him to finish the work he had begun in us. This is an amazing and life giving verse that has been the source of joy and strength and truth for countless Christians— especially in dark and difficult times when temptation or defeat knocked on the doors of their heart. Every Christian can testify somehow that if they look back on their life, they see that the Lord has worked out in them towards his goal— that he who began a good work in them, surely is carrying it out even now— even in weakness and in trouble, even when things looked difficult and impossible, the Lord was there working out his good work in them to complete what he himself had begun. This is our faith that God never begins without his intention to finish what he started. And the work was started the day the Lord died and rose to heaven, and promised the Holy Spirit to those who believe. Let me say it again, this is an amazing verse and promise in the Bible. How tenaciously we must hold on to this truth as we struggle to life that God set us apart to live in him.
Read verses 7-8. “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Paul says some things here that stand out and reveal the kind of relationship he had with them, and them with him: I have you in my heart, he says. And I long for you with the affection of Christ Jesus. It is right for me feel this way because I have you in my heart, and because I have you in my heart I also long for you with the affection of Christ Jesus. We can clearly see that Paul had such tender feelings towards these Christians in Philippi. He was close to them than any other church. As long as they shared God’s grace together, all of them were dear to Paul’s heart as he was dear to them. It is wonderful to have Christian fellowship like this who share together in the gospel, who share together in the same grace of our Lord, who love each other from the heart and who pray towards one vision, that Christ be preached to all nations, unto the Kingdom of God.
Let’s thank God for this church, and for the saints in this church. I pray that we may fellowship and partnership together in the gospel of our Lord and in the grace that we share together. I pray that we may develop deep love relationships with Christ the Lord and with each other, until we can genuinely thank God for one another, until our fellowship can honor and glorify the name of Jesus our Lord— while God continues to work in us his good and pleasing work to completion. Give thanks to God today for one another. And share genuine fellowship with each other. And bless each other with God’s grace and peace. May we learn from Paul the meaning of fellowship in the Lord.