Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi…
We not only miss the drift of many parts of the Bible, but we also lose much of the interest they might excite in us, when we fail to observe the circumstances under which they were written. in the Epistle to the Philippians, for example, we have a letter addressed by a remarkable man under very touching conditions to a community of people in whom he felt deep interest. The primary, historical purpose of the writing is determined by these hers.
I. THE WRITER. St. Paul. Though Timothy is also mentioned in the salutation, he could have had little or nothing to do with the contents, because the apostle speaks throughout personally and individually. His authority not being questioned at Philippi, St. Paul has no need to assert his apostleship, and in genuine humility he writes of himself equally with his young companion, Timothy, as a servant of Jesus Christ.
1. The greatest Christian humbles himself as a bondservant before Christ.
2. The most independent mind in the Church when true to the gospel bows in obedience to the mind of Christ.
3. It is the function of Christian ministers not to seek their own advantages and not to be men-pleasers, but to serve Christ.
II. THE PEOPLE ADDRESSED.
1. The letter is sent to the whole Church at Philippi "all the saints," as well as the officers. The Bible is for all Christians. St. Paul knew nothing of esoteric doctrines.
2. Differences of official position are recognized - saints, bishops, deacons. Order, discipline, instruction, and administration required such organization from the first, and require them in some form now.
3. Christians are called saints, because
(1) they are consecrated men, and
(2) inward holiness is begun in them.
Unless a man is better in character for being a Christian his profession is a mockery.
4. Christians are "in Christ." Personal relation to Christ, the ingrafting of the olive branch, is the primary requisite of the Christian life.
III. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE WAITER AND RECEIVERS OF THE LETTER.
1. The writer is a prisoner awaiting trial on a capital charge. The martyr's lofty self-sacrifice and solemn joy characterize the Epistle.
2. The people addressed are feeble, poor, and persecuted. Yet their beautiful character immortalizes them. There is no Church that we could point to with more satisfaction as the model of primitive Christianity. Thus an obscure and humble community of Christians may be an example to the great Churches.
IV. THE CHARACTER OF THE LETTER.
1. It is uncontroversial. St. Paul was often forced into controversy. But his choicest thoughts come out in calmer moments.
2. It is personal. Nowhere else does the apostle reveal so fully his own private convictions and spiritual experiences. It is difficult to do this humbly, truly, and wholesomely. But when well done it is of rare interest. Hence the value of the private letters of great and good men.
3. It is unusually full of tender feeling. St. Paul was no mere intellectual teacher, and no hard-souled man of energy. His greatest ideas were saturated with emotion. In this Epistle he reveals the tenderness, sympathy, and joy of the deepest Christian experience.
4. It is a grand witness to the power of the gospel
(1) in the transformation of the fiery persecutor Saul into this tender-hearted Apostle Paul;
(2) in infusing all-absorbing devotion to Christ;
(3) in kindling brotherly love between Christians; and
(4) in sustaining the soul under the heaviest troubles with a resignation that faith raises to joyous confidence. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: