Philippians 1:1, 2
Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi…
In the beginning of this earliest Epistle of the captivity, according to the showing of Lightfoot, the apostle does not deem it needful to declare his apostleship or to indulge in even the semblance of self-assertion. Bracketing Timotheus with himself, he simply declares that they are slaves (δοῦλοι) of Jesus Christ, and as such desire to address the constituents of the Philippian Church. The contents of this Epistle are eminently joy-inspiring; it is, in fact, marvellous that such consolation should come from captivity to those enjoying freedom. But Godways are oftentimes surprising.
I. LET US LOOK AT CHRIST'S SLAVES. (Ver. 1.) Paul and Timothy, as the slaves of Christ, felt that they were not their own, but bought with a price. They were, therefore, bound to glorify God in their bodies, in their spirits, and in all their possessions. And to such wide responsibilities they cheerfully responded, so that it was their constant joy to live for Jesus. He was their Lord; hence the title is given to him in the second verse. But they felt this slavery to be perfect freedom, and rejoiced in the thought that the mark or brand of Christ was upon them (cf. Romans 6:18-22; 2 Corinthians 2:17). As the slaves of Christ, moreover, it was impossible for them to be the slaves of men (1 Corinthians 7:23). And truly it is only when we are possessed, body and soul, by Christ, and when we have merged our will in his, that we rise into lordship over ourselves and become heirs of all things. It is this slavery to Christ which proves the real emancipation of the spirit.
II. LET US LOOK AT THE CHURCH AT PHILIPPI. (Ver. 1.) Now, it was composed of saints (ἁγίοις). These consecrated, dedicated souls formed the staple of the Church at Philippi. While Paul does not assert that saintliness characterized them all without exception who professed membership in the Church, he plainly indicates that it ought to characterize them all. As Lightfoot expresses it, "Though it does not assert moral qualifications as a fact in the persons designated, it implies them as a duty." Moreover, Paul in his charity addresses himself to all these saints; so as to heal any divisions which may have arisen among them and to bind them all into a unity of spirit and of aim. The sphere of their saintliness is Christ Jesus. It is through their union with the Lord that they become the consecrated men he means them to be. But in the Church there were two kinds of officers - "bishops and deacons." That these "bishops" are synonymous with "presbyters" must be admitted by all, especially after the Bishop of Durham's candid note. They were spiritual overseers of the flock of God, and the plurality of them in such a little place as Philippi shows how desirable it is to have a plurality of persons in a congregation charged with its spiritual oversight and doing all they can to promote its spiritual welfare. Lastly, there were "deacons" in Philippi, men charged with the temporal interests of the congregations and administering these most faithfully. This "division of labor" was introduced after the experiment of the commune, and was found to work so well that it was continued in the apostolic Church long after the experiment of communism had proved a failure (Acts 6.). The simple organization of these primitive Churches is most instructive. With "saints and bishops and deacons" the congregation was complete.
III. LET US LOOK AT PAUL'S DESIRE FOR THEM. (Ver. 2.) Though saints in character, though bishops or deacons, as the case might be, by virtue of their office, they needed constant "grace" from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, with its resultant "peace." God establishes relations with our souls, not that we may become at any time independent of him, but that we may realize constant dependence on him. As children we are to gather round his feet and rejoice in his paternal favor. And Jesus Christ is to be our Lord, so that in submission to his holy will we may find our path of peace. It is only by this due subordination to the Divine that we can grow in peace and enjoy life to the full. As our lives are thus united to the infinite Fountain, we can grow in all the elements of spiritual power. Such a benediction was the best experience for the saints at Philippi, as it is the best experience for Church members everywhere. - R.M.E.
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: