Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi…
I. ST. PAUL, THE WRITER.
1. He omits his apostolical authority. The term apostle is not added here nor in Thessalonians and Philemon. His dignity as their father in Christ was supreme and incontestable. The man rather than the apostle speaks in every sentence. The spirit of his apostolical prerogative is felt all the more because of the absence of its letter.
2. He unites his own name with that of Timothy, whose name appears with his for a fourth time, because —
(1) Timothy had twice visited the Philippians (Acts 16; Acts 19), and was doubtless endeared to them.
(2) Paul desired to invest him with as much dignity as possible.
(3) He was probably St. Paul's amanuensis, and —
(4) perhaps he was so dear to his father in the gospel.
3. The bond between them was the common service of Christ Jesus. The apostolic name would not have been common. It was specific and unshared. "Servants" in a sense belongs to all who belong to Christ. But here the term has relation to Christ as Lord, who assigns to all and to each their sphere of duty.
II. THE CHURCH OF THE PHILIPPIANS.
1. Its essential spiritual character. "All the saints," etc., is the most profound and sacred definition of the true Church which the New Testament contains.
(1) "All" suggests the whole company of those who form the body of which Christ is the Head, the bond of union being the Holy Ghost common to both. As a spiritual Church on earth it is the communion of those who (Colossians 1:2) are "faithful" as believers in Jesus, "saints" as set apart from the world, and "brethren" as united in the brotherhood of salvation.
(2) "Saints in Christ Jesus" indicates —
(a) That they are consecrated to God in Christ Jesus; redeemed from the curse of the law; no longer condemned with the world but accepted in the beloved. Hence they realize the ideal relation, a holy nation and a peculiar people.
(b) That they are not with Him, following Him only, but "in Christ," in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, the Holy Ghost and all His influences; full redemption and all its powers of life and sanctity. But all things in Him are ours.
(c) All this being true we are furnished with a safeguard against a double error, There is a tendency to regard this word as synonymous with Christian people; but we must not suffer it to become merely a conventional official term. On the other hand there are those who make it disparage the visible Church. But here "saints" mean those who are baptized into the visible community, and signifies not only that they are truly members of Christ, but that they profess to belong to Him.
(3) Each individual. The glorious prerogative of the mystical fellowship of the body must be a personal possession.
2. Its outward organic form.
(1) This is the earliest reference of St. Paul to ecclesiastical order. It marks out a city as containing one visible body, not necessarily always meeting in one place, but under one united government.
(2) The apostle greets the Church with the bishops and deacons as one. They are all on the same level in relation to the Divine benediction. It is a debasement of Christian language which makes the ministerial order the Church.
(3) The spiritual and visible organization must ever be found in one. Neither the one nor the other without its counterpart is perfect "in the Lord."
III. THE GREETING.
1. As an apostolic salutation it is peculiar to St. Paul. It is pronounced in the name of God. It is not even in inspired man to bless his fellow. All benediction comes from God as all doxology goes back to Him.
2. But it is also an invocation of grace and peace upon the Christian Church.
(1) The eternal love of God as it sends the Redeemer for man's salvation is grace. The fruit of this flowing through Christ is peace.
(2) The invocation should be our petition. All the people who receive the benediction and hear the prayer must say Amen.
(W. B. Pope, D. D.)
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: