Philippians 1:1, 2
Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi…
This Epistle, says the learned Lewin, "was written during Paul's captivity, en to tols desmois men (Philippians 1:7), and at Rome (Philippians 4:22). And Paul had been long enough a prisoner to have produced great effects both in the Praetorium and elsewhere (Philippians 1:13). The long captivity of the apostle before the date of the letter appears also from this. The Philippians had heard of his imprisonment at Rome, and had sent him pecuniary relief by the hands of Epaphroditus (Philippians 1:7; Philippians 4:18); and Epaphroditus had fallen ill at Rome (Philippians 2:27), the Philippians heard of it, and the report to that effect had gone back from Philippi to Rome (Philippians 2:26). In short, the Epistle was written when Paul was in such confident expectation of his release that he was making arrangements for his departure, and he tells us that his intentions were, immediately on being released, to send off Timothy to Philippi to learn their state and to bring back word to Paul in the West, and then both were to sail together to the East, and after some little interval Paul hoped to visit Philippi in person." In this salutation we have three subjects for thought -
I. THE MOST DIGNIFIED OF ALL OFFICES, "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ? The apostle does not here assert his apostleship as in some other places, but speaks of himself and Timotheus simply as. the servants of Jesus Christ. Now, whilst to be a servant of some men and institutions implies degradation, to be the servant of Jesus Christ is to sustain an orifice the most honourable and glorious; for note the following things connected with this service: -
1. It meets with the full concurrence of conscience. There are many services in which men are engaged, some most lucrative, some associated with worldly honors, yet they fail to enlist the full concurrence of conscience, nay, conscience often raises its protest against them, and it often happens that the protests are so strong that men have felt bound to resign. But in this service conscience goes with every effort put forth; for to serve Christ is to ran with the principles of eternal right, to render to the Almighty his claims, and to all creatures their due.
2. It affords ample scope for the full development of the soul's faculties. In how many services have men to be engaged in this world which only excite and employ certain powers of the mind, leaving all the others in a state of decay and torpor! Millions feel that the work in which they are engaged is so unworthy of their natures that they lack both self-satisfaction and freedom. The services make no demand upon their powers of investigation, speculation, invention, creation, and their central moral sensibilities; all is machinery. But in the service of Christ there is both an urgent demand and an immeasurable scope for the wonderful powers and possibilities of the human soul. In this service men advance with every effort, not as the mere creatures of time, but as the offspring of God and the citizens of the universe. By this service we grow up into him.
3. It is a service that contributes to the well-being of all and the ill-being of none. In all the selfish services of time, whilst there may be a contributing to the temporal interests of some, there is an injury inflicted on others; what one gains the other loses. What man has ever made a fortune or risen to power that has not invaded the rights and damaged the interests of others? But in this service good is rendered to all and evil to none. It is a service of universal benevolence, a service for the common weal, a service that goes against all the ills that afflict the race, and for all the blessings that can enrich and ennoble.
4. It is a service, that ensures the approbation of God and of all consciences in the universe. Does the service of the politician or the ecclesiastic or the warrior secure the approval of Almighty God? Not as such; nor do they secure the approbation of universal conscience. But the service of Christ does. He says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" and all consciences with every effort echo the approval. Policy, passion, and prejudice often condemn the genuine servants of Christ, but their consciences never. the law of their moral constitution compels them to say, "Well done!" to the right.
5. It is a service whose worth is determined, not by result, but by motive. The service of a man in the employ of human masters is estimated, not by motive, but by results. If the motive be corrupt, utterly selfish, so long as the results contribute to the interests of the master, the servant is pronounced a good one. Not so with the service of Christ. Motive is everything; though a man may effect in Christianity what may be considered wonderful success, prophesy in abundance, and cast out devils by hosts, he is deemed utterly worthless, only as stubble and fit for the fire. "Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity," etc. What service, then, approaches this, ay, is comparable to this, in its sublime dignity? To be a servant of Christ is to be the sublimest of prophets, the most Divine of priests, the most glorious of kings.
II. THE MOST EXALTED OF ALL STATES. "To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." "Bishop" and "presbyter" are equivalents in the apostolic Epistles, though the two terms have different origins - the one, presbyter, or elder, a Jewish title; the other, bishop, or overseer, of heathen origin, used in classic Greek for commissioner. Deacons we find the origin of in Acts 1:6,
7. Now, while it is noteworthy that the Philippian Church had its two officers - the bishop and the deacon - these officers were spiritually in the same state as the private members. What was that state? "In Christ Jesus." The distinction between them and the others was not a distinction of state but simply of service or of office, and unless their state had been identical their office would have been invalid. A true Church and all its members must be in Christ Jesus. What does this mean? It is an expression of very frequent occurrence in the writings of the apostle. In Christo. What meaneth it? We can attach three intelligible ideas to the expression.
1. In his affections as his friends. When we say that a child is in the heart of its parent, or such a sister is in the heart of her brother, or such a wife in the heart of her husband, we know what it means. In fact, all that we really love live in our hearts; they often prompt us to thought and inspire us to act. Now, Christ loves all men, and all men are in his heart; but his love for his friends is special, deep, and tender. "Ye are my friends." Every genuine disciple is in the heart of Christ.
2. In his school as his pupils. Christ is a Teacher of absolute truth, a Teacher of humanity. He has established a school, and to all he gives the invitation, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Now, all who enter this school are his disciples. What a Teacher is Christ! "Never man spake like this Man." What an inexpressible privilege to be in this school!
3. In his character as their Example. Without figure man everywhere lives in the character of man. The present age lives in the character of the past, and so back; the millions of unrenewed men live in the character of Adam, imbibe his selfishness, and practice his disloyalty. All regenerate men live in the character of Christ, appropriate his grand ideas, cherish his spirit, and imitate his Divine virtues; thus they become like him. Much more is included in being in Christ, but this is sufficient to indicate and to show that it is the most exalted of all states. The man who is in Christ has broken away from the enthralling influence of materialism, is rising to a mastery over external circumstances, and over his carnal passions and lusts, is towering higher and higher into the regions of unclouded light and of ineffable joys and imperishable delights.
III. THE MOST PHILANTHROPIC OF ALL ASPIRATIONS. "Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." This is Paul's general salutation, and is found in almost every Epistle. It is also often employed by Peter and John. "Grace" means favor, and the wish expressed by the apostle is that the Divine favor and peace may flow to them from the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. What greater blessings than these - God's favor and God's peace! And what wishes more philanthropic than these can be conceived of! Most men express philanthropic wishes towards their fellow-men at times: some wish health, riches, long life, and great enjoyment; but he who wishes the favor and peace of God wishes infinitely more than all these. The patriot wishes men to be free, the total abstainer wishes men to be sober, the religious denominationalist wishes men to join his sect; but Paul's wish here is grander, more comprehensive and Divine than these - he wishes men to have the favor and the peace of God. "Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."
CONCLUSION. The fundamental question which presses on us is - Are we "in Christ Jesus"? Not - Are we in this system or that, in this Church or that? but - Are we "in Christ Jesus"? If so, we are secure from all dangers, ripe for all worlds, and for futurities, on the march of everlasting progress, light, and blessedness.
I would live my life in Christo,
In his holy thoughts and love,
I would cherish his high purpose,
In his Spirit live and move.
I would fight my foes in Christo,
They are many, they are strong;
In his strength I'll bear the contest,
Striving ever 'gainst the wrong.
Aid me, Lord, to live in Christo;
Oh! in Christo let me live.
I would find my joy in Christo,
Joy which earth cannot afford;
I would drink of that life-river
Streaming from his quickening Word,
I would gain my rights in Christo -
Rights of freedom and of peace;
From my guilt and from my bondage
He alone can give release.
Aid me, Lord, to serve in Christo;
Oh! in Christo let me serve.
I would die my death in Christo,
Breathing in his love I'm blest;
When this frame to dust returneth,
I shall enter into rest.
In that rest I shall adore him
In the strains of sacred love,
With the ransom'd of all races
Gather'd in the heavens above.
Aid me, Lord, to die in Christo;
Oh! in Christo let me die. ? D.T.
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: