Paul's Salutation to the Church at Philippi
"Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:1,2). Paul began this epistle in a typical way for him, although, interestingly enough, he didn't feel a need to defend his apostleship as he often did. He and Timothy sent this message to all the "saints" in Philippi. Who are the saints? Saints are those who are "in Christ Jesus"; that is, those who have been baptized into Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27). In other words, all Christians are saints! To be a saint literally means to be set apart for a holy purpose. Although Christians live in this world, they are not to be of this world. They are to be set apart for God's holy use (cf. John 15:19). If you are a faithful Christian, you are a saint!

Paul also mentioned the "bishops and deacons" who were with the saints. Other terms for bishop include: elder, overseer, shepherd, or pastor. The bishops are the ones who lead the congregation spiritually and are responsible for the well-being of the flock (cf. Heb. 13:17). The deacons are special servants of the church; they work under the elder's oversight. The Scriptural qualifications for elders and deacons are found in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. God's desire is for every congregation of the Lord's church today to have elders and deacons like the church did in Philippi. He wants us to grow and develop men who meet the qualifications so they can lead and serve their congregation.

Let us note a couple other things briefly in Paul's introduction. He referred to himself and Timothy as "bondservants". The word "slaves" could also be used here. A true slave is one who loses his own identity and will to his master's; he lives to serve his master and do his bidding (not his own). Paul and Timothy could accurately be called slaves of Christ--could you?

The last portion of Paul's greeting is a wish that the brethren enjoy grace and peace from God. He wanted them to have God's favor, even though they did not deserve it. He wanted them to have the inner calm of an untroubled heart.

He continues in 1:3-6 - "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." There isn't anything difficult here that needs explanation, but we should strive to imitate Paul in this regard. He was so thankful for the Philippian brethren that he continually prayed God's blessings upon them, and he did so joyfully. It wasn't a burden for him to pray for these saints! Do we pray for our fellow Christians like Paul did? If not, why not?

Specifically, Paul was thankful for their fellowship in the gospel! It should be understood that the Greek word for fellowship has a variety of meanings based upon the context, but they all relate to the concept of joint participation and sharing together. I'm sorry to say that today when many hear the word fellowship, all they can think about is food and fun. It is true that these can be a part of fellowship, but Biblical fellowship is much more than that. It should be a great feeling to participate and share with other Christians. We should participate together in worship, share our resources and time, participate together in good works for the Lord, share in a meal, etc. Paul had a close fellowship with these Christians in Philippi. He loved them very much, and specifically the text says he had fellowship or participation with them "in the gospel". I believe he is referring to the fact that they had financially supported him in his spreading of the gospel message. You see, they helped provide for his physical needs as he was out evangelizing, and thus, they were participating and sharing in his good work.

In verse 6, Paul expressed his confidence that God would complete the work He had begun with them. What was this "good work"? I believe it was the fact that they had become Christians and given themselves to serving God. Paul was confident that they would remain faithful unto death or until the judgment (i.e., "the day of Jesus Christ"), whichever came first. They would complete the good work that the Lord had prepared for them (cf. Eph. 2:10) if they would maintain the qualities Paul would soon mention in Philippians 1:9.

We will consider those qualities tomorrow.