After getting our introduction to Paul in Philippi from Acts 16, we are ready to begin studying this letter.  We know Paul to be the author.  We know he is in prison, probably in Rome.  It is a house-arrest arrangement and he is waiting trail before Caesar.  He can’t travel … but he can write.  And God uses him powerfully through his pen. 

Read Philippians 1: 1 – 11.

We will stay in these eleven verses all week.  Since the selection is short, I hope you will read it each time you come online … that will be three times this week!  I find it helpful to read aloud at least once.  It makes my mind slow down a bit … and allows me to focus some attention on the way the words and thoughts flow together. 

Today let’s consider the addressees … Paul writes to “all the saints at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.”  There seem to be three categories … 1) all the saints, 2) the overseers, and 3) the deacons. 

We don’t know why Paul chose to use to list them in this manner.  This is his only letter where he does that.  Are the overseers and deacons not included in the “all saints”?  Perhaps he wanted to insure that the language was all-inclusive.  Perhaps he wanted to show the maturation of this church.  Perhaps he wanted to place value and affirmation to the overseers and deacons for the whole body.  I wonder if there existed some conflict around these particular roles and responsibilities.  We just don’t know.  What we can know … is that Paul wants this letter to be received from himself … to the believers in Philippi and their servant leaders … all of them. 

The Greek word translated, saints, is the word hagios.  It is a word that is most often translated, holy.  Our reaction to and relationship with the word, holy, is mixed.   I think we have been so effected by ecclesiastical church history that we hear the word as something almost ‘other-worldly’.  We hear it and think stained-glass windows, St. Christopher, Mother Teresa, etc.  But we need to go further back … we need to go back and try to understand the way Paul would know that word.  Paul and his Hebrew mind …

The Hebrew equivalent is kadosh.  To the Hebrew mind … the word means that something is set apart for a special purpose, a special task.  Notice the following …

  • The Jewish nation was “holy” because God set it apart from other nations for a special purpose – the bloodline of Messiah.  (Exodus 19: 5 – 6; Leviticus 20:26)
  • The priests, the descendants of Aaron, were “holy” because they were set apart for special tasks.  So they were different from other men.  Their work was set apart to God. (Leviticus 21:8)
  • The tithe – that 10% offering – was set apart to be given to God, so it was “holy” – whether it was grain or oil or fruit or money or child – it was dedicated to God – set apart for a different purpose than the rest of the grain or oil or fruit or money or children.  (Leviticus 27:30)
  • The Tabernacle, that tent of meeting had a Holy Place – the part of the tent that was set apart for a different purpose than the other tents in the camp.  

So when God tells us to “be holy” … He is telling us that we, as believers, are set apart for a different purpose.  We are to be Christ’s life on earth … that’s different from other people … the general population does not have that purpose, that goal.  We do.  Why?  Because we are “holy”.  We are “saints”.  And that is the meaning of the word.  So we don’t have to be so afraid of that descriptor.  It is not spiritual arrogance.  It is God’s way to say that He has called us out of the world and set us apart unto Himself.  Holy.  Hagios. 

Paul’s greeting to these believers was “grace and peace”.  As you study his letters, you find this combination of words used in every one of them.  The word, grace, was the typical and common greeting in a Greek letter of the time.  That’s the way the Greeks began letters.  We begin ours with “Dear ___” and they began theirs with “grace”.  Paul used that word because it was so familiar to the Greek mind.  Its basic ideas were joy and brightness and beauty (we get our word, charm, from this Greek word)  Then he adds the word “peace”.  That was the common greeting for a Hebrew letter of the time.  It is the greeting of “shalom” – all that is good.  Paul takes both of these terms and combines them into the most beautiful Christian greeting – “grace and peace”.  

It is as if Paul’s hope for these believers was:

“that they should know the joy of knowing God as Father, and the peace of being reconciled to God, to men, and to themselves – and that grace and peace can only come through Jesus Christ.” (Barclay, “The  Daily Study Bible”)

So as we begin our study … to each of you … may you know grace and peace this day!