INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 1.1-2
It is a joy for me to invite you to turn to the book of Philippians. As the Lord wills, we will preach through this book on Lord’s day mornings.
I want to ask you a question … “what is one thing that is common for every single person on earth?” We live in different parts of the world, we eat different foods, different jobs, we have different levels of education … But there’s one thing that everyone on earth is searching for and that is …. happiness.
Everyone searches for happiness. People want to enjoy their lives.
People want to be happy with their safety, how much money and food they have, their relationships, their jobs … Somebody says, “I’ll be happy when I get a promotion, or when I get married.” And they get that promotion and they get married and they are happy … for a while.
Even if you had $1 million and were married to the most wonderful spouse and you had the best job, or you didn’t even have to have a job, these things still would not make you satisfied or joyful. You enjoy them for a day or two and you’ll have some sort of fulfilment, but just like when you were little kid and you got a new toy for Christmas and you play with it for a week or maybe two then what happens …. you get bored with it.
And it is the same today. Materialism or human relationships will never truly give you the happiness that you long for.
Not only will the things of this world never satisfy you, but you also have trials and struggles. Family troubles and job struggles and life’s problems too often cause you to lack satisfaction in life. You struggle with sin. You’ve maybe struggled with depression. You have financial struggles, everything around you is breaking down … you have too many reasons not have joy in your life.
That’s why you need Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Philippians is all about joyful Christian maturity. Joyful Christian maturity. In this book, you’re commanded to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”
You say, “Well, that’s easy for Paul … he’s an apostle.” Now wait a second, he’s writing this letter in Rome in the early AD 60s, not from his lush pad in Palm Springs, but from prison. He says that in Philippians 1:7, “my imprisonment.” Paul can, in good conscience, knowing he’s not being hypocritical, he can tell us to rejoice in good times and bad. He knows how to do that and he tells us so much in his letter. It takes maturity to find joy always.
Background from Acts 16ff and reason for writing
Well, how did it even come about that we would have this letter to the Philippians? Please turn to Acts 16. Acts 16. After the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, Acts 16 begins Paul’s second missionary journey.
Paul, Timothy, Silas, and Luke (at points too) will visit Philippi (16:11–40), Thessalonica (17:1–9), Berea (17:10–15), Athens (17:16–34), Corinth (18:1–17), and Ephesus (18:18–21).
They retrace some of their steps from their first missionary journey and they deliver the decision made at the Jerusalem Council that Gentiles did not have to follow Moses’ law in order to follow Christ.
They attempted to go into modern day western Turkey as well as northern Turkey, but the Holy Spirit prevented them. So, the Lord channeled them between [*right hand*] western Turkey and northern Turkey to Troas, on the northwestern border of turkey, right on the Aegean sea. On the other side of that sea is the region Macedonia where lies the city of Philippi, to whom this letter is written.
Luke then joins Paul, Timothy, and Silas at Troas. In Acts 16:9 at Troas, Paul sees a vision of a man from Macedonia who said, “come over to Macedonia and help us.”
Acts 16:10 When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
And so [*right hand*] they cross the sea making stops at the islands of Samothrace and Neapolis along the way. Once they hit land, they traveled the 16 kilometers and arrived at Philippi.
Although Acts 16:12 says that it is “a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony,” Philippi was not a large city, probably 10,000 maybe 15,000 people. It rested on a plain surrounded by mountains. It used to be called Krenides, but Phillip II of Macedonia, who was the father of Alexander the Great, enlarged and renamed the city, not surprisingly, after himself: Philippi.
Paul typically would enter a town and first give the gospel to the Jews at a synagogue. But there’s a problem in Philippi. There are so few Jewish men in the city that they don’t have enough to form a synagogue. So after they had been staying in Philippi for a few days, they probably figured out there wasn’t a synagogue so they wait until the Sabbath day, so they can go to the river, as it says in Acts 16:13.
Paul knew to go to the river to look for Jews on the Sabbath day, because according to Psalm 137:1, when the Jewish people were in captivity in Babylon they went to the riverside and wept. When they were captive in Babylon, there was no Temple and they weren’t in their homeland, they could not even go to Jerusalem, so they would go to the river.
And so it became a custom for those living outside Jerusalem. The Jews, when there was no synagogue where they were and no Temple because they weren’t in Jerusalem, they would go by the river on the Sabbath day.
The traditional spot where Paul and his gospel team went was the Gangites river, which was just 2 ½ km or so west of town.
And they head to the bank of the river and as the do, it becomes quite clear that the man in the Macedonian vision that they saw at Troas… was actually a Jewish businesswoman … named Lydia. She sold purple fabric. In fact, it’s a whole group of women who have met for prayer. Pretty soon, Paul finds himself leading a woman’s Bible study and the Lord beautifully opens Lydia’s heart to trust in Christ. She was baptized along with her whole family, right there in the Gangites river.
This is the beginning of the church plant in the little town of Philippi. This is how it all began, a lady and her family trusts Christ.
But it doesn’t take long for opposition to arise…
As they left to go to the place of prayer, there was a slave girl who met them. She was a slave in body and in spirit for she was possessed by a demon. She brought her masters a lot of money by telling fortunes.
Acts 16:17 says … she followed after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.”
No doubt this was a demonic attempt to adopt the proclamation of the gospel and eventually to twist it, as doctrines of demons do today. After many days of this, you can understand how it grew tiresome and so Paul exorcised that demon.
This would seem to have solved the problems, but in actuality this simply created more difficulties for Paul and Silas, Luke and Timothy are Gentiles, not ethnic Jews, so they are probably off the hook. With no demon in the girl the masters no longer can expect to profit from her fortune telling. And so the masters drag Paul and Silas into the marketplace before the authorities. They accuse them of upsetting the city and disturbing the peace … And teaching unlawful customs.
Acts 16:22–24 The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. 23 When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; 24 and he [the jailer], having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. [they are really in prison, no question]
And as we know, that’s not the end of the story. About midnight, Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns of praise to God … And the prisoners were listening to them, along with the jailer, no doubt.
Paul and Silas were having great fellowship and encouraging one another praying with one another singing hymns of praise to God together and we know, Jesus is with them, even to the end of the age … And there’s a great earthquake … so much that the foundations of the prison house are shaken and all the doors are opened and everyone’s chains fall off.
The jailer then awakes and he sees all the prison doors opened and he knows that if the prisoners have escaped, he will be executed by the Romans and so he assumes they have escaped and he draws his sword and is about to kill himself but Paul then cries out with a loud voice and says, “don’t harm yourself, we are all here!”
So the jailer calls for lights and he rushes in and sees all the prisoners. He trembles with fear and falls down before Paul and Silas and he says to them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Paul responds, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
And like the prison doors that day, the jailer’s heart was opened. And just like everyone’s prison chains fell off, the chains of sin on the jailer’s heart fell off and his heart was set free!
His whole family had come to Christ and they, like Lydia’s house, were baptized!
Now, when the leaders of the city learned Paul and Silas were Roman citizens they cowered before them because, as Roman citizens, they were not to be beaten without proper trial. They simply beg them to leave the city … and that they do … but not before visiting Lydia once more. In last verse of Acts 16, Paul and his team see the brethren they had won to Christ, Lydia’s household and the jailer’s household, and then they leave for Thessalonica.
Now, right there in the life of Paul, you have joy in the midst of trial. Paul and Silas were praising God after having been stripped down, beaten and put in stocks. Their Christian maturity sustains them to cling to Christ, who alone is their joy. They know how to praise God in trial.
Years later, Paul writes the letter to the Philippians that we have in our New Testament. You could turn back to Philippians now. The reason that he is writing to them is because they gave him financial support. Putting together Phil. 2:25-27 and chapter 4:18, we learn that a man named Epaphroditus sent the prisoner Paul the gift from the Philippian and Macedonian Christians and, evidently, Epaphroditus nearly died delivering the gift to Paul. The Philippians then hear that Epaphroditus is sick. Epaphroditus recovers and so Paul sends Epaphroditus back with this letter, the letter to the Philippians, in part to let them know that he and Epaphroditus are ok.
As you would expect, he then expresses thankfulness that the Philippians were concerned enough about him to give him a gift. Paul also tells them Timothy is coming shortly. Paul also warns the Philippians about false teachers and exhorts them to be unified.
TRANS: And the way he begins his letter is this.
Philippians 1:1–2 1 Paul and Timothy [Timothy is Paul’s fellow worker in the gospel, Paul lead Timothy to Christ], bond-servants of Christ Jesus, [they are writing] to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
So you have the servants, in verse 1, Paul and Timothy. You have the saints at the end of verse 1, and then the salutation in verse 2, which is simply a greeting. Servants, saints, and a salutation.
First, Paul and Timothy are bond servants of Christ Jesus. Bondservant … that one concept, properly applied, could solve a lot of your joy problems.
EXP: A bondservant is not someone who is a free individual who serves another, like an employee in the house. This is not that word.
A bondservant also is not someone who is an unwilling slave, as if kidnapped and taken into custody and forced into slavery.
No, the term bondservant here as the idea of a wilful slave. Somebody who wilfully sells himself in the slavery.
ILL: In the 1840’s and 1850’s there was a rise in what is known today as the “coolie” trade. The word “coolie” was a derogatory term used to describe Chinese and Indian indentured laborers, who were basically slaves, although the British government had outlawed slavery by this time.
Some of these labourers signed contracts based on misleading promises, some were kidnapped and sold into the trade, some were victims of clan violence whose captors sold them to coolie brokers, while others sold themselves to pay off gambling debts.
And then they would be shipped to various parts of the world. The conditions on these ships were typically unsanitary and quite harsh.
Lough Fook [Lock Fewk] was a wealthy Chinese man who lived during this time. He trusted Christ and, because he was so taken up by the love of Christ, he wanted to share the gospel of Christ to the Chinese coolie’s. [Lock] made an incredible decision… to reach his these indentured slaves, he sold himself into slavery for 5 years. He was shipped off to the coolie mines of South Africa. There he labored under very tough conditions. As he worked, he shared Jesus Christ with his fellow-laborers. Because of his sacrifice and his efforts 200 men trusted Christ and he discipled them.
Lough Fook [Lock Fewk] died in those mines before his 5 years was finished. He had become a willing slave, literally.
Likewise, Paul and Timothy have wilfully sold themselves into slavery, sort of speak. They wilfully became slaves of Christ.
And that’s because they, like all who’ve trusted Christ, are redeemed.
ILL: The word redeemed implies the idea of a slave standing on the slave trader’s auction block being offered to the highest bidder. At last the price is paid by a compassionate new owner. And then new owner gives the slave his unconditional freedom. But the freed slave, out of gratitude to his new owner, is certainly compelled to offer himself as a loving and willing slave for life to his redeemer.
That’s us. By nature, we’re separated from God because of our sin and so we became a slave to our sin.
Picture yourself standing in the slave market of sin. Various “sins” are standing around grunting and snarling over you as you are up there on the platform. You are scrutinized by all who wish to buy you. The sins of lust and greed, anger, and the love of money… Are all standing around yelling out their highest bid to have your soul.
But then one came on the scene, who towered over them all, Jesus Christ. And with bloody hands, bloody feet, and a blood and water coming down from his side, He pointed to you and the whole snarling group of sin masters turn to see the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and He says, “By these wounds, I have set him free! By love I have bought her.” And then your chains fell off!
And you trusted in Him and He redeemed you! He purchased you by the blood of Christ. Christ paid the ransom price and He freed you from the shackles of sin’s bondage and from His own eternal wrath. Out of sheer love for His work for us, we cling to Him and desire to serve Him forever. A fuller realization of this grand redemption causes the ransomed to sing with the hymnist, “Redeemed—how I love to proclaim it, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb …”
ILL: I’m reminded of a man who was walking down the street with a sign on his shoulders. The front of it said, “I’M A SLAVE FOR CHRIST.” The back of it read, “WHOSE SLAVE ARE YOU?”
That is a good question, because all of us are slaves to one or the other of two masters—sin or righteousness, Christ or Satan. We have no other choices. By our very nature, we are made to serve and to be controlled by forces beyond our power.
APP: Could it be that the reason you lack joy in life is because you’ve looked over your shoulder like Lot’s wife, … you’ve looked back to the city of destruction and have longed for its pleasure, pomp, and pride … and you’ve been frozen in your Christian walk…or perhaps some sin or temptation as overtaken you…some trial, and you’ve gotten your eyes off the savior…Whose slave are you? Do you call the shots?
TRANS: Be a willing slave of Christ. But also recognize that you’re a saint.
Philippians 1:1–2 1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, [they are writing] to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:
Paul is writing to the saints at Philippi … As well as the overseers and deacons. I suppose Paul didn’t want to leave them out. He wants to include the overseers and deacons in this letter. That’s awful kind of him.
We haven’t left them out either; we’ve detailed these offices. Overseers are elders and pastors, all the same. They are blameless men who can teach. Deacons are blameless men all the same, they don’t have to teach, but they serve more with their hands.
And so Paul is writing to all the Christians at Philippi. He is not writing to a special class of people, as if these people had already gone through some canonization process by the Catholic church. He’s writing to Christians.
The word saints simply means “holy ones” … those who have been made holy. These are they who are “set apart.” How are they set apart? Christ Jesus has set them apart. Saints are those whom Christ has saved. He has made them holy by his own blood. And when sinful people trust in him, Christ makes them saints.
That’s me! And that’s you if you trusted Christ and he has saved you.
ILL: Harry Ironside pastored Moody Church in Chicago from 1929 to 1948. He preached the funeral of the evangelist Billy Sunday in 1938. Dr. Ironside was on his way to the Pacific Coast by train from Chicago. In the railway car, there happened to be a group of nuns. And during the four-day trip, they had great conversation and even Bible study. On day three, he asked them if any of them had ever seen a saint.
They said, “We never have.” “Would you like to see one?” he asked. “Yes, very much” came the reply.
They were greatly astonished when he said, “I’m a saint, Saint Harry.” And then he showed them the Scripture.
So it is with us. We have been made saints … the holiness we have in Christ is brought to you by Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross! It is not brought to you by you. You trust in Him, you get His righteousness and holiness!
Now, you should grow to match that calling. It’s like being called the CEO of fortune 500 company or being called the Prime Minister and you feel like you’re just a little peon. You are the prime minister in that sense, but you can actually grow to fill the role out a little bit.
If I called you on the phone, I could say “Hello, saint so-and-so, how are you?” Right now, say in your heart your “saint” and then say your first name …. What a humble privilege, what an honor…but you say, “Well, I don’t feel holy. I keep struggling with sin …”
Now wait a minute, we’re not talking about your feelings. We’re not talking about your struggle with sin. We’re talking about your position in Christ. When Christ saved you he set you apart for his good pleasure for all of eternity. You are now his holy one. This has nothing to do with your feelings or your struggle with sin. We all feel down and we all struggle with sin. But in Christ we have holiness credited to our account.
APP: Do you view yourself as a saint? Have you trusted Christ? Has He saved you? Are you a saint then? Yes. And now we are to live up to this calling. “Be holy for I am holy,” says the Lord.
TRANS: We’ve seen the servants, the saints, and now finally the salutation verse 2…
Grace and Peace
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is Paul’s standard greeting. It occurs in some fashion at the beginning at the end of each of his letters.
It’s a prayer that they’d realize the grace and peace already given to them. “My prayer is that you’ll realize more fully the grace and peace that is to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
God’s grace is God’s favor toward us that is undeserved. It is God’s undeserved favor and it is unearned favor. It is available to those who know themselves to be sinners against God but who call out to Him for favor. God gives his favor to those who know they don’t deserve it and who know they can’t earn it.
And there is peace with God as a result of this grace. When we experience God’s favor toward us in Christ and we enter into relationship with him in salvation and we have eternal life, God gives us peace with Him. We’re no longer at war with him we have peace with Him. Even though we have sinned against him, in Christ we have peace with God.
When we cry out with the sinner and say, “God be merciful to me of the sinner” He declares us righteous in his sight and we now have peace with God. Paul say in Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
ILL: When my parents were here they brought me a 1908 edition of DL Moody’s book entitled Heaven. And in it, Moody he gives a picture of grace.
He writes, “There is a fable that a kindhearted King was once hunting in a forest, and found a blind orphan boy, who was living almost like an animal. The king was touched with compassion, and adopted the boy as his own, and had him taught all that he could learn. But he didn’t live him yet.
When he reached his 21st year, the king, who was also a great physician, restored the boy’s sight, and took him to his own palace, where, surrounded by his nobles and all the majesty and magnificence of his escort, he proclaimed him one of his sons, and commanded all to give him their honor and love. The once friendless orphan thus became a prince and a sharer in the royal dignity, and of all the happiness and glory to be found in the palace of the king.
Who can tell the joy that overwhelmed the soul that young man when he first saw the king, of whose beauty and goodness and power he had heard so much? Who can tell the happiness he must have felt when he saw his own princely attire, and found himself adopted in the royal family -honored and beloved by all?”
Moody goes on to note that we too were blind, just sons of the devil. We were wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. But Christ has “washed us from our sins in his own blood.”
He has clothed us with spotless white robes has given us the garments of salvation… He has covered us with a robe of righteousness as a groom decks himself with ornaments and as a bride adorned herself with jewels.
Even though we’ve lived a sinful, prodigal, and reckless life, sinning against the wonderful grace of Jesus, when we came to our senses and realized that in this barren world we don’t have enough bread and we are dying here with hunger … And when we arose we went to the heavenly Father and said, “Father I have sinned against you, simply make me your slave…”
When you did that, the Heavenly Father already saw you coming from a far off and he felt compassion for you and he ran and embraced and kissed you. Before you could even get the words out of your mouth that you have sinned against God, the Father, because of his great grace brings out the best robe and puts it on you and put the ring on your hand and sandals on your feet … And he celebrated with you because though you were dead in your sin he brought you back to life again though you were lost you have been found …
Oh, the wonderful grace and peace that we have with God in Christ!
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 1.1-2
So if you’re down, depressed, find yourself complaining, angry, or struggling with lust, or whatever, you need to realize the grace and peace that you already have in Jesus Christ.
!!!The price has been paid!
Praise God, our sins are all gone…
and we have peace with God and with his son…
We have eternal life… And he loves us as His dear children. “Grace is to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!” Do you know it? Know it more and more and so grow to be delivered more and more from the gloom of your trials and from your sins.
There is joy found in the grace and peace of Christ!
You need Paul’s teaching and example of joyful Christian maturity in the book of Philippians… this is what will sustain your souls.
9 Jesus thou joy of loving hearts.
Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 92. ↑
Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989). ↑
Boice, 21 ↑