Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:1–2)
Studying the book of Philippians these past 3 months, I find it becoming one of my favorite books of the Bible. Just in the opening two verses, God reveals five desires that all Christians should cultivate.
1. Cultivate a Desire to Disciple Younger People (Philippians 1:1)
The apostle Paul authored Philippians, and much of his letter is written using the first person singular: “I” and “me.” But Paul begins this letter with “Paul and Timothy.”
The Philippians would have remembered Timothy. We learn in Acts 16:3 that Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him on his missionary journey. Timothy left Lystra to follow Paul. One of the first places Timothy visited with Paul was Philippi (Acts 16:12). The Philippians met Timothy as a new disciple of Paul.
Although Timothy did not contribute to the content of this epistle, the significance of Paul starting this letter introducing “Timothy” cannot be overstated. Paul wanted the Philippians to know that the young Timothy they had met was still with Paul. Like Paul, we must invest into the lives of young people. Whether it’s your own children or younger people in your church, we should teach and disciple younger people.
2. Cultivate a Desire to Serve Christ (Philippians 1:1)
Paul identified Timothy and himself as “servants of Christ Jesus.” Our life is not our own. Each of us is created by God. We have been purchased by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are twice God’s. Our life is not our own.
The Greek word (ESV translated “servants”) is a term used to denote a slave. Consequently, we should seek to grow in our desire to faithfully serve Christ. Service to Christ is our identity and life purpose. There is no greater privilege.
3. Cultivate a Desire for Personal Bible Study (Philippians 1:1)
Paul wrote this letter “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi.” He was not writing directly to the senior pastor. He did not expect the pastor to read the letter and summarize the letter to his congregation. Paul wrote directly to every Philippian. Paul expected every believer at the church in Philippi to read and examine the contents of this epistle.
Similarly, God desires all of us to read and study the Bible. The Bible was not written just for pastors, seminary professors, and Bible scholars. God has given each of us his precious Word, so we should all personally read and study it.
4. Cultivate a Desire to Partner with Church Leaders (Philippians 1:1)
God gives us the mandate to study the Bible individually. But he has not directed us to live our Christian lives independently. God instructs us to participate in a local church community led by godly elders and servant leaders.
Paul describes the Philippian Christians as “with the overseers and deacons.” Paul associated believers with their overseers and deacons. We, likewise, should partner with our church leaders and involve them in our lives.
Often, when I am not doing well, it’s tempting for me to hide my life problems from others, especially my pastor. Sometimes when I have financial or practical needs, it’s embarrassing to share my needs and worries with a church deacon. Put aside your tendency to live a secret, independent life. Open up your life to your church leaders.
5. Cultivate an Appreciation For God’s Grace and Peace (Philippians 1:2)
In every opening greeting of his 13 New Testament epistles, Paul uses the words “grace” and “peace.” The meaning of these two words can be broad, but I think Paul has these simple concepts in mind.
- The grace of God refers to God’s unmerited favor. All of us deserve condemnation and eternal punishment because of our sin. But while we were still enemies, God gave us his Son. He grants forgiveness based on the work of Christ Jesus, a gift none of us deserve.
- The peace of God refers to the Christian’s assurance that God’s wrath has been satisfied by Christ’s death on the cross. Instead of enmity, we have peace with God through Christ Jesus. This objective standing of peace should give us a subjective sense of peace. Nothing in this world can take away our fellowship, access, and peace with God.
Ask yourself these five questions:
- Are you discipling younger people?
- Are you serving Christ?
- Are you reading and studying the Bible?
- Are you involving church leaders in your life?
- Are you embracing God’s grace and peace?
I am so excited about studying the practical instructions in the book of Philippians; I look forward to sharing more of them to you in the coming weeks.