From the Slaves to the Saints: Grace to You and Peace (Mike Riccardi)

Philippians 1:1-2   |   Sunday, September 9, 2012   |   Code: 2012-09-09-MR


Last week we began a series in the Book of Philippians. We tried to get a thirty thousand-foot view of the entire book in order to familiarize ourselves with the historical context and the major themes found in the letter. We mentioned that, above all, Philippians is about the Gospel. Paul uses the word more frequently in Philippians than in any of his other letters. And much of the letter simply overflows with the sincere love and deep affection that is shared between Paul and the Philippians. They are fellow partakers of the grace of God in the Gospel, and at the same time are fellow laborers and strugglers in the cause for the ministry of the Gospel. And so he writes to them to express his thankfulness and joy for their partnership with him in the Gospel.

But we also noted that Paul’s letter to this dear group of believers, whom he loves deeply, is not without commands and instructions—not without warnings and exhortations. We mentioned a couple of times that the thesis of the letter comes in chapter 1 verse 27: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Paul desires that the Philippians’ entire lives be driven by the Gospel. They are to stand firm amidst opposition, to strive for unity together within the church, to humbly regard one another as more important than themselves, and to rejoice in the Lord always.

And I also expressed to you that I believe Paul’s message to the Philippians is a timely and relevant one for GraceLife. As fellow partakers of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and as faithful fellow-laborers in the ministry of His Gospel, I want us all to experience and express the kind of love and affection for one another that Paul and the Philippians experience on those same grounds. And at the same time, I want to exhort all of us to excel still more. I want us all to be stirred up by the Word of God through the Apostle Paul to the Philippians to conduct every aspect of our lives in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

And so having conducted our overview last week, this morning we come to the opening two verses of the letter: Paul’s greeting. Now, any good preacher will tell you that the point of Bible study and sermon preparation is to find the main point of the text, and make that the main point of your sermon. And sometimes, doing a faithful job in discovering that main point and then representing it in a helpful way in a sermon or a Bible study lesson isn’t all that easy. There are language barriers, cultural barriers, historical barriers that need to be overcome by the diligence of faithful study. But in these opening verses, Paul’s main point is not difficult to arrive at. It’s not obscure, or complicated, at all. In Philippians chapter 1, verses 1 and 2, Paul’s main point is to say, “Hello.” To bring the Philippians his warm, loving, and affectionate greetings.

But Paul’s greeting is so much more significant than our just saying “Hello.” He actually packs some serious theology into these short opening verses. Right at the outset, Paul condenses into one short sentence the essence of the Christian life and the Christian message. And because every Word of God is inspired, infallible, inerrant, and profitable, the richness and the benefit of the Word of God only grows exponentially greater as one digs deeper and deeper to mine its truth.

And so we’re going to spend some time digging into Paul’s greeting of grace and peace, and by God’s grace will be blessed by the depth and profundity of God’s Word. Let’s read the opening two verses together. God’s Word reads: “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

This morning we’re going to examine three components of Paul’s opening greeting to the Philippians. We’re going to look at the slaves, the saints, and the salutation. But because Paul can’t even begin his letter—because he can’t even get past the greeting without using the name of Christ three times in just these two, short opening verses—I want our outline to reflect that extraordinarily Christ-saturated focus of the Apostle Paul. So this morning we’ll outline Paul’s greeting to the Philippians this way: First, we’ll look at the Slaves of Christ; second, we’ll look at the Saints in Christ; and third, we’ll look at the Salutation because of Christ.


I. The Slaves of Christ

Let’s look first, then, at the slaves of Christ, verse 1: “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants [but better rendered slaves] of Christ Jesus.” Paul begins his letter by identifying himself as the author. And the Philippians know Paul. As we saw in our overview last week the Philippians were intimately acquainted with Paul and his ministry of the Gospel, laboring and striving and struggling with him, sharing with him in the defense and confirmation of the Good News of Jesus Christ—consistently giving of their own financial resources, and even of their spiritual resources in the person of Epaphroditus, to minister to Paul’s needs. But for our own sake let’s remind ourselves briefly of the biography of the Apostle Paul.



We learn quite a bit about Paul from considering his own autobiography later on in the letter to the Philippians. In chapter 3, verses 5 and 6, he gives us his fleshly credentials: “…circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”

Paul was orthodox. He was circumcised on the eighth day as the Mosaic Law prescribed for all infant males. He was of the nation of Israel—the chosen people of God. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, one of only two of the tribes of Israel to make up the southern Kingdom—the other tribe being Judah—and thus one of the only two tribes to survive past the Assyrian captivity. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, meaning he stood out amongst the crowd. He was raised in Jerusalem itself, educated under the rabbi Gamaliel, who, we learn from Acts 5:34, was a Pharisee and a teacher of the Law respected by all the Jewish people. Acts 22:3 says that Paul was “educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of [the] fathers.” Being educated by a Pharisee, he himself was also a Pharisee, belonging to that party of Jews that was most zealous for the Old Testament Scriptures. As to zeal, he was a persecutor of the church. He tells the Galatians in Galatians 1:13–14: “For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” In Acts 22 verse 4 he says, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons.”

And as he was continuing to breathe threats and murder against the Christians, Acts 9 says—as he was traveling to Damascus to drag more Christians into custody, the Lord Jesus Himself showed up in a blazing light from Heaven and struck him blind. And at that moment, the Hebrew of Hebrews’ world was turned upside down. Everything changed for him.

Which is why he says in Philippians 3 verse 7, after outlining his fleshly credentials: “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”

That’s Paul: the zealous, legalistic, super-Jew who had his world turned upside down by the risen Christ. After that, everything of fleshly value was lost on him, and he gladly gave it all up to pursue a righteousness which was outside of himself—an alien righteousness—Christ’s righteousness—reckoned to be his through faith alone. And since that very hour on the Damascus road, he has dedicated his life to literally traveling the known world to proclaim that righteousness through faith alone in this crucified and resurrected Messiah.  And the Philippians themselves are beneficiaries and participants in that ministry.



But Paul doesn’t only include his name at the opening of the letter, he also includes his beloved son in the faith, Timothy.

We turn to Acts chapter 16 for Timothy’s biography. There we learn that Timothy lived in Lystra, and was born to a Gentile father and a Jewish mother named Eunice who raised him in the nurture and admonition of the God of Israel. According to Acts 16 verse 2, Timothy had earned quite a good reputation among the believers in Lystra and in Iconium, showing himself to be an example in the faith. He was so well-spoken of, and, apparently Paul was so impressed with his devotion, that he wanted to take him along on his second missionary journey. Now, not only did young Timothy agree to leave the comfort of his familiar surroundings, but he also agreed to be circumcised—as an adult! Both he and Paul knew that Timothy’s Gentile father would be a stumbling block for the Jews they’d be preaching the Gospel to. And even though both of them knew—as it says in 1 Corinthians 7:19—that circumcision was nothing, Timothy was so devoted to putting no stumbling block in the way of the Gospel that he agreed to have this quite painful procedure done to him.

On top of this devotion, Timothy was with Paul when the church at Philippi began. He was circumcised in verse 3, by verse 12 they’re in Philippi, and in verse 14 Lydia is converted. And Timothy wasn’t just there at the founding of the church, but he also returned to minister to the congregation at least two other times. Acts 19:22 says that Paul sent Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia (which is where Philippi is) while he stayed in Asia. This would have been around AD 54, about 5 years after that first visit in AD 49. Further, Acts 20 verse 3 tells us that Timothy came to Philippi a third time just a year after that, when Paul and the missionary team returned through Macedonia in around AD 55.

And so that’s why Paul can commend Timothy to the Philippians as an example of humility and service, and say in Philippians 2:22, “You know of [Timothy’s] proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.” Paul would say in 1 Corinthians 4:17, “I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” And so it makes sense that Paul would want to send him to the Philippians soon, so that he could minister to them as he had in the past, and as he had recently been ministering so effectively and encouragingly to Paul.

In fact, almost everything you need to know to get a good picture of Timothy is what Paul says about him in Philippians 2:19–21: “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” No one else of kindred spirit—no one else whose heart beats with my heart in the same way. No one else of true, genuine, loving concern for the Philippians like Timothy was. In Paul’s imprisonment, the shame and the prospect of persecution had driven them all away from him. “They all seek after their own interests.” But so great was his love for Paul that Timothy didn’t mind coming to Rome, identifying himself to the rulers of the known world as a friend of this subversive prisoner. Though everyone else deserted him, Timothy was willing to be outcast if it meant he could stay with Paul and minister to his needs. That’s Timothy.


Slaves of Christ Jesus

And we’ve heard enough about both of these extraordinary men to know that their lives had typified the designation Paul chooses to describe themselves: both of them were slaves of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:1, the New American Standard has: “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus.” But the Greek word is douloi, from the word doulos, which our pastor has labored so faithfully to show us means slave. Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.

This is a favorite self-designation of the Apostles and other writers of Scripture. James claims this title for himself in the opening verse of his epistle. The same is true for Peter in 2 Peter 1:1, for Jude, and for the Apostle John in Revelation 1:1. On top of that, Paul repeats that He is Christ’s doulos throughout his other letters. In fact, even the slave-girl in Philippi with a spirit of divination cried out that Paul and Timothy and Luke were “slaves of the Most High God” (Acts 16:17). The term slave is used at least 40 times in the New Testament to refer to the believer, and the Hebrew equivalent is used over 250 times to refer to believers in the Old Testament. I think it’s safe to say that the Lord wants His people to understand themselves in this way. At its core, the essence of the Christian life can be described as slavery to Christ.

So what does it mean to be a slave? In his excellent book, Slave, our pastor outlines five parallels between biblical Christianity and first-century slavery. And the first is exclusive ownership. As Paul says to believers so clearly in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20: “You are not your own. You have been bought with a price.” Christians do not exist in some world of untethered autonomy. We are not the captains of our own ship. We were bought with a price, and so we belong to the One who has paid that price.  “Therefore,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20—because you were bought with a price and are not your own—“glorify God in your body.” Exclusive ownership implies, number two, complete submission. If we belong to Christ—if He owns us—then the rule of our lives is not our will, but His will—our Master’s will.

Exclusive ownership, complete submission, third: there is singular devotion. No slave concerned himself with obeying other masters; his chief concern was carrying out the will of the one to whom he belonged. Our Master, the Lord Jesus Himself, reminds us in Matthew 6:24: that “no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” George Müller, the 19th century evangelist widely known for his oversight of orphanages in England, as well as for his devotion to prayer, captured the spirit of slavery to Christ beautifully when he wrote: “There was a day when I died, utterly died, died to George Müller and his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame of even my brethren and friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God” (cited in Slave, 153). The slave of Christ is singularly devoted.

Fourth, the slave is also marked by a total dependence— he was completely dependent on his master for the provision of the basic necessities of life. In the same way, the Christian must humbly depend entirely upon the beneficence of our Master, and not at all on ourselves. And because He is a loving, kind Master, all our needs are met, and we are free to serve our Master unhindered and with all eagerness and joy. Finally, the slave was personally accountable to his master. And in the same way, Christ is the One to whom we will answer—the One to whom we will give an account. Christians, most fundamentally, are slaves of Christ.

And as we’ve gone through those five characteristics, I hope you recognize that slavery to Christ is not a drudgery. This is not a tyrannical, despotic relationship fueled by abject fear and forced submission. The picture is not someone whose will is constantly frustrated over and against the whims of his master, but of someone whose will is, over time and repeated exposure to that Master, lovingly and happily conformed to the Master’s will. Alexander Maclaren called it “the blending and absorption of my own will in His will.” So it’s not just, “I do what He wants, not what I want,” but, “As He teaches me and shows me more of Himself, what I want becomes what He wants.”

Nor was a slave’s status always automatically dishonorable. Instead, the status of the slave was linked to the status of his master. It was a great honor to be accounted a slave of Caesar. And in the same way, for Christians, being slaves of Christ was, as Pastor John says, “not only an affirmation of their complete submission to the Master; it was also a declaration of the privileged position every Christian enjoys by being associated with the Lord. No affiliation could be greater than that” (Slave, 97). In fact, Scripture applies that designation to Christ Himself in Philippians chapter 2 verse 7, where we’re told that in His incarnation, Christ took the form of a slave. And as we submit ourselves fully to His loving rule, we not only honor Him as our Master, but follow Him in His example.

My question to you is: Is this your identity? Do you gladly accept this title, a slave of Christ? Are you completely submitted? Singularly devoted? Totally dependent? Paul and Timothy were. And in mentioning their slavery to Christ right off the bat, Paul intended that the Philippians—who had been struggling with issues of steadfastness amidst conflict, unity among believers, humility, and joy amidst persecution—would be reminded that they too are slaves of Christ Jesus.


II. The Saints in Christ

Thus we have seen the Slaves of Christ. The second component of Paul’s greeting to the Philippians speaks of the Saints in Christ. Verse 1: “Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.”



Paul calls the believers in Philippi “saints.” Now unfortunately, in our day, a world of confusion surrounds the word saint. The Roman Catholic Church has co-opted this biblical term and uses it to refer to a select group of spiritually elite people, to be applied to them only after they’ve died on the basis of their own merits. I don’t know if you could get further from the truth about what a saint, according to the Bible, really is. Rather than the spiritually elite, this title properly belongs to all believers. Rather than being bestowed after death, it is conferred at the moment of the new birth. And far from being based on a believer’s own merits, it is applied to a believer on the merit of Christ alone.

The word means “holy,” or “set apart.” Those who are called “saints” are to be understood as those who are set apart by God, and set apart for God. In fact, God’s people are called “saints” on the basis of the holiness of God. This was true as far back as the Levitical Law. In Leviticus 11:44, the Lord proclaimed to Israel: “For I am Yahweh your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” Thus, even in the Old Testament believers in Yahweh were called “saints.” Psalm 16:3: “As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.” Psalm 34:9 says, “O fear Yahweh, you His saints!”

And just as Israel was set apart for God, to be a people for His own possession, and to serve Him in truth, so is the Church. The New Testament everywhere applies the term “saints” to all believers in Christ Jesus, set apart by God to be a possession for Himself: In Acts 9:32, Luke records that as Peter was traveling “he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.” That wasn’t an elite group of people; that was simply a way of speaking about the believers who were at Lydda. Paul addresses his letters to the saints who are at Ephesus (Eph 1:1) or the saints who are at Colosse (Col 1:2). He wasn’t writing only to a specific group of people, but to all the believers in those cities. My goodness, Paul addressed both his letters to the Corinthians to the saints in Corinth! And if Scripture can give the title “saints” to the Corinthians, let me tell you folks: there’s hope for all of us. The Corinthians had major problems going on in their church, including a kind of sexual immorality that was not even named among the Gentiles. And yet they were called saints.

And that is because all believers are saints. Their saintliness has nothing to do with their merits; no, look at the text: the Philippians were saints in Christ Jesus. The great expositor James Montgomery Boice said, “The one who is a saint in the biblical sense will strive to be holy, but his holiness, however little or however great it may be, does not make him a saint. He is a saint because he has been set apart by God” (Philippians, 20). Another commentator writes, the saints’ “holiness is inherent in their calling and position in Christ. It is not earned by social position or moral performance, but by union with Jesus Christ” (Hansen, PNTC, 39–40). We are not holy based upon our own merits; we are hopelessly sinful and totally depraved. But Christ did in fact achieve holiness by His own merits; He did live the righteous life that God requires. And because we trust in Him for our righteousness, we are set apart from the world, reckoned righteous, sanctified, and consecrated to the service of the God of the Universe by virtue of our union with Him. We are saints in Christ Jesus.

And this doctrine of the believer’s union with Christ is so important, so foundational to Paul. Books have been written on Paul’s repeated use of the phrase “in Christ” throughout his letters. Even here in Philippians alone he uses the phrase at least 21 times. Aside from being saints in Christ, believers find encouragement in Christ (2:1), we rejoice in Christ (3:1), we glory, or boast in Christ (3:3), we stand firm in the Lord (chapter 4:1), and the peace of God guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (4:7). Every blessing that you enjoy as a Christian, you enjoy on the basis of your union with Jesus Christ. You are saints, you have been consecrated and set apart, in Christ Jesus.



And so Paul writes to the saints who are in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi. Now, we spent quite a bit of time last week looking into the Philippian congregation and Paul’s dealings with them from the founding of the church in Acts 16—so I won’t repeat all of that. But I do want to comment briefly on the strategic nature of the city of Philippi itself.

What put Philippi on the map in the ancient world—aside from having hosted a strategic battle in the shift of the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire—was its accessible location. If you remember your Mediterranean geography, you know that Italy, Greece, and even Asia Minor all plunge down into the Mediterranean Sea. And so if you were traveling between these countries you would need to travel along the top. And so anyone traveling long distances between these countries traveled along what was called the Via Egnatia, or the Ignatian Highway. And the Ignatian Highway ran straight through Philippi. That, and the presence of gold and silver mines located in nearby mountains, made Philippi a major commercial center. And so Philippi was a very strategic city in the Greco-Roman world, as it hosted travelers from all over the Empire. And that meant it was also a very strategic city in which to have a solid Gospel presence—for there to be slaves of Christ who were set apart to proclaim the Gospel to the many people who would travel through that city.

Now, not only was Philippi strategically placed, but it was also important because it was a colony of Rome. Luke says as much in Acts 16:12, where he calls Philippi “a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony.” But it wasn’t just a colony. It was given the highest privilege possible for a Roman municipality, called ius Italicum. This meant that it was governed under Roman law, but that they weren’t governed by Rome itself. They were self-governing. On top of this, they had freedom from taxation, and Philippian citizens enjoyed the full rights and privileges of citizens of Rome.

And that’s significant, because the Philippians gloried in this. They spoke Latin, copied Roman architecture, and even patterned their dress off of the Roman customs. They loved their Roman citizenship—a sort of elite status in the empire. And so the Philippian Christians needed to battle with that as they forsook their identity as a doulos to the Lord Caesar and became douloi of the Lord Jesus. They needed to be reminded that their citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven superseded and outranked their citizenship in the Roman Empire. And, in fact, Paul reminds them of just that in chapter 3 verse 20. Contrary to the pagans who walk in the uninhibited indulgence of their flesh, “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will—not destroy our body so that our sins in the body don’t matter, but will—transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.”

This issue of proper citizenship actually strikes right at the heart of the letter. I’ve mentioned a few times that the thesis verse of the book comes in chapter 1 verse 27: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Interestingly, though, the Greek word that gets translated “conduct yourselves” is actually politeuomai. Politeuomai sounds like politic or polis, the Greek word for city, and the verb meant “to live as a citizen.” So at the very heart of this epistle to Christians who are living in a city that is proud of their Roman citizenship, Paul exhorts them to live as citizens of the kingdom of Heaven in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel.

And one characteristic of a citizen living worthy of the Gospel is the unity that Paul calls the Philippians to. And so even right here in the opening he makes it clear that he is writing to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, using the word “all” no less than five times in the first eight verses, explicitly addressing the congregation as a unit. Aside from here in verse 1, you have, verse 4, “always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all;” verse 7: “it is only right forme to feel this way about you all;” the end of verse 7: “you all are partakers of grace with me;”and verse 8: “I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”


Overseers and Deacons

And then, on top of addressing all the saints, Paul adds, “including the overseers and deacons.” These are the two offices of church leadership: (a) the overseers, or the elders, who are responsible for the teaching and governing of the church, as well as to shepherd the flock by providing oversight, supervision, and protective care; and then (b) the deacons, those servants who model merciful service and who “work alongside the elders in the implementation of their preaching, teaching, and oversight in the practical life of the church” (MacArthur, 1 Timothy, 125). And just as an aside, it’s encouraging here to note that this church structure of a plurality of teaching, governing elders, supported by a group of servant-hearted, faithful ministers of mercy in the deacons, is precisely the church structure that we recognize, nearly two thousand years later.

But though Paul recognizes that there are leaders set apart to rule and to serve the congregation, here he addresses them as a unit: “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” It’s not: “to the saints, and then to the overseers and deacons also.” No, the overseers and deacons are part of the congregation. In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the Ephesian elders to “shepherd the flock of God, among whom—not “over whom”—the Lord has made you overseers.” So there is a recognizable distinction in roles, but the elders and deacons are on equal footing with the congregation.

And so, Paul addresses the letter to the congregation at Philippi, but he’s also careful to include the leadership—not only to emphasize the responsibility they have to make sure that the church will carry out the instructions in his letter—but also to emphasize the unity among the whole congregation, to which he will exhort them throughout the letter.


III. The Salutation because of Christ

Well, we’ve seen the Slaves of Christ, and we’ve seen the Saints in Christ. Now let’s turn to mine the truth packed into the Salutation because of Christ. The salutation because of Christ. “Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and the deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

This greeting is very familiar to us, as it occurs in some form in all 13 of Paul’s epistles to the churches. But even though it is so common, it is anything but an empty cliché for Paul. What you have here is the very essence of Paul’s theology condensed and packed into one succinct sentence. When he spoke of slaves and saints, he gave you the essence of the Christian life. And now when he speaks of grace and peace, he gives you the essence of the message he preaches.



And the first element of that greeting is grace. It’s the term charis in the Greek, which is significant because of what it stands in place of. In a normal greeting that stands at the beginning of first-century Greek letters, one expects to find the word, chairein. And chairein is simply the Greek word for “greetings.” It was their version of our “hello.” But instead of this normal greeting, Paul employs a play on words and adapts the familiar chairein to the distinctively Christian, highly theological charis: grace. This is another instance of Paul adapting regular, every-day customs to reflect their reality as it has been transformed by Christ. One commentator says, “Here is a marvelous example of Paul’s ‘turning into gospel’ everything he sets his hand to” (Fee, Philippians, 70).

We spoke earlier of the radical, dramatic shift that took place in Paul’s life as a result of his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road. He went from a rigorous Pharisee seeking to derive his righteousness from the Law to counting all of his achievements as garbage for the sake of gaining Christ, and seeking for righteousness by Him. But it’s not only these lofty theological truths that get transformed in Paul’s life. His life is entirely reinterpreted in light of Jesus Christ—right down to the way he says “hello.” Not chairein, but charis. Not just “greetings,” but “grace to you.”

Grace, of course, is that unmerited favor of God freely bestowed upon unworthy sinners as an overflow of God’s abounding sufficiency. Paul reminds his readers right at the outset of his letter that everything we are, we are by grace (cf. 1 Cor 15:10). Grace is the foundation of the Christian experience. We earn nothing. We are so destitute of goodness and moral sufficiency that, in every way we relate to God, we can accomplish nothing of ourselves. Everything must be provided as an undeserved gift.

James Boice gets it right on the money: “It was by grace that the worlds were hung in space and the earth was disposed for human life. It was by grace that the mountains were created and the world was filled with life. By grace humans are made in God’s image with every capacity for fellowship with him. By grace humans received the biblical revelation after the fall. By grace God chose Israel for a special purpose in history. It was grace that sent the Lord Jesus—to live a life that revealed the Father and to die for human sin. Grace leads us to trust in Christ. Grace sent the Holy Spirit to be our teacher and our guide. Grace has preserved the church through the centuries. Grace will bring forth the final resurrection. [And] grace will sustain us throughout eternity as we live in unbroken fellowship with God and grow in the knowledge of him.” Amazing grace.  

He says it in verse 6 of chapter 1: It was God who began the good work of salvation in the Philippians—and in all of you—by His own free and sovereign grace. And it will be God who brings that work of grace to completion in the day of Christ Jesus. Elsewhere Paul said, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess 5:24). God starts, God finishes, and on the in between, chapter 2 verses 12 and 13: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who works in you, to will and to work for His good pleasure.” The Christian life is a story of God’s magnificent grace, from beginning to end.



And not just grace. Peace! The Greek word eirene, which is where we get the English word irenic, or the name “Irene.” It translates the Hebrew shalom, which has just a mountain of significance: peace, well-being, salvation, deliverance, wholeness, tranquility. Commenting on this greeting, Moises Silva writes, “Changing chairein to charis calls attention to the very essence of the Christian message, and adding eirene reminds them of the rich themes of spiritual welfare evoked of the Hebrew shalom.”

Everyone in the world searches for peace. So many people that I have had spiritual conversations with have spoken about their desire for peace, for a spiritual calm, for emotional and mental relief from the turmoil they experience as they participate in this broken world. They know something has gone wrong—horribly wrong—with this world, and they sense that corruption even inside themselves. They’ve experienced broken relationships, strained marriages, bitterness, gossip, and slander, and the unrest that those things have brought with them. And now they want something—anything—that will soothe them.


The Source

And they’re willing to try anything. Tony Robbins. Yoga. Joel Osteen. Money, success, prestige, making a “difference” in someone’s life. People search everywhere for peace. But our passage tells us precisely where it is: it’s in Christ. It’s in Christ.  The word order of Paul’s opening greeting is significant: “Grace to you, and peace…” Peace is the result of God’s grace. No one who remains an enemy of God, hostile to God as Romans 8:7 says, no one who refuses to bow the knee in repentance and faith can know anything of true peace. Peace is only a result of the grace of God that comes… where? Verse 2: “…from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” God Himself is the source of peace through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, our sin, which provokes God to holy wrath, is paid for. And peace with God, along with peace with each other, is Christ’s to freely give.

In John 14:27, Jesus is preparing His disciples for a life to be lived without Him physically present. And He says to them, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” No, not as the world gives. Not a brief moment of so-called peace that promises hope but quickly fades away. An eternal peace that abides with us forever through the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 2:14 says that Christ Himself is our peace. Philippians 4:9 says that God is the God of peace, who will be with you. And of course we can’t forget chapter 4 verse 7: “The peace of God—that is, the peace which comes from God—which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”



Every divine blessing is wrapped up in Him. My question to you this morning is: Do you have Him? Do you love Him? Do you trust in Him for your acceptance before God? Are you submitted in a delightful slavery to the Lord, the Master, Jesus Christ? Have you been set apart by God, called as a saint in Christ Jesus? Do you know the bounty of God’s grace? Are you acquainted with the sobriety and the tranquility of His peace?

You could sit through every single sermon that I preach on Philippians in the coming months—every sermon the Lance preaches, every sermon that Phil preaches, even every sermon that Pastor John preaches—and none of it will be profitable to you if you are a stranger to the grace and peace of God that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Just like Hebrews tells us of the Israelites in the wilderness, it is to no profit to have good news preached to you if such preaching is not united by faith in those who hear (Heb 4:2). Turn from your sin. Submit your thinking, your behavior, your entire life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Trust in Him for the perfect righteousness that is necessary to enjoy eternal fellowship with God. Be saved.

And for my dear brothers and sisters who know Him, (a) remember that you are slaves of Jesus Christ; (b) remember that you are saints in Jesus Christ, set apart for holiness and service to your Master; and (c) as you go from this place, may grace and peace be with you.