Summary: In this sermon, we cover the first eleven verses of Philippians 1 and we learn about the importance of learning to communicate appropriately words of appreciation, love and encouragement.
A. Once there was an old blacksmith who was nearing retirement and so he picked out a young man to train as his apprentice.
1. The old blacksmith was rather gruff and exacting – He said to the young man, “Don’t ask me a lot of questions, just do whatever I tell you to do.”
2. One day early in the training, the old blacksmith took a red-hot iron out of the fire and laid on the anvil.
3. He said to the young apprentice, “Get the hammer over there and when I nod my head, hit it real good and hard!”
4. The old man nodded his head, and the young man did as he was told, and now the town is looking for a new blacksmith.
B. Clear communication is critical – it can make us or break us, as the blacksmith painfully discovered.
1. The Proverb writer was right when he wrote: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Prov. 18:21)
C. Today, as we continue our new sermon series called “Joy for the Journey – A Study of Philippians,” I want us to spend some time looking at the opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
1. Last week we were reminded of Paul’s relationship with the Philippians and how it began with some painful trails, and we also pointed out that Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians during his Roman imprisonment.
a. Yet in spite of all of Paul’s persecutions and suffering, this letter and his life overflow with joy for the journey.
2. Today, I want to focus on Paul’s ability to communicate from the heart and how it is critical for maintaining healthy relationships.
a. As Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians, he set for us a wonderful example of how to express ourselves appropriately to those who are important to us.
b. My hope is that all of us can follow his example and develop a loving heart that expresses itself appropriately to those around us in our families, our church and in the world.
D. Before we get into Paul’s communication from the heart, I want to mention a few things about his opening greeting.
1. Every society has rules for behavior which extend to ordinary activities such as letter writing.
a. For instance, we often start our letters, “Dear So and So.”
2. There were also customs for letter writing at the time when the NT was written and so Paul followed those general customs in his letter writing, but even though Paul followed traditional customs, he used words and phrases from the heart that were rich in meaning.
3. Letters in Paul’s day began by identifying the writer rather than the recipient.
a. So, Paul’s letter to the Philippians began, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus.”
b. Our New Testament contains 13 letters of Paul, or 14 if Paul wrote Hebrews, and the vast majority of those letters begin with a statement of his apostleship.
c. This letter to the Philippians is one of the 4 letters where Paul doesn’t begin with his apostleship, but rather simply calls himself a servant of Christ Jesus.
d. Perhaps Paul’s relationship with the Philippians was so close and the reason for his writing did not necessitate an appeal to his authority as an apostle.
4. Paul included Timothy in the greeting even though Timothy was not a co-author.
a. We know Timothy is not a co-author because Paul wrote in the first person singular throughout the letter, and he spoke of Timothy in the third person.
b. Perhaps Paul included Timothy in the greeting because Timothy was so well-known at Philippi and because Timothy was about to visit them again.
5. After stating who the letter was from, Paul then followed the custom and clarified to whom the letter was addressed.
a. Paul wrote: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.” (vs. 1b)
b. Paul called them saints, which means they are set apart for and by God – Christians are God’s special people, bought at a price, and set apart for a wonderful purpose, and for an eternal destiny.
c. Paul points out that these Philippian saints are “in Christ Jesus,” which is one of Paul’s favorite phrases, and is central to Paul’s entire theology.
d. As believers in Jesus, we are baptized into Christ, and we are hidden in Christ, and clothed with Christ, and therefore we possess the life of Christ in us.
e. After first recognizing all the saints, Paul then gave specific recognition to the elders and deacons, because they play a special role together with all the saints.
6. The final part in the custom of ancient letter writing was the greeting.