Summary: The Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Philippi, all of the Christians and, basically, the church board. What does it say to us today?
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.
8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
The letter to the Philippians was written by Paul most likely from prison in Rome sometime around the year of AD 62.
It is interesting that the letter starts out with “Paul and Timothy” as if they co-wrote the letter but throughout the letter the singular first person is used; Paul either uses I or me or my to refer to himself except for the few times when it indicates a group of people.
The next phrase indicates that Paul and Timothy were servants of Jesus Christ. The Greek word “doulos” which literally means slaves is used here although various translations have rendered the word as servants, bond-servants and slaves.
Slaves were common at the time of Christ.
The slave might be treated badly by his master or treated very well.
The slave might hate his master or even love his master.
The slave was the property of the master because they he been purchased as a slave or he may have been born into the group of slaves owned by a master.
A slave could be assigned to menial tasks and hard labor or they could be given a position of great authority in the household even being put in charge of the business dealings of the master.
People who were once free could become slaves through tragic loss if they had debts that could not be repaid.
A child might even be sold into slavery by his own parents if they could not provide for the child. This would bring in some temporary income and result in one less mouth to feed.
Being a slave could even be a pleasant way of life with a kind and considerate master or could result in a torturous life with an early death if the master was cruel and unmerciful.
So, why would Paul describe himself and Timothy as servants or slaves of Jesus Christ?
Here’s the thing, when it comes to our life on earth we are all slaves! As proud, self sufficient Americans we rebel at such a thought. We proclaim loudly that we are free citizens of the United States of America! We are not slaves to anyone!
That reminds me of the protest by the Pharisees in John 8:31-34 when Jesus said,
“If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
“They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’
“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.’”
So, you see, in the spiritual realm we are either slaves to the evil one or slaves to Jesus Christ.
Slavery to the evil one will result in a life wracked with the disease of sin which leads to death.
Slavery to Christ will result in a life delivered from slavery to sin which leads to life.
Romans 6:16-18 says it like this:
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey - whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.
“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”