Paul’s Greeting to the Philippians
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 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.
1:1 – 2 Opening Greeting. As in most ancient letters, the authors and recipients are both mentioned at the beginning.
1:1 Paul and Timothy. Paul often co-authored letters with Timothy. The son of a Jewish mother and Greek father (Acts 16:1), Timothy was from Lystra, and after Paul visited there on his second missionary journey, he took Timothy along as a co-worker (Philippians 2:19 – 24).
God’s holy people. As people who belong to God and are incorporated into his service, they are set apart from the world for him. The Old Testament uses the phrase “holy people” of Israel (e.g., Exodus 22:31), so it is striking that Paul can freely apply it to what was probably a pre-dominantly Gentile congregation in Philippi. As Paul emphasizes in chapter 3, those who believe in Christ and are incorporated into him now share in the privileges God bestowed on Israel in the Old Testament.
holy. Christ’s death has made Christians holy (Ephesians 5:25 – 26).
in Christ Jesus at Philippi. Expresses the double location of believers: (1) they are in Christ, no longer in Adam but members of Christ’s body, and (2) they belong to the Roman colony of Philippi.
overseers. Synonymous with “elders,” men responsible for the spiritual direction of and preaching in the congregation (1 Timothy 3:1 – 7).
deacons. Responsible for affairs in the church of a more practical nature. The role has its origin in the difficult situation in Acts 6:1 – 6, where believers select “deacons” to distribute the food to widows. This is no lowly task, however, for those appointed in Acts 6 were “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3); deacons must display traits of mature godliness (1 Timothy 3:8 – 10, 12 – 13).
1:2 Adapting elements from Jewish and Greek letter writing, Paul prays for the Philippians to receive “grace” (God’s work in them to accomplish what they cannot do on their own) and “peace” (experiencing the blessings of being reconciled to God).
1:3 – 8 Thanksgiving. Paul expresses his great love for the Philippians, as is evident from the joy (verse 4), confidence (verse 6), and affection (verse 8) with which he thanks God for them.
1:4 with joy. Paul expresses the emotions that accompany his prayers, first mentioning joy.
1:5 partnership. Paul rejoices that the Philippians join in the work of the gospel, which includes financially supporting him (Philippians 4:15).
from the first day. When they first accepted the gospel (compare Philippians 4:15).
1:6 being confident. A second emotion (after joy in verse Philippians 4:4) that remembering the Philippians prompts. Paul’s confidence in God’s sovereignty leads not to inactivity but to prayer for what he knows God will do. Paul is convinced that prayers are a means God uses to accomplish his purposes.
work in you. Paul knows that the Philippians’ perseverance in the faith and the gospel fruit that they bear are the work of God himself (Philippians 2:12 – 13).
the day of Christ Jesus. God’s faithful work in them endures right up until the day on which Jesus returns.
These verse-by-verse insights are drawn from the NIV Zondervan Study Bible.
What is something new you might take away from this passage after reading it a couple times?