Sermon: Those Who Make Up the Church (Philippians 1:1-2)

Those Who Make Up the Church

Philippians 1:1-2

As we saw last time, Paul founded the Church of Philippi on his second missionary journey. Luke, the physician, was a part of Paul’s team on that first visit to Philippi and so was young Timothy. After things were stirred up because of Paul casting out a demon from a slave girl, he was asked to leave the city by the authorities; Paul left Luke in Philippi to strengthen the work and headed west to Thessalonica. During three weeks of difficult ministry in that city Paul, several times, received material assistance and encouragement from the new believers in Philippi. Paul moved on through Berea and Athens to Corinth where he was to remain a year and a half. During his time in Corinth he again received financial help from the Philippian believers. After returning to Jerusalem, Paul set out on his third missionary journey. The major purpose of this tour of the Gentile churches was to raise money for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem.

During this time, the controversy concerning the Judaizers was in full swing.  You might remember that they were the Jews who came in after Paul was gone to try and convince these new Christians that Jesus Christ wasn’t enough.  They taught that it was Jesus plus works of some sort; Jesus plus circumcision or Jesus plus observing the Jewish customs or Jesus plus a tradition.  They were perverting the true Gospel.

We need to be very careful that we never add a work or observance or some tradition to the Gospel.  The Gospel is all about the work of Christ on the cross for us and nothing else.  I wonder if we understand how serious this is.  Paul in the Book of Galatians was so unwavering that he basically said all who teach and believe a different Gospel would be anathematized or as it’s translated, accursed.  This is so serious that salvation is at stake.  God is not going to look at how devote someone is or how faithful to some false belief or practice to allow them entrance into heaven.  He doesn’t look at how many doors they knock on or how many Hail Mary’s they say or how good they are.  The Gospel is very clear it is Jesus alone.  To practice some other religion is to forfeit heaven in the process.

Paul’s passion was for the true Gospel because he knew that it alone had the power of God for salvation.  A man-added custom would completely nullify God’s grace.

About 10-12 years after Paul began the church in Philippi, he found himself in a Roman prison.  It’s funny how quickly someone is forgotten.  In most cases absence makes the heart forget, especially a long absence.  It was even true for a great man like Paul.

As Paul looked out his prison windows he saw that there were fewer and fewer visitors.  Most had forsaken him.  There were just a few who remained.  Timothy and Luke remained faithful.  …That was about it…except for a small church in the city of Philippi.

I don’t want to belabor this point but have you noticed how important money was to the spread of the Gospel?  We often think that the Gospel is too noble a thing to be dependant on money.  God could spread the Gospel any way He chooses, but He chooses to use people and missionaries to do it.  He chooses to use faithful people in healthy churches to fund to efforts.  That was Philippi.

Along Paul’s journey of planting churches he often received financial gifts so that the work could continue.  Paul and his team had to eat and had other needs would arise that the churches met.  None was as giving as the Church at Philippi.

After arriving in Jerusalem at the end of trip #2, Paul saw the persecution and financial hardship those Christians in Jerusalem were enduring.  So, Paul set out on a fund raising tour.  This money he collected would help those fellow believers in Jerusalem who had everything taken away.

One way the fruit of their conversion showed itself was through their generosity.  Because the Philippians had been so generous in their support of Paul’s work previously and because they had recently fallen on hard financial times themselves, Paul was not planning to ask that church to contribute to the offering for those in Jerusalem. However, as soon as they heard of the offering they insisted on contributing their share and, as we read in 2 Cor. 8:1-5, they humbled Paul with the size of the gift they gave out of their poverty.

2 Cor. 8:1-5 (ESV)

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,  [2] for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.  [3] For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will,  [4] begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— [5] and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

Here at Grace, are you contributing your share?  Are you showing the fruit of your conversion by your generosity?  Are you a faithful supporter of the efforts here?

He explains something radical to the Church of Corinth.  We’ve already seen that Philippi was very generous to Paul and his team of church planters.  I want you to zero in on verse two because we’ll see a very similar thing in Paul.

Philippi experienced a severe test of affliction, probably persecution of their own at some level.  In the midst of their affliction which was persecution and poverty, they added to it their Christian joy and mixed it all together and the outcome was a wealthy gift to the Saints in Jerusalem.  When our joy is serving Christ we rise above our afflictions.

As Paul suspected, the Judaizing threat materialized.  Because of hard times, those in Philippi found their faith being extremely tried and tested.  False teachers, false apostles, and extreme circumstances will bring about doubts in the minds of the most committed followers of Christ.  They asked Paul to send Timothy to their rescue.  But Paul for the moment could not spare him.  He sent something better.  Paul sent them the Word of God.  The truth would combat false teaching.  The truth would fight for them.  The truth would help them stand strong and resist the temptation of falling away.

How did Paul receive the news of the condition of the poor struggling infant church?  They had sent Paul another financial gift.  From out of their poverty, they had scraped and pulled together so that their beloved Paul could stay alive while in prison.  Many had forgotten him but this church remained faithful.

His Gospel tour and his fund raising landed him in prison again.  Because of his appeal to Caesar, now it was a Roman prison.  Paul was getting older and he wondered what was happening out there on the front lines of the Gospel.  He wondered about all those churches and all those people.  Had the Judaizers gotten to them?  Were the believers standing on the foundation of Christ and the Apostles?  Were they persevering to the end?

There was a church who gave Paul’s spirit encouragement during his Roman imprisonment.  The Philippians and Paul had very strong affections for each other.  They loved Paul and he loved them.  They showed it.  Paul’s spirits were lifted when an old friend showed up one day with another financial gift from the Church at Philippi.

That brings us up to date.  That was what was going on in the church and in Paul’s life that prompted him to write the Epistle to the Philippians.  This letter is different.  He isn’t focused on a doctrinal error that needed attention.  He wasn’t focused on setting things in order.  Paul knew this church was strong and faithful and he wanted them to remain that way.  Good healthy churches need to give much attention to remaining strong and healthy.

Philip. 1:1-11 (ESV)

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: [2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[3] I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,  [4] always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,  [5] because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  [6] And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  [7] It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.  [8] For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.  [9] And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,  [10] so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,  [11] filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

As Paul begins his letter his thoughts are on all the amazing things that took place in Philippi.  He’s thinking of Lydia, the slave girl, and the jailer.  He’s thinking of all the others as well.  When he thinks of them, he smiles and begins to pray, thanking God that he took part in those early days of an infant church.  He would love to see their faces again, share a meal, speak of Christ, and even laugh together.  These were his spiritual offspring.  They were Paul’s sons and daughters in the spirit.

God, however, had other things in mind for Paul.  Even late in his life, God was doing more mind boggling things through the Apostle Paul.

Philippians has been called the Epistle of Joy and I think for the most part that’s accurate.  I think though you could go one step further and call it the Epistle of Joy in the Gospel because it’s really the Gospel that brought about this joy. Joy in the heart of Paul and in the hearts of the Philippians.

1. Simple Servants (1:1a)

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

There was no need for Paul to bang his apostolic drum as he greets his friends.  They knew who he was.  They knew he had authority as an Apostle.  They knew as well as anyone who Paul was.  They knew Paul’s heart and they trusted him completely.

So, he and Timothy call themselves servants of Christ Jesus.  It’s important that we think through this phrase and examine its meaning.  What does he mean?

He is in prison because of the Gospel, because he is a servant of Christ.  The Greek rendering is doulos which means slave.  He understood the transaction that had taken place between him and Jesus Christ.

1 Cor. 6:20 (ESV)

for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Cor. 7:23 (ESV)

You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

Being a slave to Jesus is different than most slavery we think of.  It was a slavery of joy.  He understood that at one time he was a slave to sin and a slave to his Jewish traditions.  All that had been taken away from him.  Now his allegiance was to a new Master.

For us now we need to consider who it is we serve.  Are you a servant of Christ?

1 Peter 1:18-19 (ESV)

knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,  [19] but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

The imagery Peter has for us is a picture of a slave being auctioned.  Satan had his money out ready to make the final bid.  He would have owned us for all eternity, but Jesus Christ out bid everyone because what Jesus used to purchase us wasn’t silver or gold, but His own precious blood. Jesus redeemed or ransomed us.  If you are a Christian today, you are that because Jesus has purchased you.  One important point is that He didn’t purchase us to set us free.  We’re not free men and women, we belong to Him.  He is our Master.  The bottom line is you either serve Jesus Christ because He owns you or you serve Satan because he owns you.

Paul made it very clear that he and Timothy we owned by Jesus Christ and it is Jesus they were serving.

Are you serving Jesus today?  Are you a profitable servant?  When the Master returns will He find you faithful?  Can you truthfully call yourself a servant of Christ Jesus?

2.  Beloved Saints (1:1b)

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

The Book of Philippians is addressed To all the saints… who are at Philippi.

God’s Word is for all the saints.  He has in mind all the believers in Philippi.  Paul’s letter is addressed to the Christians in the city.  It’s addressed to the congregation, the elders, and the deacons in Philippi.

Paul understands and wants us to see that if one is in Christ one is a saint.  Outside of Christ there are no saints.  Saints are not to be prayed to as our Catholic friends might suggest but are all believers for all time.  If you are in Christ you are beloved saints.

The term saint means someone set apart to be holy.  We only can fulfill this calling as we have the righteousness of Christ.  So, Paul addresses these folks as to their position in Christ.

The same is true for us today as the church.  We are saints in Christ.  If Paul were to write us a letter, he may very well have addressed it to all the saints at Grace Community Church.  Isn’t it remarkable that through Christ, God has taken poor retched sinners like us and translated us into His kingdom and made us saints?  We’re not saints because we’re so good but we’re saints because Christ is so good.

Among the saints, Paul singles out two groups the overseers and the deacons.  Today we call them Elders and Deacons.

Who were the Elders at Philippi?

Elders are those that God calls to be the spiritual overseers of the church.  They are the men who are held accountable by God for the spiritual health of the church members.

One thing to notice is that whenever this term comes up, it’s always plural.  Every church is to have a plurality of elders.  In our case, I acted as the sole elder until I could train additional men who possess the qualifications for eldership.  Now we have a biblical plurality of elders.

It’s important that we understand elders are not deacons.  Elders are called to care for the spiritual needs of the church and deacons are called to care for the physical needs of the church.

Deacons in the book of Acts were called to care for the widows and orphans on a physical level.  They were called to make sure they were cared for with ample food and clothing etc.

Paul greets all those who were a part of the church and calls them all Saints…all those who were converted and those who were called to lead the church.

3. A Heavenly Greeting (1:2)

[2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I want us to examine this powerful greeting.  First, we must see that even though this greeting comes from Paul to the church, writing as an apostle, this greeting really comes from God.  Remember our simple saying, What the Bible says, God saysGod Himself is greeting this small church in Philippi.  He isn’t saying you are sinners and deserve wrath, but God says I am extending to you Grace.  Grace or unmerited favor.

Do you understand how big this is?

We do deserve wrath.  We do deserve judgment.  We do deserve to be cast out into outer darkness.  But through the work of Christ, He has redeemed a people for God.  This group known as the church is a collected group from all the centuries set apart as Saints through the Grace of God.

2 Cor. 8:9 (ESV)

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

God extends to poor sinners His Grace.  When this happens sinners respond.

Paul then moves to the second part of this powerful greeting.  He also extends to the church God’s peace.

If we have been given Grace we will have peace.  We cannot have peace with God before we have first been given grace from God.

Romans 5:1 (ESV)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul knew of this peace first hand.  This peace was what allowed him and Silas to sing praises will fastened in the stocks at the jail in Philippi.  This is an eternal peace which circumstances cannot take away.

Do you have peace with God?

1 Cor. 14:33 (ESV)

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

As in all the churches of the saints,

I pray you have been given grace from God that leads His people into peace.  All this is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Only through Him will we experience true and lasting peace.

If you do not know Christ as Lord and Savior you do not have peace with God.  Peace never comes apart from Christ.  I pray you know Him and trust Him today.

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