Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ;
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and servants:
Grace to you, and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God whenever I remember you, always in every request of mine on behalf of you all making my requests with joy, for your partnership in furtherance of the Good News from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. It is even right for me to think this way on behalf of all of you, because I have you in my heart, because, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Good News, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how I long after all of you in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus. Â Â Â Â Philippians 1:1-8 (WEB)
It is always interesting to me how Paul signs in first in all of his letters. Apparently it was a usual custom of the day, much like we now have letterhead on our correspondence. But this awesome man of God calls himself and Timothy â€˜servantsâ€™. Paul founded that church. He was the apostle who brought that church together. Most of the â€˜apostlesâ€™ I have met have business cards with that designation clearly stated after their name. Paul notes on his greeting that he is a servant of Jesus Christ and that is how he sees himself. He was bound to Jesus.
On the other hand, Paul address those who are in relationship with Jesus as saints. These were ordinary people but what made them saints was the fact that they were set apart, consecrated, in Godâ€™s army. Just like me. Just like you. This is who Paul is addressing.
Paul then offers these saints the best blessing that he can ask from the Father and Jesus: grace and peace. Is there anything better to receive from God? Grace is Godâ€™s love that we donâ€™t deserve but He gives in such extravagant abundance! Peace is that place we live that is not affected by any external events. With Godâ€™s peace there is harmony.
Paul is filled with that grace and peace as he remembers the people of Philippi because he is remembering good things. His prayers for these people bring joy to his mind. He holds no ill-will or regrets although I am sure that as the Philippian church was formed there were some conflicts. Those times has been washed in the Blood and so Paulâ€™s memory remains clean and good.
Paul has confidence in God. It was a fact. And so if all were not where they should be â€“ God wasnâ€™t finished with them yet. Paul prayed for those people but He left the burden, having no worries, with God. Some translations of this passage say that the good work that God has begun will be made â€œperfectâ€. It will not be a sorta done way of completing but that it will be perfect. When Jesus said, â€œIt is finished.â€ on the cross, what He did was completed but it was perfect atonement, not just any sacrifice.
Paul expresses great affection for these believers. He says that these people are in his heart. Too often when I read some of Paulâ€™s famous passages where he is just chewing out a church, I think he is critical and harsh. It is his great love for the people in these churches that brings such strong feelings. Here he wants to open up and share that he loves these people. He prays specifically for them. No generic prayers pass his lips. He cries out to God for these fledgling churches.
My husband tells the story of how he prayed every week for the youth of the church he was attending. He had a list of names and he would specifically mention each one by name. God spoke to him one day, essentially saying, â€œShut up! Do not just mention their names. Get to know them and then come to me with their needs.â€
God wants me to take the confidence of His love for me and open myself up to learn about others. Donâ€™t hold back because someone might think â€“ whatever â€“ about me but open up, confident about how God feels about me!