“Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons”
“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi”
Sixty-two times in the New Testament Christians are called “saints.” Saints are people who are set apart as God’s special people by virtue of being born twice instead of just born once.
Saints are people on earth. A saint may not necessarily be saintly, alas! That is why it is often difficult to tell who is and who is not a saint.
There are two addresses expressed by the word “in,” a spiritual and a physical address:
Spiritual: “to all the saints in Christ Jesus”
Physical: “who are in Philippi”
“in Christ Jesus”
The phrase “in Christ Jesus” is our spiritual address. This expresses our position or status quo before God in Christ forever. Jesus Christ is our right to relate to God. We hold the same status quo He holds before the Father. We are justified—declared to be as right as He is right before the Father. He has eternal life; therefore, we have eternal life.
The words “in Philippi” describe the physical address. In order to grasp the message of Philippians, it is necessary to know something of the background of the book.
The book of Acts devotes much of its attention to the three mighty missionary expeditions of the great apostle to the Gentiles (Paul). These expeditions were increasingly long and increasingly fruitful.
The second missionary expedition began with Paul’s rejection of John Mark, who washed out on the first journey (Paul later accepted him as a servant of Christ.) Paul and Barnabas split over this. Paul chose a new team member—Silas. They left their home base at Antioch and headed north and westward and came to Lystra, where Timothy joined the team.
In Acts 16 Luke joined the team at Troy. Now there were four people on the gospel team. This team began the first invasion of Europe with the gospel and inaugurated their work in Philippi.
There was not even one Christian, as far as we know, in Philippi when the gospel team came. This was virgin territory. How do you reach a city like this? You cannot improve on apostolic methods. The team went down there and “spoke” the gospel (Acts 16:13).
Acts 16:14 says, “The Lord opened her [Lydia’s] heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” Lydia, a business woman, was the first convert—not only in Philippi, but the first recorded convert in Europe!
The second convert in Philippi was another woman—a demon-possessed girl who was able to tell the future. Fortune telling is not all hocus-pocus! Reason: demon possession. She was able to tell the future with uncanny accuracy. She was managed by a syndicate and was valuable to them. She lost her ability to tell the future when she became a Christian. Paul and Silas were caught and dragged to jail. They were put into the “inner prison.” There they held a sacred concert (Acts 16:25)! It often does not take much to discourage or defeat us. Their faith was not daunted by discouragement.
God got the attention of a wicked warden by throwing a scare into him. His biases about God disappeared and he embraced Jesus as his Savior. This sinful sheriff came to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ.
These three cases were the beginning of the church at Philippi. What a motley crew—a business woman, a demon-possessed girl, and a sheriff. This is the nucleus of the first church in Europe!
Paul finished his second missionary expedition and on his third journey he visited Philippi twice. Paul wrote the book of Philippians 12 years later from a jail in Rome.
God used a motley crew to launch the evangelism of Europe.
If God can use that motley crew, surely He can greatly use you and me to advance His cause in the world.