I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach to my blogging for the time being. We have been working through various lectionary series for quite some time, which has not been my strong suit. So, instead, I am going to try to focus on one entire book for a while to see how this goes. For whatever reason, I have decided on Philippians.
As all letters typically begin, Paul begins his letter to the church at Philippi with a greeting. Paul is a servant of Christ. Another word for servant in this case may be slave. He was a slave to Christ. He is completely submissive to Christ. He is in complete obedience of Christ.
Who exactly is he greeting? Saints, bishops, and deacons. Typically, when I think of saints, I think of dead people who did great things while they were alive. Saints Peter, Paul, and Mary, for example (not the band). So I looked it up to see what Paul meant here. What I found is that “‘saint’ is derived from a Greek verb (hagiazo [aJgiavzw]) whose basic meaning is ‘to set apart,’ ‘sanctify,’ or ‘make holy’” (Biblestudytools.com). According to Biblegateway, bishops and deacons are overseers or leaders. So, Paul is writing this letter to people who have been set apart for and by God as leaders and overseers of The Church.
Paul is thankful for the service of the aforementioned people and what they have done to propagate the church in this region of what was once Macedonia. In Paul’s day, this region would have fallen within the boundaries of the Roman Empire. The Romans, of course, were pagans, and there was great persecution of Christians throughout the empire. Paul even spent time behind bars in Philippi for exorcising a demon and preaching about Jesus as Lord. Yet, despite that, an early Christian church existed in Philippi, and he is giving praise to those who are faithful followers of Christ. And Paul prays that the saints, bishops, and deacons of Philippi continue to grow in their faith so they are fully prepared for when Christ makes his return.
One final thought about the last verses; Paul’s prayer at the end of the passage. Tonight at the midweek family night at church, in the men’s Bible study group, one thought that was discussed is that we (all) are a work in progress. Paul is making that exact point here. His prayer is for continual growth in the faith. The receivers of this letter are not perfect. Most likely, they are far from it. Just like me. Just like you, most likely. We are human, and have faults, and have room for constant improvement and growth. May we all continue to grow, together. To learn, together. So that in the day of Christ, we will have produced a harvest of righteousness.