Stephen Caswell © 2003
Hallelujah from the Depths
When Handel wrote the "Hallelujah Chorus," his health and his fortunes had reached the lowest possible ebb. His right side had become paralyzed, and all his money was gone. He was heavily in debt and threatened with imprisonment. He was tempted to give up the fight. The odds seemed entirely too great. And it was then he composed his greatest work -- Messiah. Couldn't we say of Handel that the Spirit entered in and set him upon his feet? He had the Lord's joy.
Would you like to know the secret of lasting joy in life? The apostle Paul reveals the secret of joy in the Christian life. He wrote this cheerful epistle to the Philippians from prison in Rome. If anyone could write from experience about joy it was Paul. His letters are full of thanksgiving and praise. He knew Christ's joy in full measure. Today we will see that every believer has the potential to be joyful and content regardless of their circumstances. Christ's joy comes from within and is not dependent on our circumstances or nature. Would you like to know the secret of Paul's joy? The first ingredient to joy in life is Jesus first. Paul mentions Christ's name 18 times in chapter 1 and the Gospel 6 times. Paul said this in Philippians 1:21 For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Today we will see the people in this epistle and their position in Christ.
We will see: I. The Writers II. The Readers III. The Riches
Firstly we will look at The Writer
Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ. He had been commissioned by the Lord to preach the Gospel. His commission was specifically to the Gentiles. Previously he was called by his Hebrew name Saul. Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin from where King Saul also descended. The name Saul means desired. Originally he had persecuted the Church thinking this would please God. But then he met Jesus Christ on the Damascus road and his life was completely turned around. As Saul comprehended God's immense grace in saving him he saw himself as small and insignificant. So Saul changed his name to Paul, paulo" a Roman name meaning small or little. He no longer thought of himself as desired. He saw that Jesus Christ was Lord and alone worthy of being desired. Also a Roman name would be received better Gentiles than a Jewish name.
Timothy was with Paul when he wrote to the Philippians. He was converted by Paul on his first missionary journey. He had a Greek father and Jewish mother. His mother Eunice and grandmother Lois were both believers who taught Timothy the Scriptures from childhood. Timothy's name timoqeo" means God honouring.
Timothy was recommended to Paul by the Churches at Lystra and Derbe when he visited them. Paul took him along and he became his best worker. Paul was able to send Timothy to the Churches of Asia to minister the Gospel and sort out problems. He was reliable and sincere. He certainly lived up to his good name.
Both Paul and Timothy called themselves bondservants of Jesus Christ. As we have seen before a bondservant is a voluntary slave. The title bondservant started in ancient Israel where slaves served for a maximum of 7 years. All slaves had to be released in the year of Jubilee. But if the servant loved his master and didn't want to be freed he could became a bondservant or voluntary slave. The servant was branded and remained a slave for life. Paul and Timothy became slaves out of love for Jesus Christ. Paul didn’t need to remind the Philippians of his apostleship because they respected and loved him.
Is Your God Like You?
Jim, an elder at a church, was to oversee the evangelism of new people that moved into the area. Sun Lee and his family were Vietnamese refugees who had recently been moved into the area. They had no possessions, knew no one, needed help in every way. Jim began by helping them to get food and then spent much time finding Sun Lee a good job. Jim wanted so much to tell Sun Lee about Jesus Christ, but he didn’t know Vietnamese and the refugees knew very little English. Both men sought to learn the other’s language so that they could become better friends.
One day, Jim felt that he knew enough now to tell Sun Lee about Jesus. Jim began to explain about God and Jesus to Sun Lee, but the more he talked, the more confusing it seemed to get. Sun Lee would repeat in Vietnamese a little of what Jim said in English. Finally, Jim was so frustrated that he decided to give up trying to communicate until he had learned more Vietnamese. Sun Lee at this point blurted out, Is your God like you? If he is, I want to know him. Jim explained that Jesus Christ was greater than he was, far greater. Yet Sun Lee wanted to know more about Jesus Christ if he was like Jim! Jim had thought for all these months that he was not communicating the gospel. But he was, with the greatest form of communication a person can use — the example of a life filled with Jesus Christ.
Paul and Timothy were bondservants of Jesus Christ. They dedicated their lives to His service. In light of the riches of their salvation they believed that this was their reasonable service. Are you a bond servant of Jesus Christ, or are you your own master? Christ has given us, His life, His riches in glory, His name, His all. How can we not give Him the little we have? Will you serve as a bondservant of Jesus Christ? God gives joy and abundant life to those who serve Him.
II. The Readers
a. Philippi Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
Paul addresses this letter to the saints in Philippi. Philippi was the chief city of Macedonia. Acts 16 records Paul's ministry there on his second journey. The Philippian Church started in the midst of much affliction. How could Paul remember them with such joy? The church started with the conversion of Lydia a seller of purple cloth. She and then her household came to faith in Christ. Following this Paul delivered a servant girl from an evil spirit. The owners of the slave girl were outraged that they had lost their income through fortune telling.
So they falsely charged the apostles before the magistrates. He condemned them, had them beaten and thrown in jail. Many Christians throw their hands up in the air and quit when this happens. Not Paul and Silas. They sang praises to God even though they were suffering much for their faith in Him. This resulted with the jailer and his family coming to saving faith. How could Paul rejoice in the midst of such suffering? Because Jesus had first place in his life. For Paul, to live was Christ and to die was gain. Can you make such a claim? Is Jesus Christ your life?
Firstly Paul greets the believers at Philippi. He calls them saints. What is more he refers to them as the saints who are in Philippi. These saints are alive and well. They were not some select group of dead believers that had been recognized for their piety and ability to perform miracles. Today, a great deal of misunderstanding exists concerning what saints are. The word aJgio" means holy one or saint. It refers to someone set apart for God's use. It was used to differentiate between common and sacred. It was used of the temple and vessels dedicated for it.
All believers are saints regardless of their spirituality. All believers have been set apart for God's use. All believers have been filled with the Holy Spirit. All believers are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Verse 1 says that these saints are in Christ! Physically they resided in Philippi, but spiritually they are in Christ. Therefore they are either a saint or an aint. You have either been saved by Christ or you haven’t. All Christians are saints because they are in Christ.
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Romans 12:1-2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4,7 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
When God saved us, He made us holy. He filled us with His Holy Spirit to enable us to live holy lives. You are a saint? Are you living like one? Is your life distinctive from a non Christian? Joy in life results from living holy lives for the Lord. This is what we have been set apart for.
Phil 1:1 To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
Secondly Paul greets the bishops at Philippi. The Philippian church was planted around 51 ad. 11 years later it had become an established church with bishops and deacons. The word bishop ejpiskopo" means overseer, gaurdian or watcher. Overseer is the word used in some translations. In our day bishop is a term used mainly by the Catholic and Anglican churches. Bishop, pastor and elder all refer to the same position. This can be seen from their use in 1 Peter 5:1-4, Acts 20:28 and Titus 1:5-7. The word bishop refers to their position as a leader. Whilst shepherd refers to what he does and elder his maturity in the faith. Bishops are to look after the church the same way a shepherd watches over his sheep. Jesus Christ receives these titles in the N. T. 1 Peter 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
Paul lists the qualifications of bishops in 1 Timothy 3: and Titus 1:5-9. The qualifications emphasize godly character. The only ability they are to possess is the ability to teach. A shepherd fed the flock, lead the flock and protected it from wolves. This requires commitment to God and His people. Bishops or pastors are to care for the flock of God as under shepherds serving the Chief shepherd. describes this. Peter Francis expounded 1 Peter 5:2-4, 2 weeks ago. Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
What relationship should the Church have to their bishops or pastors? Hebrews 13:7, 17 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. God has taken saints from among the Church and placed them over the flock for their good. These are elders and pastors. In fact, the members of the Church are involved in this too by praying, nominating and voting. Do you respect the oversight of the church? Are you listening to the word of God and obeying it?
Thirdly Paul greeted the deacons. Deacon diakono" means servant, minister or attendant. This emphasizes their service to others. The word deacon literally means to wait on tables. D. L. Moody once said, The measure of a man is not how many servants he has, but how many men he serves. Although all believers are commanded to serve one, some are appointed by the Church to the office of deacon. Acts 6:1-4 gives us a good look at their ministry. Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
Application - Gift Exchange
If life is to have meaning, and if God's will is to be done, all of us have to accept who we are and what we are, give it back to God, and thank Him for the way He made us. What I am is God's gift to me; what I do with it is my gift to Him. -- Warren W. Wiersbe
Jesus Christ is the only one who can save us. He alone turns sinners into saints. He gives gifts to each member of the body. All are holy, set apart for His service. Deacons have an important ministry in the Church. They assist with the work and administration of the Church. They share a vital role in the ministry. They just work in different areas to the elders. Some receive the office of deacon or bishop. But regardless of our gifting or office, all receive a commission to serve. Are you serving the Lord? Are you a bondservant of Christ? Are you using your gifts?
III. The Riches
a. Grace Phil 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In verse 2 Paul reminds the Philippians how rich they are. They have freely received God's grace and peace. Firstly grace is God's unmerited favor. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that it is by grace we are saved through faith and not of ourselves it is a gift of God. We are saved by grace. Some people describe grace as God's Riches At Christ's Expense. This is a good description of the word. But God's grace extends much further than that. Because not only has God saved us, He has also adopted us and given us a rich inheritance. His grace isn't available just in the past or the future. It’s available right now when we need it. Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
God's grace allows us to come before Him in fellowship and times of trial. Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Only God can give grace, people can't. God has expressed His grace in full measure through Jesus Christ. Have you received God's grace? Are you receiving it now?
Father Chiniquy Accepts Gift
One Sunday morning, a Roman Catholic priest appeared before a congregation of a thousand persons in an Illinois town and said, My people, I resign my priesthood, though I have been here thirty years. At their earnest request he gave his reasons why he did so: “Last night I spent every hour praising God. All sleep had left me. After reading the New Testament I saw that salvation is in Jesus Christ, and is the gift of God’s eternal love. Penance is not in it. Purgatory is not in it. Absolution is not in it. On my knees in my room I accepted the Gift, and I love the Giver. I walked the room most of the night saying to myself: I accept the Gift, and I love the Giver. And thus for an hour and a half Father Chiniquy expounded to the people the grace of God. At the close of the sermon he asked how many of them would join with him in accepting the Gift and loving the Giver. Every man, woman, and child, except about forty, responded. And there is a Presbyterian church there today.
God longs to shower His grace upon all people. Have you received God's grace by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, won't you receive God’s grace through Jesus Christ today. God's grace will not always be available. One day He will pour out His wrath instead. Are you experiencing God's grace in your life today? If not then can I encourage you to seek the Lord earnestly and by faith receive fresh grace each day for your life. The Lord encourages us to come before the throne of grace and receive mercy and grace. Will you do this each day? Will you draw on Christ's riches?
The second treasure they received from God was peace. When we hear the word peace we immediately think of the cessation of war. We look at the peace talks in the Middle East and can't help but wonder how long it will last. The warring nations sign a peace treaty. Yet in reality they are still enemies. But in the Bible peace means much more than that. It means friendship instead of enmity. It means blessing instead of cursing. It means fellowship instead of separation. We must know the grace of God before we can experience the peace of God.
Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God. -- J. Oswald Sanders. When God reconciles men to Himself, He doesn't call a truce on hostilities, He takes His former foes into His family. God's peace brings real reconciliation that will last. Only Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace can bring real peace to mankind. God the Father is satisfied with His Son's work. Romans 5:10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Finding Peace on the Journey -- Catherine Marshall in Touching the Heart of God.
Marge had an experience aboard a plane bound for Cleveland, waiting for takeoff. As she settled into her seat, Marge noticed a strange phenomenon. On one side of the airplane a sunset suffused the entire sky with glorious color. But out of the window next to her seat, all Marge could see was a sky dark and threatening, with no sign of the sunset.
As the plane's engines began to roar, a gentle Voice spoke within her. You have noticed the windows, He murmured beneath the roar and thrust of the takeoff. Your life, too, will contain some happy, beautiful times, but also some dark shadows. Here's a lesson I want to teach you to save you much heartache and allow you to abide in Me with continual peace and joy. You see, it doesn't matter which window you look through; this plane is still going to Cleveland.
So it is in your life. You have a choice. You can dwell on the gloomy picture. Or you can focus on the bright things and leave the dark, ominous situations to Me. I alone can handle them anyway. And the final destination is not influenced by what you see or feel along the way. Learn this, act on it and you will be released, able to experience the peace that passes understanding.
Do you know God's peace in your life? Do you have that assurance that God has forgiven your sins? Do you have God's peace when trials come into your life? If Jesus Christ is Lord of your life you can know His peace. Why not enjoy His peace? Won't you seek Him today?
Today we have seen how Paul experienced joy in the midst of life. What was his secret? Jesus had first place in his life. Paul was a bondservant of Jesus Christ. For Paul to live was Christ and to die was gain. As a result he had a joyful, fulfilling life. One that was full of grace and peace. All believers are saints, people set apart for God. When we live for Him we experience real joy. Are you living like a saint? Are you a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you living for Him? Or are you your own master? Real joy in life comes from a right relationship with God. A relationship where Jesus Christ has first place in our lives. Will you make this choice if you haven't done so already?
Hebrews 13:20-21: Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.