“Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi,
with the bishops and deacons”
~ Philippians 1:1
Our text is Paul’s greeting to the Philippian believers. There was a great mutual love between Paul and those precious saints. This fact adds to Paul’s concern over the false teachers that were seeking to leaven the church with their despicable doctrine. He warns them to “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision” (Ph 3:2). The Judaizers were seeking every opportunity against the truth. They were preaching Christ “even of envy and strife . . . of contention, not sincerely” (Ph 1:15-16). Paul wrote to the brethren, in part, to counteract this teaching lest it grow like a festering malignancy. I believe every word of Holy Writ to be inspired of God. I do not believe there is any wasted space and even in this greeting there are things that can be learned to our edification. Oftentimes the most unlikely of places will yield precious jewels if we dig deep.
Paul begins by addressing himself “to all the saints.” “Saints” is not a mystical term or special title reserved for a select few especially saintly persons. The word that is translated “saints” means “holy ones.” The saints are described in II Thessalonians 1:10 as “all them that believe.” So every one that is saved is a saint according to the Scriptures. This term encompasses the whole family of God and not just a few. The saints are certainly not few as Revelation 7:9 tells us, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”
Paul makes a noteworthy distinction. He does not simply address “all the saints,” but rather “all the saints in Christ Jesus.” The Septuagint uses the same word for saints. The Judaizers and other Pharisaic Jews would consider themselves saints. They ultimately had rejected Christ with their belief of works for salvation and certainly were not saints according to Scripture. We are only truly saints “in Christ Jesus.”
This phrase reveals to us the sum of Paul’s Christianity. In his writings, Paul uses the phrase “in Christ Jesus” about 48 times. He uses “in Christ” about 34 times. He uses “in the Lord” about 50 times. He uses “in Jesus” and “in Jesus Christ” each about 3 times. He uses “in Him” about 18 times throughout his writings. This recurring theme shows us what Paul believed it meant to be a Christian. It means a vital union with Christ.
This union is a positional one. It is also a practical one. Paul said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Ph 3:12). Paul could never be any more “in Christ” than he was already concerning his salvation. But, he said that he had not attained and was pressing “toward the mark.” Paul was striving to be conformed to the very image of Christ. He considered his whole life to be Christ in him. He desired that union to become stronger and stronger as far as his life was concerned.
We also notice that Paul addressed the saints first and then “the bishops and deacons.” This order is one of importance. They were saints first and then bishops or deacons. They were saints first and then church members. Whatever else we may be, if we are in Christ then we are saints or Christians first and foremost. Christian, we would do well to embrace this truth. This truth lends credence to Paul saying, “this one thing I do.” We must realize that whatever else we are, we are Christians first and whatever else we may do, we must live godly first. Oh, that we may put Christ first and our life to serve Him before anything else! For the saved it is true that whatever else they might be, they are Christians.
There is also a truth for the unsaved. If you are unsaved, whatever else you might be, you are first and foremost lost. You are not in Christ. You have no hope and are “without God in the world.” In fact, you are “condmned already” and “the wrath of God abideth” on you. If this be your awful condition at this hour, then I give you the words of Christ when He came to Galilee preaching, “repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Repent of your sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has never refused a sinner that has come seeking Him. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (Jo 6:37). “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (Jo 10:9). Come to Christ and He will wash away your sins and you will join the other blood-bought saints around His throne.