Elder Vernon Johnson


Philippians 1:1

Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Paul together with Timothy wrote the letter to the Church at Philippi.  It is important that we know who wrote the letter for by knowing the person or persons who wrote the letter we can relate to their background and experience.  The name, Paul, was his Roman name and meant "small."  His Hebrew name was Saul, which meant great.  At first, he was known as Saul and was considered great in the eyes of the Jews religious leaders.  However, after God struck him down on the road to Damascus, he become known as Paul and he thus became "small" in his own eyes.  Similarly, we should not seek for greatness for ourselves, but be content to be small in order that we might magnify our great God. 

Timothy was Paul's son in the faith and ministry: 

1.  1 Tim. 1:2 "Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord." 

2.  1 Tim. 1:18 "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;" 

3.  2 Tim. 1:2 "To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." 

Timothy's mother and grandmother were Jews and were in the faith before him: 2 Tim. 1:5 "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also."  Timothy's father was a Greek: Acts 16:1 "Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:"   

While it is widely believed that Paul is the chief writer of this epistle, he also listed Timothy as one of the authors.  Obviously, Paul had no need or desire to have all the credit for what he wrote.  Likewise, we should understand that we are laborers together and even when the responsibility for a task may seemingly rest upon our self-alone, there are others whose labor is usually intermixed with our labor.   

The servants of Jesus Christ…  

The word, "servant," is derived from the Greek word, "doulos," meaning a slave.  A slave is a servant in bondage or a "bond-servant."  Paul assigned the position of "doulos" to both himself and Timothy.  Truly, every disciple of Jesus Christ is also a bond-servant.  First, we have been purchased by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ:  

1.  1 Cor. 6:20 "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." 

2.  1 Cor. 7:23 "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men."  

Second, we have yielded ourselves to serve the Lord: 

1.  Rom. 6:13 "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."

2.  Rom. 6:16 "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?"

3.  Rom. 6:19 "I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness." 

Servants are under the direction of their master.  Oftentimes, they are to serve others, but they do so under the direction of their master.  Just as Paul and Timothy were the servants of Jesus Christ and were under the direction of Jesus Christ to serve the churches and those to whom the Lord directed them, so we also are under the direction of our master, Jesus Christ to serve the Lord's children under His direction.

To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi… 

The letter is directed to the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi.  The word, "saints," is derived from the Greek word, "hagios."  Except when it is translated saints, the Greek word hagios is everywhere else translated "holy" in the New Testament.  It literally means holy or set apart.  Among many religions, the word saint, is used in an unscriptural way to indicate someone especially pious or superior in moral behavior to the vast majority of people.  The scriptures do not use the word saint in this manner.   

Paul was writing to the disciples of Jesus Christ at Philippi whom he labeled saints.  The disciples of Christ are "set apart" in several different ways: 

1.  First, they are set apart in covenant election before the foundation of the world: Eph. 1:4 "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:"  Out of all of Adam's race, God chose a people before the world began to be his people.  By election he set them apart to be his people. 

2.  Second, they are set apart from the bondage of their depraved carnal flesh nature by the miracle of the new or spiritual birth.  Before one is born of the Spirit of God he is described as having no understanding of spiritual things, no desire to seek after God, no ability to do good, no fear of God before his eyes (Rom. 3:9-18).  Also, he is said to only walk according to the course of this world under the direction of the prince of the power of the air and only desiring to fulfill the lust of the flesh and of the mind (Eph. 2:1-3).  Finally, he is said to have "eyes full of adultery and not able to cease from sin (2 Pet. 2:14).  By the grace of God and at God's appointed time (John 3:8) God's elect children are born of the Spirit of God and given the ability to seek God, to understand the things of the Spirit of God, to fear God, to do good, to follow after the Spirit and to mortify the deeds of the flesh, to worship God in Spirit and in truth.  Thus, through the new or spiritual birth we are "set apart" from the bondage we were under prior to being born of the Spirit.   

3.  Third, we are set apart from the condemnation of sin by Christ's atoning sacrifice on the cross.  Prior to his sacrifice we were condemned to an eternal punishment because of our sins.  However, Christ came to save his people from their sins.  Dying on the cross under the wrathful judgment of God we read in 2 Cor. 5:21: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."  Thus, legally and positionally we have been separated from the condemnation of sin before a just and holy God. 

4.  Fourth, in the resurrection we will be set apart from the corruption of sin: 1 Cor. 15:42 "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:" 

5.  Fifth, through the preaching of the gospel we are set apart from our ignorance in trying to establish our own righteousness and from the false works systems of the world to a knowledge that God has completed the law for righteousness having made us righteous through his shed blood: Rom. 10:1-4 "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." 

6.  Sixth, through belief of the truth, repentance, and water baptism we are set apart to the service of God:

        a.  Mark 16:15, 16 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

b.  Matt. 28:18-20 "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

 7.  Seventh, we are to be set apart from the worldy walk by living a life according to the word of God: 1 Pet. 1:15, 16 "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." 

With the bishops and deacons…

The word bishop has reference to the gospel minister.  It literally means overseer.  The elders are to take the spiritual oversight of the church: 

1.  Acts 20:28 "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."   

2.  1 Pet. 5:1, 2 "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;"

The word deacon comes from the Greek word, diakonos, meaning a waiter of tables.  This is consistent with what we read when the office was set up in Acts 6:1,2 "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.  Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables."  The office of deacon was set up to serve the tables of the needy, the ministry, and the needs of the church.  

In conclusion, Paul and Timothy addressed the saints, the bishops, and the deacons in writing to the church at Philippi.