Greetings & Blessings

It is easy to read the first two verses of Philippians and just pass over them quickly.  We see that the book (actually a letter) is being sent from Paul and Timothy to the church that was in Philippi.  And the blessing of “grace and peace” from God and from Jesus to the believers sounds just like any other of Paul’s opening words to the other churches that he wrote letters to as well.

But I believe we do ourselves a disservice if we rush by these two verses too quickly.  There is much more here that is worth looking into than meets the eye on the first glance.  Now recall from the article I wrote last week (click here) that I outlined four stages to doing a good inductive Bible study.  They are:

  1. Do a text comparison.
  2. Review the Greek text.
  3. Check out Commentaries and Lexicons.
  4. Do a concordance check on significant words.

In this short opening section of two verses, it was not very hard to write up a summary sentence for the section, or to give the section a short title that covers the main idea of the passage.  We did that on the last article.  Now we want to look into some specific words and phrases to discover some of the richer and deeper meaning that is contained within these words and the context where they are found.  Now we get into the meat of doing Inductive Bible Study.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

At our small group study last week, we did the text comparison step and looked for any vocabulary or wording that was significant, yet different, in four different translations.  We looked at this short passage in the New Living Translation, the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the New International Version.  We saw the following slight differences in the versions:

  • “slaves” / “servants” / “bond-servants”  (v.1)
  • “holy people” / “saints” / “those who belong to Christ”  (v.1)
  • “elders” / “overseers”  (v.1)

And we noticed that this letter was a) meant for “all” the believers in Philippi, including the church leaders, and b) that “grace and peace” come from “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.  One further thing that caught our attention was the phrase “in Christ”.  Looking ahead, an alternate wording for this phrase is “in the Lord”.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Taking a quick look at an Interlinear Greek Text, we saw that the key words we had found above were also used in the Interlinear text.  Now we needed to do a little research to see if any of these differences would bring out any new or significant meaning to the text.  The first one that caught just about everyone’s attention was the contrast of “slave” / “servant” / “bond-servant”.

It was not surprising to find that the term “slaves of Christ Jesus” made us uncomfortable.  Doesn’t it sound better to be a servant than a slave?  And yet, when we consider as we see in verse 2, that Jesus Christ is our Lord, then we ought to be fine to be called slaves, for He paid our debt of sin by dying for us, and in return, we give our lives over totally to Him as His people.  And that led us to consider the term “bond-servant”.

This is a special term that relates to first century culture.  There were many actual “slaves” in Paul’s day.  Some of them could earn or buy their freedom from their owners.  But if a slave loved his master enough, then he could choose to voluntarily be a servant for life to his owner.  He then became a “bond-servant”.  He literally “bound” himself forever to his owner and willingly served him.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Isn’t that a tremendous picture as we hear Paul call himself a “bond-servant”? And we too can choose to be willing and obedient servants to Jesus Christ.  And this is where we picked up on the phrase “in Christ” or “in the Lord”.  These two phrases (plus two more variants) are used 22 times in this letter to the Philippians.  It must be important.  And indeed, we found this phrase to be very rich in meaning.

After looking into some commentaries and translation helps, we found that the phrase could be translated as “union with Christ”, “united with Christ”, or “bound together with Christ”.  In fact, in one language group that I worked with, the literal back-English translation for this Greek phrase was translated as “stuck to Christ”.

I thought that was such a powerful picture, that when we are “in Christ”, it is like we are so closely bound to Him that we are in a sense “super-glued” to Christ.  So even as we open up the book of Philippians, we see that Paul, and by his example, Christians are to be willing, obedient servant-slaves of Jesus, and super-glued to Him so that when people see us, they see Jesus in and through us.  Pretty cool, eh?

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

One more thing that our study group discussed was that we should not dismiss this greeting of Paul’s so quickly and just say, “Oh, that is how Paul greeted everyone.  He was just saying ‘Hello’ in his letter.”  No, we felt that there was power in the words he chose to use in his greeting.  He wanted God to bless his readers with “grace and peace”.

These words carry the essence of the Gospel.  We are saved by grace.  And when we experience the true grace of God, then the fractured relationship that was once there between us and God is gone, and we can truly experience deep spiritual peace with God.  And we can extend that peace to our relationships with others around us.

And so we considered the idea that we as Christians may want to model Paul’s greeting to fellow believers when we meet them.  Wouldn’t that be interesting if on Sunday morning, instead of just saying, “Hi, how are you?”, we would greet our brother or sister in the Lord and say, “Hello Dave.  God bless you with the His grace and peace this week.  And how are you doing today?”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Advertisements