Whatever Happens, Remember These Words

A Study of Philippians 1:1-2


The man had left with courage and excitement. The church sent him to assist a missionary in a distant city. But he soon became very sick. 

Eventually, he recovered and returned to his church. He brought them a letter, which was immediately read aloud by the pastor of his church to the excited Christians of the city.

We’ve been reading it ever since. It has 1633 words in its original Greek form, about half the length of a typical sermon today. It’s short—but it’s rich!

This is Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. While chained to a soldier in Rome, Paul received financial assistance from the church through Epaphroditus. But Epaphroditus became gravely ill, and ironically Paul had to take care of him. Later, Epaphroditus recovered and returned to Philippi with Paul’s beloved letter.

Paul followed the literary customs and norms of his day, but with a Gospel twist. Even his introductions are incredibly rich.


Let’s look at this introduction—Philippians 1:1-2:

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ. Jesus, to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

What incredible theological truth! Let’s focus on the three primary grammatical prepositions and follow the logic of what Paul has to say.

Prepositions matter. In a parade, it makes a big difference if you are before the elephant or after the elephant.

With that in mind, let’s re-read our Scripture:

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ. Jesus, to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s tackle these in the order they unfold in our lives.

1. Saints in Christ

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi. 

A. We Are God’s Holy People

First, let’s deal with that term “holy people,” typically translated “saints”. The New International Version has replaced the word “saint” with “holy people,” because the translators were afraid “saint” now conveys an inaccurate meaning. 

They’re right about that. Today we might think of examples like St. Francis of Assisi, Saint Teresa, or perhaps a dear church member: extremely godly, possibly even pronounced a saint by the Catholic or Orthodox church.

But in the New Testament, the word saint is basically a synonym for Christian. The Greek term is hagios, translated holy, set apart, or pure. It was used among the secular Greeks to describe something that engenders awe, a temple, or a sanctuary that contained the most beautiful and sacred things that were not accessible to the public.

The equivalent Hebrew term was used in the Old Testament to describe the God of Israel and His name and the things connected to Him. We read about holy ground, the holy temple, the holy place, and the holy of Holies. God’s Old Testament people were to be a holy people, keeping His laws and reflecting His purity to the nations of earth. 

In the New Testament, God the Father is described as holy, and so is God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit actually has the word Holy in His title. 

But, we also discover that all who are redeemed by Christ are called saints or, as the NIV says, “God’s holy people.” 

Our self-image and behavior is influenced by how we talk about ourselves. Whether you say you’re worthless or unlovable or inadequate, or say you’re one of God’s holy people, you’ll act that way. 

We are God’s holy people—His saints—in a two-fold way.

First, as the followers of Christ we have instantaneous holiness conferred on us; but then, second, we have progressive holiness developed within us.

  • Hebrews 10:10 says, We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. The moment we receive Christ as Savior, we are made righteous in God’s sight. Our sins are transferred to Jesus Christ, and His holiness is transferred to us. When God looks at you He sees the holiness of Jesus Christ.

The righteousness of Jesus Christ is wrapped around us. It reminds me of British soldier Edward Creasy, who was captured and faced death from a Polish firing squad. He told them, “The Union Jack [the flag of the British Empire], though invisible, is around me. You will hit the British flag if you do. You dare not do it.” The firing squad hesitated and then lowered their weapons. We are contained within and shielded by His enveloping holiness. We may not yet be all we should be, but we are wrapped in and vested with the holiness of Christ.

  • But now skip down to Hebrews 10:14: For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Let’s compare the first part of verse 10 with the last part of verse 14: You have been made holy… (You) are being made holy.

David Allen in his commentary on Hebrews wrote, “The author is making good use of the Greek tense system here to contrast the perfect finished work of Christ on the cross and its sanctifying effect on believers (verse 10) with the ongoing work of progressive sanctification here in verse 14.”

Both progressively and instantaneously, we are God’s holy people in Christ. Theologians use the phrase “Already, But Not Yet.” 

B. We Are In Christ

Here’s our key preposition: We are God’s holy people in Christ. That was Paul’s trademark phrase—We are in Christ.

The word “in” means to be positioned or placed within a certain environment. We are surrounded by air, and the air is within us.

When we receive Jesus Christ as Savior, we are enveloped in Jesus. We are united in a relationship with Christ. We are abiding in Him, and He abides in us.

2. Servants of Christ

When we are saints in Christ, it’s very natural for us to increasingly be servants of Christ. Read verse 1 again:

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus.

Because we are saints in Christ, we are servants of Christ. The Greek word for servant is doulos, which means, literally, slave. Paul used this basic term exactly 59 times. It has a double connotation.

A. We Have a Humble Position

First, it connotes humility. Now, slavery in the Roman Empire was rather different than it was in the American antebellum south. Certainly some slaves were physically abused in Roman times. But a vast portion of the population of the Roman Empire was made up of professional men and women, who were lawyers, financial experts, clothiers, chefs, administrations, educators, and so forth, who happened to be employed by someone who owned them. They lived fairly normal lives, except they were owned by someone. 

The apostle Paul attacked the institution of slavery in a very subtle and powerful way in the book of Philemon, and he encouraged slaves, if possible, to seek their freedom. He demanded the masters cease from abusing their slaves. His letters, along with the rest of Scripture, provided the moral foundation of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire and then in America.

Paul said that we are slaves of Jesus Christ, but then look at what he said across the page in Philippians 2:5: In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant [doulos- slave]…

Jesus was never owned by anyone, and yet took on the nature of a doulos—a servant or slave. This refers to the humility with which we should serve the Lord.

Andrew Murray was a preacher who also wrote more than 200 books during his 60 years of ministry in South Africa. Many of his books were based on his sermons, but for two years he literally lost his voice. He suffered from a mysterious throat condition that rendered him virtually speechless. He was in his early fifties at the time, and he had to take a sabbatical from the pulpit.

During this time he studied the subject of humility and he learned the lessons by experiencing them. He later published a book widely considered the best book ever written on the subject of humility. I want to give you a quote from it:

  • There is nothing so divine and heavenly as being the servant and helper of all. The faithful servant, who recognizes his position, finds a real pleasure in supplying the wants of the master or his guests. When we see that humility is something infinitely deeper than contrition, and accept it as our participation in the life of Jesus, we shall begin to learn that it is our true nobility, and that to prove it in being servants of all is the highest fulfillment of our destiny as [people] created in the image of God.

B. We Have a High Position

That quote really points out the paradox of being a slave or a servant. Biblical commentators have discussed this a great deal. On the one hand, the word servant is a word that connotes our humble position, but at the same time the Bible uses it to confer honor. Let me show you from the Old Testament:

  • Psalm 105:26:  He sent Moses His Servant, and Aaron, whom He had chosen.
  • Joshua 24:29: After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten.
  • Ezekiel 34:23: I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David.
  • Daniel 9:6: Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our prices, to our fathers and all the people of the land.

To be called “the servant of the Lord” was a very high and exalted honor.

It’s one of the greatest paradoxes and deepest mysteries of the Christian experience. To be the Lord’s slave or servant is simultaneously the humblest thing we can do and the highest thing we can do.

We are saints in Christ Jesus and servants of Christ Jesus. All of that is in verse 1. Now, in the second verse we learn we are supplied by Christ Jesus with everything we need for our sainthood and servanthood.

3. Supplied from Christ

Verse 2 says: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The actual literal order in the Greek is: Grace to you and peace from God the Father of us and the Lord Jesus Christ.

A. With Grace

First, we are supplied with an abundance of grace. Grace is every single blessing God has ever invented. 

Because God is infinite, we have all-sufficient grace.

  • Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ – Ephesians 2:3
  • God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things and at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work – 2 Corinthians 9:8
  • Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The Lord will indeed give what is good – Psalm 85:11 
  • Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights—James 1:17

B. With Peace

Because we have every single blessing God has ever invented, we are flooded with peace.

In the book Pilgrim’s Progress, we have a remarkable scene. The Pilgrim, Christian, had just begun his journey through life toward the Celestial City. He stopped by the Interpreter’s House, which was a place where he learned many things that would help him on his journey. This is what the church should do—equip us for the daily Christian walk. In one room Christian saw a roaring fire the devil was trying to quench. Christian asked, “How does the fire keep burning?”

The Interpreter showed him a man behind the wall pouring a constant stream of oil onto the flame, making it unquenchable.

That’s the constant supply of grace and peace that floods into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, sent from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Psalmist said, “He restores my soul.”


None of us have easy lives. But I’ve never had an experience in which I didn’t find what I needed for the moment in the words of Scripture, biblical hymns, and prayer. 

A hymnist named Annie J. Flint also knew this from experience. She wrote:

He giveth more grace when the burden grow greater,

He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.

To added affliction, He addeth His mercy,

To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,

His power no boundary known unto men,

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth and giveth and giveth again.