Tag Archives: Acts

Philippians 1:1, Part 2

Click here to read part 1 (“Paul and Timothy”)

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, KJV)

“The servants of Jesus Christ”

In Philippians 1:1, Paul identifies himself and Timothy not only with the names they were called by, but with the position of servant, or slave.  Paul also identifies himself as a slave in his epistle to the Romans and to Titus.  In both these instances, he also identifies himself as an apostle.  In several of his epistles, he only identifies himself as an apostle (1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy).  He simply refers to himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ in the epistle to Philemon, and uses no titles or designations in the letters to the church at Thessalonica.  Only in the epistle to the Philippians does he identify himself as a slave with no other designation.  As a reading of the text will show, one’s devotion, obedience, and service to Christ are major themes in this epistle.  And Paul sets that tone from the beginning by defining himself as a slave.

The word translated “servant” in the KJV originally conveyed the idea of a slave who belonged to a master.  A slave had no rights of his own and was completely subject to his master’s authority and will, and responsible to obey whatever was asked of him.  It is interesting to note Paul’s first encounter with the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus.  The first two responses he made to Christ acknowledged Him as “Lord,” asking “what wilt thou have me to do?” with the second response (Acts 9:5, 6).  From the very beginning of his Christian life, Paul knew that he was a slave and that Jesus was Master.  And he went on to serve just as Christ fortold in Acts 9:15-16, bearing His name before the Gentiles and suffering for His sake, just as the Philippians witnessed in Acts 16.

Notice too, that Paul and Timothy are not merely servants but “servants of Jesus Christ.”  First and foremost, they answer to Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, God’s chosen Savior and King.  While they certainly served others, they were doing so as an extension of their service to the king.  They were not out to win popularity contests, but to please their Master as they obeyed him and cared for the souls of others.

How would our lives change if we defined ourselves as slaves of Christ, truly viewing ourselves as such?  Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11), and if He is Lord (Master), we must be subject to His authority and will.

The next post in this series will focus on the recipients of this epistle, the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi.

Philippians 1:1, Part 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: (Philippians 1:1, KJV)

“Paul and Timothy”

Thus begins this ancient letter, the New Testament epistle to the Philippian saints.  Its author, the apostle Paul, wrote at least twelve other New Testament epistles.  Although the salutation is from Paul and Timothy (Timotheus is the Greek form of the name, transliterated accordingly in the KJV), the pronouns and subject matter throughout the epistle show that the thoughts being communicated, humanly speaking, are Paul’s.

Paul and Timothy first visited Philippi about ten years prior to this epistle if Paul wrote to them from a Roman imprisonment around AD 62, the same time period as the composition of Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon (the other “prison epistles”).  The view that Paul wrote from Rome is the traditional one, and the only view that is older than competing theories that have surfaced in the last few hundred years.

After a life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 9), Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul) was changed from a chief enemy of the church into a follower and apostle (officially commissioned and sent messenger) of Jesus.  He went on to spread the good news of Christ to many others, planting numerous churches, including the church at Philippi.

Acts 16 records the first meeting of Paul with the Philippians.  He arrived at Philippi on his second missionary journey.  This encounter brought the gospel to European soil for the first time.  Silas, Luke, and Timothy accompanied Paul during this part of his journey.  Acts 16 contains the Bible’s first mention of Philippi (16:12), and it also contains the first mention of Timothy (16:1), the son of a believing Jewish mother and a Greek father.

The Philippians would have remembered Timothy, and Paul communicates not only his intention go to the Philippians in person, but also his desire to send Timothy to them as soon as possible (Philippans 2:19-24).  Timothy, who was highly regarded by those who knew him in Lystra and Iconium (Acts 16:2) and by Paul himself (Philippians 2:20-22), was evidently present at the writing of this epistle (Philippians 2:19, 23).

The majority of Paul’s thirteen epistles designate others as sending the letter along with him.  Only five epistles designate Paul as the sole sender, and three of those are addressed to individual recipients (Romans, Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus).  Including the epistle to the Philippians, Timothy is listed as a co-sender of five of Paul’s letters (the others are 2 Corinthians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon).  Paul demonstrated his approval of and partnership with Timothy by designating him in the salutation.

In the next article of this series, we will consider the significance of the identification of Paul and Timothy as servants, or slaves, of Jesus Christ.

Acts 16 Sermon Summary

Three Ways God Spreads the Good News

Acts 16:6-34

People have utilized many ways of spreading news.  In the past, the Pony Express and the telegraph were means people used to share information.  Today, people use a plethora of methods to broadcast and receive news, such as television, radio, text-messages, cell phones, e-mail, and the Internet.

God can do anything He wants and could have chosen to write His good news, the Gospel, in the clouds.  He could have personally manifested Himself in a visible and audible form to every human being to communicate the message.  But God has chosen to spread His good news by other means.  In Acts 16, we see three of those means.

1. Obedience to Guidance (v. 6-13)

In Acts 16, we find Paul on his second missionary journey.  Like the writer of “Amazing Grace,” John Newton, Paul was now preaching the faith he had once labored to destroy because of the change God had made in his life.  Along with Paul were Timothy, Silas, and Luke (the author, whose pronouns change to “we” and “us” in verse 10 to indicate his presence with the group).

The missionaries thought they should go to Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), but the Holy Spirit did not allow them.  They were directed instead to Macedonia by a vision Paul received.  They immediately obeyed the vision, believing that God had called them to preach the Gospel there.  God used obedience to guidance to spread His good news.

In what areas do you need to obey God?  If you know what you should do, then the response should be immediate obedience.  Is there someone you know you should share the Gospel with?  God may use your obedience to guidance to spread His good news.

2. Faithfulness in Clear Evangelism (v. 14-15, 30-32)

Arriving in Philippi, a strategic and historic city, Paul speaks God’s Word to a group of women gathered for prayer.  This implies that there were not enough Jewish men in the area to have a synagogue, since Paul’s usual practice was to go first to the synagogue and preach Christ.  He went to people who needed the Gospel.  God opened Lydia’s heart and she believed the word Paul spoke.  Paul also shared verbally with the Philippian jailer, telling him not only to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved but later speaking the Word to the jailer and his family, likely explaining matters more fully.  God used Paul’s faithfulness in clear evangelism to spread his good news.

No one likes a garbled, confusing message.  Therefore, we ought to be clear when we share the Gospel with people.  We know from other parts of the book of Acts that Paul made the matters of the Gospel clear to others so they would know what they should believe and why.  The Gospel is more than “Jesus loves you” or “ask Jesus into your heart.”  We ought to tell people about the greatness of God and His right as our Creator to tell us what to do.  We need to explain sin as rebellion against God, and that we are all sinners who deserve to be punished forever for despising God.  We need to tell them who Christ is (the God-man, the Son of God in human flesh) and what He did in His perfect life and substitutionary death for sinners.  We must tell them of his ascension and that He will one day judge the world in righteousness.  We must not merely leave them with these facts, but must call upon them to repent of their sin and trust in Christ alone for their salvation so that they may have eternal life and enjoy God forever.

Even as God opened Lydia’s heart to respond, He does the same with people today.  We are not responsible for the response to the message.  We are responsible to deliver the message faithfully.  God uses faithfulness in clear evangelism to spread His good news.

3. Praise in Suffering (v. 16-34)

Although Paul would not have adopted the motto, “Preach the Gospel – if necessary, use words,” he understood that his life should reflect the saving message he proclaimed.  He wanted His walk to support, not hinder, the spread of the words of life.

A demon-possessed girl annoyed Paul by following the missionaries and announcing, day after day, that they were servants of the most high God who were proclaiming the way of salvation.  Paul cast the demon out, much to the chagrin of her masters, who owned her as a slave and had profited from her fortune-telling business.  Paul and Silas were falsely accused of instigating chaos in the city, and were then stripped and beaten.  They were cast into the inner prison of the jail, and their feet were fastened in stocks which spread the legs apart and created much cramping.

These men who had come to proclaim God’s good news were now suffering for righteousness.  How did they respond?  At midnight, they were heard praying and praising God with singing.  They gave God praise in suffering, and He used it to spread his good news.  He sent an earthquake that nearly resulted in the jailer’s suicide, which Paul prevented by informing him that no one had escaped from the jail.  Trembling, the jailer asked what he must do to be saved, and Paul shared the Gospel with him.  He and his family came to know Christ through Paul’s and Silas’ praise in suffering.

Joni Eareckson Tada is another fitting example of praise in suffering.  She became a quadriplegic, losing the use of her arms and legs, as a result of a diving accident as a teenager.  Instead of remaining angry at God, she has praised Him for His goodness to her and has shared His good news with many – from her wheelchair.  I recently attended the funeral of a woman named Lisa, who reached the point of thanking God for her brain tumors because He used her suffering to help reach others with the Gospel.  It was fitting that one of the songs at Lisa’s memorial celebration was from Job 1:21, which speaks of how God gives and takes away, but His name is to be blessed, that is, praised.

Are you afraid to suffer for the Gospel?  Can you praise God in trials?  Have you considered how your reactions to suffering may bring to you greater opportunities to share the good news?  Rodney Griffin wrote a song from this passage in which he made the point that the times of suffering are the times that “God wants to hear you sing.”

Remember that James told us to count it all joy when we suffer (James 1:2-4) and Jesus said that we are blessed if we suffer for His sake and have great reward (Matthew 5:10-12).  Your best life is not now, but in the world to come.  Let’s not forget the power of God and his time-tested method of using praise in suffering to spread His good news.

Our communication methods may come and go.  E-mail and cell phones may one day be as obsolete as the Pony Express and the telegraph.  But until Christ returns, God will continue to use the methods He has utilized for the last 2,000 years to spread the Gospel:  obedience to guidance, faithfulness in clear evangelism, and praise in suffering.  As we obey, share, and worship Him, may He be pleased to use us to spread His good news.

Preached by Doug Smith, guest speaker at Fellowship Chapel, Bristol, Virginia, July 15, 2007

Click here to listen to or download the complete sermon (.mp3 audio).

Click here to download the Word document of this summary.

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