Pastor David B. Curtis


The Epistle of Joy

Philippians 1:1-2

Delivered 05/10/1998

Last week we started a series in the book of Philippians. We looked at the birth of this church as God sovereignly sent a four man missionary team into Europe. We saw that this church had its beginnings in the salvation of Lydia and the Philippian Jailor.

We also saw Paul and Silas in the midst of the worst circumstances, unshaken in their joy. Beaten, stuck in the inner prison in stocks and yet joyful, Rejoicing in the midst of extreme physical pain.

Paul wrote the book of Philippians approximately ten years after the account in Acts 16. He was in prison at Rome when he wrote this letter.

This book is one of the most joyous books in the Bible. All the way through the letter, Paul speaks of joy. Paul is in a Roman prison experiencing joy.

Let's begin this morning by going over a theology of joy. In a sentence, I want to give you a theology of joy.

Joy is the product of an intimate relationship with God:

Psalms 16:11 (NKJV) You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalms 4:7 (NKJV) You have put gladness in my heart, More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.

God is the source of joy. Paul put it this way:

Philippians 4:4 (NKJV) Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

All men seek to be happy, to have joy, but it is only truly found in the Lord. His is our source of joy. So joy is the product of an intimate relationship with God, and this intimate relationship begins with believing the gospel:

Luke 2:10-11 (NKJV) Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 10:20 (NKJV) "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

We can always rejoice in our election. The gospel brings joy. Because our salvation is unshakeable, our joy is unshakeable.

So joy is the product of an intimate relationship with God and is: Produced in us by the Holy Spirit:

Romans 14:17 (NKJV) for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22 (NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

The resident Holy Spirit produces our joy-

As we receive and obey the Word:

Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJV) Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.
John 15:3-4 (NKJV) "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

Jesus tells believers to abide in him. To abide is to know and obey the Word of God. That is discipleship. And joy is a product of discipleship.

John 15:11 (NKJV) "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

Full joy is manifest in the believer when he receives and abides in the Word of God. It is Christ's joy that is in us. His joy is unshakable joy, and it is ours as we abide in Him.

John 1:4-8 (NKJV) And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

As we walk in fellowship with God through obedience, we experience joy. So joy is the product of an intimate relationship with God, produced in us by the Holy Spirit as we receive and obey the Word.

And it is displayed in trials -- anyone can demonstrate joy when everything is going well. It is in the trials of life that true joy is manifest.

1 Thessalonians 1:6 (NKJV) And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,

Here we have obedience, the word, the trial , the Holy Spirit and the joy.

James 1:2 (NKJV) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
1 Peter 1:6 (NKJV) In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,

So joy is the product of an intimate relationship with God produced in us by the Holy Spirit as we receive and obey the Word, and it is displayed in trials.

Nehemiah 8:10 (NKJV) ".....the joy of the LORD is your strength." When we find our delight in God, there will be an inner strength for life and ministries. The pursuit of joy in God will give us strength to endure, and it is the key to breaking the power of sin in our lives. When we find our joy in the Lord, we will learn to hate sin because it robs our joy.

Paul uses "joy and rejoice" 16 times in the 104 verses of this epistle. He also uses "Jesus Christ" 47 times. Paul's joy comes from the Lord. He also uses "mind," 10 times, "think" 5 times, and "remember" once. When our mind is fixed on Christ, we have joy.

Our joy glorifies God by demonstrating to an unbelieving world that our loving and faithful heavenly father cares for us and provides for us all we need. We saw this in the lives of Paul and Silas. Can you imagine the testimony they had among all that heard them. When you loose your joy, you dishonor God.

Let me give you four aids to joy.

1. Confess and forsake sin. You can't have joy when living in sin. Sin destroys our joy, it robs us.

2. Trust in God:

Romans 15:13 (NKJV) Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Confidence in the promises of God overcomes anxiety and fills us with peace and joy. God is in control, so don't loose you joy, trust in Him. Paul and Silas had joy because they trusted in God. They knew he had them right where he wanted them. They knew their God. I believe that one of the greatest needs in Christianity today is the knowledge of God. Theology proper. Christians today don't know who God is. Most Christians have created God in their own image. They have made a god they can control. They have made a god that puts up with their sins. That is not the God of the Bible. If we would get a vision of God from the Scripture, we would know that he is someone we can trust in everything. Our lack of trust displays a lack of understanding of who our God is. The more you grow to know Him, the more you will trust him.

3. Take the long-range view of life:

Hebrews 10:34 (NKJV) for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.

This earthly physical life is not all there is. We will someday drop this flesh and move into heaven. Our trials will cease and we will forever dwell with our God. Don't dwell on the temporal, but on the eternal.

4. Give thanks is all circumstances:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV) in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Whatever you are going through is God's will for you so give thanks for it. Murmuring and complaining is sin, and sin robs our joy.

Joy is the theme of Philippians. Paul loved the Philippians and he didn't want them to be sad over his circumstances. He was rejoicing, and he wanted them to rejoice. When Paul talks about joy, we should listen. He knows what he is talking about, as we saw last week.

This morning we want to look at three points as we begin our study of this great book; the Servants, the Saints, and the Salutation.

Philippians 1:1 (NKJV) Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

The Servants are Paul and Timothy. Our letters end with the names of the sender. In Paul's day the senders name was mentioned first, then came the name of the person addressed (saints in Philippi), and the rest of the opening salutation. A letter makes much more sense when you know who it is from.

Paul is the human author. Paul's love, feelings, and his personality are expressed in this very personal letter. You see Paul's love for these people as you read through this letter. But this letter is the Word of God. The Scriptures are not human viewpoint but rather, the Holy Spirit's use of human agencies and language. The Holy Spirit works through Paul as he writes this letter. This letter is the Word of God. The Word did not come to us by mechanical dictation. Paul was not a robot that God moved like a puppet. Paul wrote this letter with all of his emotions, and feelings, and personality, yet it was all under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:20 (NKJV) knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,

The word "interpretation" would be better translated "origin." The Scripture didn't originate from Paul. It wasn't his idea, but Gods.

2 Peter 1:21 (NKJV) for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

The idea of being "moved" is like a stick thrown into a stream. It is carried by the current. This book is God's Word and is profitable for us. This book is not written to us. It was written to the first century Philippians, but it is profitable for us.

So Paul is the human author. The Philippians knew him well. Paul had founded this church and had a close relationship with these people.

If you want to know more about Paul, read Acts 9. He was converted on the Damascus road as he was on his way to kill Christians. God miraculously transformed him and made him a preacher of the gospel he once hated. We have a good description of him in:

Philippians 3:4-8 (NKJV) though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ"

Paul had all the human accomplishments, but he counted them as dung. All Paul cared about was Christ and having an intimate relationship with Him.

The servants are Paul and Timothy. They also knew Timothy, Paul's son in the faith. He was there when the church was founded. He was with Paul on that mission trip. If you want to see how close Paul and Timothy were, look at:

1 Corinthians 4:15-17 (NKJV) For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me.

Paul tells them, "I am your father in the faith and I want you to follow my example. You follow me as I follow Christ. The interesting part comes in the next verse.

17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.

Paul says, "Follow me. Now here's Timothy. To follow him is to follow me." Timothy was following Paul who was following Christ. Timothy was just like his spiritual father.

We have a description of Timothy in:

Philippians 2:19-23 (NKJV) But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. 23 Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.

Now, Timothy didn't co-author this epistle, he was a companion of Paul and was there when the church began. But maybe Paul dictated and Timothy wrote it down. Paul often used an scribe or secretary as we see in:

Romans 16:22 (NKJV) I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord.

Turtius didn't write Romans, but he penned it for Paul. So Timothy might have been writing the book of Philippians for Paul. Paul was in prison and Timothy was ministering to him.

Now notice what they call themselves-- bondservants. I think the translation servant here is bad. A servant is one who can quit. Slave better fits the picture here. The word "bondservants" is the Greek word doulos. Doulos conveys the idea of ownership, possession, dependency, subjection, loyalty. It also conveys the idea of willing service, not a forced service. They are a slave but they are a slave by choice. They have willingly made themselves a slave of Jesus Christ to do His will. Look with me at:

Exodus 21:1-6 (NKJV) "Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: 2 "If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. 3 "If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 "If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.

Every seventh year there was a year of release. The Hebrew slaves were set free. You could become a servant by getting into debt that you could not pay. If you couldn't pay your bills, you became a slave until the debt was paid off. You couldn't file for bankruptcy and walk away. You became a slave. It sounds like a good system to me. You could also sell yourself into slavery. Or you could become a slave by conquest.

5 "But if the servant plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,' 6 "then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.

Our view of slavery is not a very good one today but biblical slavery is not so bad. This slave says, "I love it here, I don't want to go free." Slavery is not so bad when you have the right master. Slaves don't worry about their needs, that is up to the master. It was a service of love. Paul was a willing slave of Jesus Christ. Paul was no doubt implying that what was true for himself should be true for any Christian. God calls us all into willing service, it is our choice.

Romans 12:1 (NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

"By the mercies of God"-- all that God has done for you . You have been bought out of the slave market of sin and set free. God now asks that you would serve Him out of love.

Romans 6:16 (NKJV) Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

You choose your master remembering that sin is a hard taskmaster. To serve the Lord Jesus Christ is a service of love that brings great joy.

Paul's will was swallowed up by the will of his master, and if Christ willed that his servant sit in a prison cell, then in such a state that servant will be content.

Are you a bondslave of Jesus Christ? Is your desire to please yourself or your master? If your desire is to serve Jesus Christ you'll never loose your joy. Self-service robs our joy.

This is not a typical introduction- "Paul and Timothy bondslaves of Jesus Christ." Paul does not make a claim to Apostleship- no need. Paul had a warm, intimate relationship with the Philippians. Paul wrote 13 epistles and in only four of them did he not use the title of "apostle." Paul doesn't use the title "apostle" in 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Philemon or Philippians.

Philippians is on of the Prison epistles along with Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon. Paul was in prison at Rome when he wrote all four of these. Philippians was written somewhere around 63 AD. It was the last of the prison epistles.

So the servants are Paul and Timothy. Who are the saints?

Saints: "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi." We met two to these saints last week, Lydia and the jailor. How many of you have ever met a saint? If you have never met a saint, let me introduce myself, I'm saint Curtis. A saint is anyone who has trusted in Jesus Christ. You don't have to die and have them make a statue of you before you become a saint. And saints are not super spiritual Christians. Our cultural use of this term is wrong. All believers are saints. There are only two kinds of people in the world-- saints and aints. The term "saint" is never used to speak of our practice. It is always used to speak of our position. The word saint is to remind us of who we are. We are saints and we are to live a holy life. Saint is the Greek word hagios, it means set apart, or sanctified. We met some of the saints in Acts 16.

The saints are saints because they are "in Christ Jesus."This is our unique position. Who else claims this? Did you ever hear someone say, "I'm in Muhammad." Or "I'm in Buddha." Or "I'm in Joseph Smith." Only believers are in Jesus Christ, it is our unique relationship. We are one with Christ This is the basis for our acceptance.

Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV) to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.

This is why you can never loose your salvation. Unless Christ Jesus gets kicked out of the Trinity, you will never lose your salvation. We are one with Christ. We share his death, his resurrection, his life. All that he is and has, we are and have.

Let me share with you an illustration from sheep ranching. If a lamb dies at birth, usually the mother will die morning the lamb. If the mother died giving birth, the lamb would be sure to die because no other mother would care for the orphaned lamb. So if a lamb died at birth, the shepherd would skin it and wrap the skin around an orphaned lamb. They will then take that orphaned lamb in the skin of the dead lamb and take it to the mother who's lamb had died. And that sheep will accept that lamb because she thinks it is her own. She accepts it as her own. That is our position in Christ. When Christ died for us, we became one with him and when God looks at us, he sees Christ. We are accepted because we are in Christ. God doesn't accept me because of anything that I have done. He accepts me because I'm in Christ. Because I am in Christ I am a saint. We are saints, in Christ.

Why was Paul writing to the saints at Philippi? Philippians is not polemic, it did not originate in the desire to correct any doctrinal variance or any serious moral problems in the church. Let me give you four reasons why this epistle was written.

1. It is a letter of thanks:

Philippians 4:10-11 (NKJV) But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:

Paul wrote to thank them for their generous gift.

2. Explanation of Epaphroditus return (2:25-30). The Philippians sent the gift by the hand of Epaphroditus. While he was with Paul he became very sick, he almost died. So Paul thought it necessary to send him back with an explanation of why he was sending him back.

3. It is a letter of encouragement to the Philippians in the trial which they are going through.

Philippians 1:28-30 (NKJV) and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

4. To provide spiritual guidance to the congregation 2:2; 3:1-3; 4:2). He has heard about some of the problems in the church so he encourages them to work out their problems.

This very personal letter of thanks contains some of the most important theological utterances to be found anywhere in Paul's writings. It's just a thank you letter yet it contains some of the deepest doctrine in it that you'll ever run across. We find the doctrine of the Kenosis in chapter two. This is a love letter of a fond parent for his spiritual child.

Now look at what he says, "to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi." -- then he adds this -- "with the Bishops and deacons." This is the only letter in which he does this. This is the earliest epistle where bishops and deacons are mentioned, and the only one where they are separately addressed.

I have a question for you, "Where's the pastor?" Is Paul mad at him, so he snubs him? Is Paul being fleshly? No, there was no single pastor. In the New Testament there is never one book, never one word addressed to one man as the pastor of the church. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, not a man. Elders are under shepherds who care for the flock.

There are three terms used in the New Testament to describe church leaders, and none of them are "reverend," they are, "bishop, elder, and pastor." The most widely used New Testament designation for local church leaders is elders.

Elder -- is the Greek word presbuteros. It is used 70 times in the New Testament. It refers to mature in age. Presbuterosis used 20 times in Acts and the epistles in reference to leaders in the church.

Bishop -- is from the Greek word episkopos. It means guardian or overseer. It is used 5 times in the New Testament, once of Christ (1 Peter 2:25), and four other times to refer to church leaders. It is plural, bishops.

Pastor -- this is from the Greek word poimen. It is only found once in the New Testament in Eph. 4:11. The normal meaning of the word is shepherd, which means to protect, feed, care for, and lead.

Pastors are not distinct from bishops or elders. The terms are simply different ways of identifying the same people. Textual evidence indicates that all three terms refer to the same office.

1 Peter 5:1-5 (NKJV) The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. 5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."

The word "elder" in verse 1 is presbuteros. The word "shepherd" in verse 2 is poimaino. And the word "overseers" in verse 2 is episkopeo. Peter instructs the elders to be good shepherds as they oversee the flock.

Acts 20:17 (NKJV) From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.

Please notice that the word elders is plural and church is singular. Each church had several elders.

Acts 20:28 (NKJV) "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

Here we see the same three Greek words used to describe those who lead the church. Elder emphasizes who the man is, bishop and pastor speak of what he does.

Every place in the New Testament where the term presbuteros is used, it is plural except where John and Peter use it to speak of themselves. The norm in the New Testament church was a plurality of elders. There is no reference in all the New Testament to a one-pastor congregation. Today's tradition of a single pastor leading a church is not the biblical norm, but is a violation of the scriptural pattern.

The office of elder, bishop, pastor is a restricted office:

1 Timothy 3:1-5 (NKJV) This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);

The elder is to be a man, the husband of one wife, the ruler of his house. This should make it clear that a woman cannot be an elder. She is not a man, she cannot be a husband, and she is not to rule her house. The office is restricted to men.

Verse 2 says that the elder is to be "blameless" this is the Greek word anepileptos. It means without stain, or spot, there is nothing in his life in which you can point to as a moral defect and say, "That man has failed here." It doesn't say sinless, nobody is sinless. The elder is to be a model for the congregation.

Philippians 4:9 (NKJV) The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul is saying, "Follow me, do what I do." Paul saw himself as an example, and so should all elders. An unholy pastor is like a stained glass window. He's just a religious figure that keeps the light out.

Biblical eldership is a fair and powerful form of leadership that avoids both the pitfalls of one-man rule and the confusion of every man rule. The elders are to work together and decisions are made when all are in agreement. This prevents someone from going off in an unbiblical direction. One man leadership is very dangerous. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Eldership is a high calling because the future of the church rests on its leadership. They're models of what God wants us all to be. The biggest decision we'll ever make at BBC is not where to build a building or what kind of building to build, or what programs to run but who its elders are. Everything rises and falls on leadership.

Paul not only writes to the elders but to the deacons also. The Greek word for deacon is diakonos and means servant. Deacons are to be models of a servant. They primarily run the organization. They free the elders to give their time to the word. Why did Paul single out elders and deacons? It was them who were to see that his instructions were carried out. He also was endorsing their authority.

Now, let's look at the Salutation:

Philippians 1:2 (NKJV) Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace -- Grace is all that God is free to do for man on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Because of what Jesus did God is free to give us grace. What do I mean when I say that God is free -- God's justice and righteousness are satisfied in the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus paid our sin debt. Therefore, God is free to give us grace. Grace has no strings attached, it's free. What do you have to do to keep your salvation? If you have to do anything, it isn't free. Do you understand that? If I give you something and then say , "You can keep that if you do this or that," then what I have given you is not a gift, it must be earned by your works.

God is free to express his love under the plan of grace. A plan in which God does all the work in providing, and man does all the receiving and enjoying apart from any merit or ability. We did not earn or deserve grace.

Romans 5:8 (NKJV) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We deserve hell, anything less is pure grace. Grace is unmerited and abounding favor of God toward men. Peace is the result of that favor. Our Peace was obtained at the cross of Christ. It is the result of the reconciliation of man and God through Jesus' death. Because God has given us grace, we have peace. Grace from God results in peace with God.

2 Corinthians 4:14-15 (NKJV) knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

God's grace brings Him glory as we express thanks to Him for his wonderful free grace. Have you thanked Him lately?

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