Uncommon Servants and Unlikely Saints, part 2 (Philippians 1:1b)

Last week we saw how Paul introduces himself and includes Timothy.  What is most significant is that he claims that both of them were “servants,” or better “slaves of Jesus Christ.”  We talked about how this term emphasizes both total ownership and absolute obedience and how every Christian has been “bought with a price” and we are no longer our own but belong to Jesus.

We call him “Lord” and we should voluntarily and gladly submit to His authority 24/7 is every area of our lives.

Joy comes from being rightly submitting to Jesus Christ.

Today, we’re going to see from Paul’s identification of the believers in Philippi, that being a “saint” is the foundation of joy for every believer.

Satan accuses and confuses us, most often calling into question our identity.  Paul addresses the Philippian believers as “saints in Christ Jesus.”

This is one of Paul’s favored ways of referring to believers in various churches.  We find it in Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:10 and Philemon 5 and 7).

We need to understand this word “saint.”  To some, it refers to someone who lived a noted religious life, maybe was martyred, but died and then had statutes erected in their honor.

To some in refers to a stiff, joyless religious person.

The word “saint” is a positional term.  Paul wasn’t saying that the Corinthians were “acting saintly,”—far from it—but from God’s point of view, they were “saints.”

Notice that Paul says “saints in Christ Jesus.”  The only way we can perceive ourselves as saints, genuinely, is to be “in Christ.”  Paul speaks of our union with Christ often, especially in Ephesians 1 and Romans 6.

When we put our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, we were baptized into Christ and united with him so that what he experienced (death and resurrection), we experienced.  We died to sin and now live to righteousness.

“Saint” comes from the same word that means “holy” or “set apart.”  We have been set apart from sin and death for a special purpose.

This is true of every believer, not just a few, not just the most religious, but every believer.  You were baptized into Christ and now His righteousness is your righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:21 is the great exchange and says…

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Through imputation, our sin was credited to Christ’s account—and He paid our debt—and Christ’s righteousness was credited to our account.

And 1 Corinthians 1:30 says…

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

There is our word, “sanctification.”  Jesus has become sanctification for us and since we are united with Him, we have “sanctification” applied to us.  God sees us as “saints.”

Now, admittedly, we don’t always act like saints.  But, now that we have a new nature, a new identity, the potential for living saintly is greater.  It is now possible.

Positional sanctification means that right now I am as righteous and holy as I will ever be in the eyes of God.

Progressive sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus Christ each and every day.  In that sense, I’m not nearly the saint that God sees me to be, but I’m working on it.

Ultimate sanctification refers to the moment when I either die or am raptured out of this world and the moment I see Jesus I will become like him—my experience will match up with my position.

Image result for sanctification

Chasing the Wind

The late, well-known Bible teacher, Harry Ironside, in the days before airplane travel, used to spend many hours traveling by train.  On one such trip, a four-day ride from the west to Chicago, he found himself in the company of a group of nuns.  They liked him for his kind manner and for his interesting insights on the Bible.  One day, Dr. Ironside began a discussion by asking the nuns if any of them had ever seen a saint.  None of them had.  He then asked if they would like to see a saint.  They all said, yes, they would like to see one.  Then Ironside surprised them greatly by saying, “I am a saint; I am Saint Harry.”  He took them to verses in the Bible, such as this one, to show that every Christian is a saint. (Told by Boice, p. 24.)

You may laugh at the idea of Saint Harry or Saint whatever-your-name-is.  But it’s an important New Testament truth that you view yourself as Saint whoever-you-are!

So if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a saint in Christ Jesus.  It is vitally important for you to realize this and reckon it to be true.  You are not a sinner, but a saint.  You still sin, yes, but that it not your identity.

For people today who want to identify themselves by their sin, it robs them of the power to flourish in life.

Satan doesn’t want you to know who you are in Christ Jesus.  He wants you to live a defeated, condemning life.  He doesn’t want you to know the truth of who you are in Christ Jesus.

Just this past year the Kendrick brothers produced a new movie called The Overcomer.  It features a young girl who lives with her grandmother, has asthma and runs cross country.  Eventually she becomes a Christian but because of her background she is very insecure and doubts herself.  Her principal, played by Priscilla Shirer, gives her an assignment of writing down everything Ephesians 1 and 2 says is true about her.  Here is a list…

A Saint
Faithful in Christ Jesus
Given Grace
Made Part of Christ’s Body
Given Mercy
Given Peace
Blessed with Every Spiritual Blessing
Chosen Before the Foundation of the World
Holy and Blameless
Predestined for Adoption
Adopted as a Son
Redeemed through His Blood
Forgiven of Trespasses
Lavished with Grace
Given Knowledge of the Mystery of His Will
Sealed with the Holy Spirit
Guaranteed an Inheritance
Given Faith
Given Hope
Given God’s Power
Made Alive with Christ
Saved by Grace
Raised up with Christ
Seated with Christ in the Heavenly Places
A Display of God’s Grace/Kindness in the Coming Ages
Given the Gift of Salvation
God’s Workmanship
Created in Christ Jesus for Good Works
No Longer a Stranger to the Covenants of Promise
Brought Near by the Blood of Christ
Made Part of One New Man (Jews with Gentiles)
Reconciled to God
Given Access to the Father
A Fellow Citizen with the Saints
A Member of God’s Household
A Holy Temple (United with other Believers)
Being Built Together into a Dwelling Place for God with Other Believers

Brothers and sisters, if you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, ALL of these things are true of you as well.  But Satan doesn’t want you to know that; he doesn’t want you to remember that.  He wants you to think you are a sinner, a loser, unacceptable to God.

Now, this special status of “saint” comes to us not because we are more deserving than anyone else.  It is given to us because God sovereignly chose to save us (Acts 16:13-16).

As “saints” have the power (the righteous life of Christ living in us and through us) to live saintly.  Our position can influence our practice.

Before salvation, we were “in Adam,” now we are “in Christ.”  That is where we accrue all these spiritual blessings and have our spiritual status.  Through the gospel our identity has been fundamentally (and forever!) changed.

Now, notice that Paul says, “to all the saints in Christ Jesus…”  He does this before he calls out the spiritual leaders because he wants all of them—leaders and congregation—all of them—even those who were involved in conflict—to know that they are saints.

Knowing that you are a saint is the foundation of becoming godly.  Remember the “grammar of the gospel,” the indicative always precedes the imperative.  What Christ has done for us always precedes, and is the foundation for, what we do for him.

The imperatives of the gospel are based on the indicatives of our relationship with Christ already established by his grace.  Another way of saying it is that promises precede commands.

There are only two kinds of people at Philippi, or in Mena—“saints” and “non-saints.”

Notice also that Paul addresses these people as being in two places—“in Christ Jesus” and “at Philippi.”  Later Paul will make a point that our citizenship is not really here, but in heaven.

We are “seated in the heavenlies” (Eph. 2:7) but we are right here in Polk County.

As a saint, a person set apart unto God, you are not to withdraw into a monastery, or to withdraw from our culture, as the Amish folks do.  You are to live in the culture, but to live distinctly from the culture, as one set apart unto God.  You are to engage with the culture, set apart by God’s truth (John 17:15-17).

Christ is the source of your life, Paul says, but Philippi is the sphere of your life.  We have a heavenly citizenship and an earthly residence.  Both are significant.  Both influence the other.

Ideally, our heavenly position should guide and influence our earthly involvements.

Now, Paul is establishing an important truth here—if you are going to enjoy relationships, you need to identify yourself as a saint—therefore capable of living rightly—and the person you are having conflict with as a saint.

Wow!  Have you ever considered that?  I know that in the middle of a fight, I’m not thinking that my wife, or anyone else I’m fighting with, is a saint.

Relationships among believers can be a source of great joy, but, frankly, they can also be a source of great pain.  As one wag put it, “To dwell above with the saints we love, O that will be glory; but, to dwell below with the saints we know, that’s a different story!”

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, I can predict with 100 percent accuracy that you have been hurt by fellow believers.  It just happens.

But if we live out of our position as saints, and believe that our opponent is also a saint, it can change the way we deal with conflicts.

How does one attack disunity and unselfishness?  By teaching (and modeling) that we are to honor one another above ourselves (cf. Phil. 2:3-4).  Thus, through the grace that God had lavished upon them, Paul and Timothy identified themselves as “slaves” (lower) and the Philippians as “saints” (exalted).

Paul ends verse 1 addressing the “overseers and deacons.”  This is the only time that Paul indicates both offices in one church, although it is likely that many churches had both elders and deacons.

Notice first of all that there is a plurality of each.  They also work together as a team, like Paul and Timothy.

In a local church God has designed that some men exercise spiritual leadership (overseers, or elders) and some men (and likely women as well) use their gifts and energies to serve the church.

The role of an elder/overseer/pastor as the terms are found in Acts 20:17, 28 and 1 Peter 5:1-4, refer to the office that provides spiritual care and gives guidance to the church to achieve its mission.

“Elder” emphasizes the maturity of the leader; “overseer” refers to management of resources; and “pastor” refers to personal ministry of feeding and leading the flock.

It was Paul’s practice to appoint elders in every congregation he founded (Acts 14:23).  Because this was an office that carried over from the Jewish synagogue, it is likely that the men Paul appointed were Jewish converts who had strong backgrounds in the Old Testament Scriptures.

The evidence suggests that most, if not all, of Paul’s churches had multiple elders (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 20:17; 21:18; Titus 1:5).  It is possible that each of them had responsibility for a “house church” or “small group” (1 Peter 5:2, “allotted to you”)

The primary responsibilities of elders are to “teach and rule” in the church (1 Thess. 5:12;13; 1 Tim. 5:17; Hebrews 13:7, 17).  We can define those responsibilities as promoting and protecting doctrine, providing direction and practicing discipline (positively through discipleship and negatively through disciplinary processes).

We noted last week the word “deacon,” which comes from diakonos and refers to someone who meets practical needs.  It originally referred to the serving of the Grecian widows in Acts 6 where the apostles stated, “It is would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word in order to wait tables” (6:2), so deacons were appointed for this task.

Deacons therefore meet practical needs and as many as are needed to serve the congregation can be elected or appointed.

Both elders and deacons had to meet high qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-12).

Again, Paul indicates two levels of leadership—one with authority, one serving—to emphasize how to get along in unity.

Let me close today with the words of Alex Motyer:

“Why should the world heed our evangelism if it does not see in the church that Christ has solved the problems of isolation, alienation, division, which curse and blight its own life?  This is what the world is waiting for today, as it did in Philippi in Paul’s day.  It waits for the sight of a people who have solved its problems in the reality of being in Christ, and whose lifestyle sets forth the old God-given morality with fresh loveliness as the holy likeness of Jesus is seen in them.”

Or, as Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

Published by

Lamar Austin

I've graduated from Citadel Bible College in Ozark, Arkansas, with a B. A. Then got my M. Div. and Th. M. at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. I finished with a D. Min. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, but keep on learning. I pastored at Chinese Christian Church of Greater Washington, D. C., was on staff at East Evangelical Free Church in Wichita, KS, tried to plant an EFC in Little Rock, before moving back home to Mena, where I now pastor my home church, Grace Bible Church

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