Monday, December 21, 2009


The Apostle Paul wrote more of the New Testament than any other writer. Thirteen, and some say fourteen, of the twenty-seven books were penned by Paul (some consider Hebrews as being his as well). While in school, I noticed something unique about his letter to the Philippians. It is addressed to "all the saints...with the bishops and deacons." What makes this different, is that he addresses the bishops and deacons as though they were not included in "all the saints." Of course, in the biblical sense, they too were saints, so why did Paul list them separately? Apart from his letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, all of his epistles, with the exception of Philippians, were written to the body of believers as a whole.

There are subtle hints in Philippians which might be the answer. Most people think of Philippians as Paul's letter encouraging the readers to rejoice. It is a constant theme, and to be sure, it is meant to teach his fellow believers to be happy and content with the circumstances in which they find themselves. But underlying the encouragement lies another, less obvious, message. In Chapter One, Paul suggests that there are those spokesmen for Christ that preach because they are envious of Paul (verses 15-16). Paul was suffering much persecution for his efforts to preach Christ. He indicates that he is but a humble prisoner with the distinct possibility of losing his life. In Chapter Two, Paul continues his emphasis on humility by reminding his readers that Jesus Christ, God incarnate, took on the role of a servant, and it cost Him His life. The passage begins by Paul telling them to be like-minded, to humble themselves as Jesus had done (verses 5-8).

In Chapter Three, Paul speaks of men who apparently "were flashing their credentials" in order to lord it over them. Paul counters them by using his own experiences as being superior to those of the Judaizers, and yet he considers it all worthless. He even refers to the works of the flesh as dung (verses2-8). He goes on to say that he, Paul, had not yet "arrived" which suggest that there were those among them who seemed to think they had (verses12-14). He exhorts them to be of the same mind; they were to walk humbly as they focused on heavenly things and not this world (verses 15-21). He continues by specifically naming two of their brethren who especially need to change (Chapter Four, verse 2).

I believe that Paul saw the bishops and deacons in Philippi as being arrogant and proud. It might be said that most churches today could learn from Paul in this area. Pastors, elders, and deacons are servants of God for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ. There is only One Head. Jesus Christ, our Lord, loves servants who are humble, and who love the "sheep." However, it seems that religious leaders will always need to be reminded that, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, it is easy to begin to think of themselves as being greater than those they are gifted to serve. Read Romans 12:3. Humility is the product of gratitude!

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