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.