Slaves and Saints
- David Fairchild
- Apr 4, 2004
- Series: Philippians
1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Normally we wouldn’t spend much time discussing in introduction to a letter from Paul because they are usually pretty standard.
This particular introduction is different than most of his letters. This is important because it immediately sets the tone for the whole letter.
Last week I mentioned that this letter was written by the Apostle Paul, who was an Apostle that planted churches.
Most people read Paul as a theologian when he should be read as a church planting pastor before we try to make him into a theological scholar.
Paul was no academic. This doesn’t mean he wasn’t brilliant, it simply means he didn’t sit back and talk about doing things for God. He didn’t teach on church planting, pastoring, or theology while never actually planting a church, pastoring a body of believers, and living the truths about the God he proclaimed. Paul did what he wrote.
Many want to take Romans and make it into an intellectual exercise to discuss the doctrines of grace, while forgetting that Paul was writing to a body of believers in the city of Rome.
The richness of his letter was because he was dealing with real life, practical, nitty-gritty issues with that church and it was important that he taught them properly so they wouldn’t be hindered in their work to spread the Gospel.
The same is true for Philippians. It’s a letter written to a church he planted on his second missionary journey. And now on his third missionary trip he is arrested and is sitting for 4 years in Roman custody as he writes this letter.
This is important to understand because Paul will conclude this letter in chapter four by teaching us to be anxious for nothing, be thankful to God, and give him our prayers. He isn’t teaching the doctrine of comfort in suffering, he is living it. He isn’t teaching about having peace in times of trouble, he is peaceful. He isn’t teaching a lesson on how to have joy when we life hurts, he is joyful.
Everything Paul teaches, he teaches as someone that is experiencing the very things he encourages others to do. This is the heart of a pastor, not a textual analyst, or a systematics professor, or a bible as literature teacher.
We need to understand this when we read the Bible so that we actually can get to know Paul and allow him to teach our church 2,000 years later as if he were alive today and we just received his “letter to the saints in San Diego.”
1 Paul and Timothy…
Paul and Timothy are church planters. They are the ones that got together and planted the church in Philippi.
This is like Drew and I. Timothy is Paul’s right hand man, Drew is mine; Timothy is his wingman, Drew is mine. He is like Goose on Top Gun, though Goose dies because of Maverick’s carelessness, so that might not be as appealing to Drew, but it probably isn’t too far from reality. Plus, Paul made Timothy get circumcised as an adult, which can’t be pleasant.
But Paul and Timothy aren’t asking for special privileges from the church they planted. They’re not asking the Philippians to kiss their ring, or to hang pictures of them in their homes.
Paul views himself much different than we would expect for someone who is as well known and instrumental in planting churches and seeing many come to Christ through his ministry.
What does Paul call himself and Timothy?
How do your translations handle this word? Servant? Bondservant?
The Greek word Paul uses to describe himself and Timothy is doulos
The best translation for the word is doulos which literally means slave.
Obviously there is a big difference between a servant who can quit their job at any time they wanted, and a slave who is owned by someone else.
Paul isn’t describing himself as someone who is just employee, he is calling himself a slave. He has given up all of his rights to freedom. He is in bondage to someone else. He has been bought out from the slave market and is owned by a master.
A doulos would be owned and governed by a kurious which means Lord. This title of Kurios is given to Jesus Christ. He is called “the kurious Jesus Christ.”
My goal isn’t to give you lessons in Greek, it’s to show you how Paul viewed his relationship to his master. Paul views himself as an individual that has no interest in his own ways, his own will, or his own direction.
Instead Paul seems to think that he is purchased, owned, and governed by someone else.
When hearing that Paul didn’t consider himself as anything more than a slave, our first instinct is to reject his description because we don’t want to be slaves of anyone.
Our natural desire is to be free from the control or mastery of anyone or anything. We are told again and again that we are to think for ourselves, live for ourselves, and to look out for ourselves.
It is completely unnatural to consider ourselves as slaves who have been purchased by a master. When we think of slavery, we think of cruel slave owners that abused, devalued and dehumanized the slaves they owned. Our reference point is from a human perspective, and that perspective is not appealing.
We live in a country that values its freedom. We are even called “land of the free” in our Star Spangled Banner.
We are told to never be dependent upon someone else and if you are you are called co-dependent. We are told we should never let someone else make up our mind for you, you should do it on our own.
So we resist the idea of being a slave because we immediately have images of human indignity. And rightfully so if that is all we have seen or heard or imagined.
But I’m not speaking of a human Lord who abuses his power. I’m not speaking about someone who only loves and cares for himself. I’m not introducing you to a master that makes you work for him to earn his favor.
When Paul calls himself a slave, it’s because he has locked in his mind a master that saved him from death. A Lord that has given him a kind of love that isn’t even possible to describe with human lips. A kurios that didn’t buy him with gold or silver but bough him with His own blood.
Paul has in mind his master when he calls himself a slave, he is thinking of Jesus Christ.
…of Jesus Christ,
Why should we care that Paul calls himself a slave of Christ?
Because Paul’s description of Timothy and himself is also a description of you and I if we have been bought by Jesus.
Some of us today might actually believe we are good enough, smart enough, and strong enough that we don’t need a master to own us. The problem is, whether we are mastered by Christ or not, we are all slaves to something.
In John 8, Jesus was speaking to a group of religious people and He tells them that if they follow Him they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free.
Their response is much like ours today. We are religious people and because of our family, because of our church attendance, or because of our bloodline, we assume that we are already free and the idea of someone telling us they will set us free is nonsense.
So in verse 33- They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free'?"
In other words, my parents were Christian, my grandparents were Christian, I grew up going to church and am a pretty religious person so how dare you tell me you’re going to set me free?
Jesus answers them in verse 34- Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.
Then He tells them in verse 36- "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
His point was that only He can set someone free. Why? Because He is the only one to forgive sin. And everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
We will either be a slave of another master, or we will be a slave of our Lord. It is either/or not both/and because we can’t serve two masters (Matt. 6:24).
But I thought you just said that Paul called himself a slave, and Jesus just said that He would set you free? Which is it?
Here’s an answer you’ll love…BOTH!
This opens up a whole can of worms.
Our God is a God of paradox. Often we see in the bible two truths that, when laid side by side, appear to contradict one another.
But where real contradictions are impossible to reconcile a paradox is only difficult because it has a deeper and more profound meaning and message to its teaching.
I would guess that most of us don’t like the idea of paradoxes in scripture because we are like children that are completely happy to have simple rules that are easy to follow.
If a parent has to spank their child, usually they tell them they love them and because they love them they have to spank them.
What? The child can only think of a spanking as bad not good. So how can mom or dad show their love by spanking them or disciplining them? It’s a paradox to the child. They seem to contradict one another. Love and discipline to a toddler seems like totally opposite things.
But are they? No.
In the same way, when we hear of Paul calling himself a slave, and yet Christ saying he set him free, we don’t really get it.
It’s because we don’t like mystery, and we don’t like tension. We usually will want to tidy up things that are mysterious in the bible so we don’t have to live between to points of apparent contradiction.
Think about this with me:
God is one, yet He is three? He’s a Trinity? If you overemphasize His oneness, you end up with and eternally lonely and needy God. If you overemphasize his plurality, you end up with three gods which completely contradicts the Scriptures. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all different, yet they’re One.
Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man? If you try to overemphasize His humanity you detract His deity, and if you overemphasize His deity, they you diminish His humanity to suffer for our sins as a man who stands in our place.
The Bible is the word of God, but the Bible is written by men? God uses each authors personality and style, his language and culture to speak to humankind. If you overemphasize God as author, you end up with God using a Bic pen in heaven. If you overemphasize the human involvement and it can’t be trusted. If you have both, you have God’s words spoken in a human language that we can understand.
God is infinite and yet He is personal? He is out there, but he is also right here? If you overemphasize Him as infinite, you make Him out to be just something out in the stars who has no interest in His creation. If you overemphasize Him as personal, He ends up being nothing more than a spiritual buddy that doesn’t have much power to do anything but listen to us.
As human beings, we are physical and spiritual beings. If we overemphasize us as physical and we end up as an evolved monkey. If you overemphasize us as spiritual, we end up with physical reality as an illusion like the Christian Scientists. Have both and you are an image-bearer of God and can reflect Him like no other creature He made.
We are both saints and sinners? We live between what we already have but don’t possess. We’re caught between being a new creature that is wrapped in an old body. We follow a once and future King.
The humble are exalted. The exalted are humbled. “Those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14: 11)
Lose your life to find it. Find your life and lose it. “Those who find their life will lose it and those who lose themselves for my sake will find it.” (Matthew10:39)
The foolish are wise. “If any one among you think that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise.” (1 Corinthians 3:18; cf. 4:10)
The poor are rich. “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.” (James 2:5)
The weak are strong. “...for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Die to live. “...always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:10)
Give to receive. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
The first are last. The last, first. “The last shall be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16; Mark 9:35)
Slavery leads to freedom. “Having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:18; cf. 1 Cor. 7:22)
This is how we live by faith. We see mystery and paradox as a blessing not as a curse.
In other words, we participate in more than “mere religion” with all its rules, prohibitions, and principles. We participate in the divine life itself, the very mystery of God in Christ through the Spirit.
Paul moves from calling himself a slave to addressing “all the saints in Christ Jesus.”
…To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi,
Literally he is calling them holy, consecrated, and sacred. He is saying that they are special to God, that they are completely different than everyone else in this world, that they are blameless and pure.
Paul is talking to you. It is like he is writing this letter to you and I and he is addressing us the same way. He says you are holy, you are pure, you are blameless, you are different, you are special, you are sacred, you are consecrated, set apart.
We think of saints usually as being someone that is recognized for their actions of bravery, or some giving, or serving of the poor for a long period of time like Mother Teresa.
But here is the truth…you are a saint if you are in Christ Jesus.
There isn’t a special work you need to do. You don’t need to be voted into sainthood. You’ll never do enough to earn the status of a saint.
If you are in Christ, God declares you a saint.
How many of you feel holy, and blameless, and pure?
How many of you feel sacred, and consecrated, and special for God?
The people in Philippi were just like you and I. They had jobs, were married, had kids, got sick, got angry, said things they regretted, did things they were ashamed of, and yet Paul calls them saints.
Paul knew their faults. He knew their struggles and worries. He knew they were nothing but humans that were not perfect. But he still calls them saints.
Why? Because they were in Christ Jesus. They were literally inside Christ, residing safely in Him.
You’re not an electrician, you’re not an architect, you’re not even a student. You’re not a real estate agent, or a housewife. You’re not an admin, or retail clerk. You’re not even an employee of the church. You’re a saint of God in Christ!
You are a saint already. You are holy already. You are sacred already. You are consecrated already. You are blameless already. You are pure already. Why? Because you are in Christ and Christ is what makes you a saint!
You don’t get your identity from what you do, you get it from what you are. And you are a saint of God. You live and you move and you have your being in Him.
You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people… Why? …That you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9).
You might not feel like a saint. But that is how God sees you. You might not feel righteous. But that’s how God sees you. You might not feel special. But to God you were special enough that He sent His son in your place on the cross.
Again this is the paradox of being a sinner and a saint at the same time. We don’t feel like saints but we are because of what Christ has done. The more we believe God’s words that we are who He says we are, the quicker we will begin acting like the saints we already are.
You’re bible says in 2 Cor. 5:21 For He (God the Father) made Him (God the Son) who knew no sin to be sin for us (you and I), that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
It’s not by our beauty, it’s not by our works, it’s not by our efforts, it’s not by our goodness, it’s not by our words, it’s not by our bloodline, it’s not by our church attendance, it’s not by our mom or dad, sister or brother, boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife. We are saints and declared as the righteousness of God because we love and are in Jesus.
It’s His righteousness, it’s his purity, it’s his bloodline, it’s his work, it’s his obedience, it’s his holiness, that makes us who we are.
All we can do is thank Him, and cast ourselves at His feet because He did it all and deserves all credit.
Paul then throws Drew, Scott and I a bone.
with the bishops and deacons:
Did you know that you’re church is structured like a biblical church with elders and deacons? Here it is.
Drew is an elder or a bishop and Scott is a deacon. These men love you guys. They sacrifice time with their wives and children. These men pray for you and they work as slaves to Christ for you. Their desire is to live in such a way that you see Christ in them.
Drew is my elder. I am held accountable by him. I listen to my elder and I love him because I know that he would take a bullet for me, and I for him. I love his wife, and they love my wife. If Grace and I need something, I know we can call them any time and they would be there. Grace and I love little Gideon because he is part of our family, and they love Madison and Michael because they are part of their family.
When Drew, Heather, Grace and I planted this church we knew that we would have times when we needed to cry, we needed to disagree, we needed to love each other and each of those things have come to pass and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As Paul writes this letter to the church he planted to tell them about a joy he found in the middle of his struggles. To tell them about a peace he found in the middle of loosing everything. I understand what he was talking about.
As Grace and I are selling our house, and are in a place of loosing what seems to be everything, we can actually talk to you about joy in the middle of struggles and peace in the middle of loosing everything.
God has a way of making the bible real to the preacher so that when he preaches, he’s not preaching about some distant text, he’s preaching about his life.
The one thing that has kept Drew and Heather, and Grace and I trusting in God and living in peace is what Paul mentions next…
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
God gives us grace. Where we don’t have to win His approval because Christ already has. We don’t have to suffer to prove our devotion, Christ already has. We don’t have to pay for our sins, Christ already has.
That reality gives us peace. People that think they have to win God’s approval with do’s and don’ts never have peace. They can never rest their head on their pillow and trust in God, because they trust too much in themselves.
This peace comes from our Father and from our kurios, our master.
Some of you have had human Fathers that have let you down. They have not been there when you most needed them. They have not loved you the way you needed to be loved. They have not been faithful to their promises. They have not protected you the way they should have. They have not comforted you when you were in your deepest pain.
Our Father gives us grace, and He gives us peace. He gives us what we have always desired, always hoped for, and rarely experienced. He has given peace.
Our Lord, which we serve, protects us. He loves us beyond what we could ever get from another human. He comforts us when we are in our darkest hours, and He is always faithful, never lies, and never leaves us.
I want each of us to experience the paradox of being a slave who is free. I want each of us to experience being a sinner who is a saint of God.
Come to Christ as we take communion and tell Him what it is you have struggled with. Give him your empty pockets and hands full of sin and let Him wash you and cleanse you.
Confess to God what you need and trust in faith His forgiveness is upon His saint.
Communion and tithe.