"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Monday, September 30, 2013

Joyful Greetings

When I run into someone who has been a friend for some time, it is not unusual, when we part, for him or her to say something like: "Say hi to Mary for me." So it is not unusual for us to exchange "parting greetings." So did Paul typically send along greetings as he closed a letter to a church. His letter to the church in Philippi is no exception:

"Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with  me send greetings. All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen." Philippians 4:21-23

Unlike some current approaches to Christianity that build a hierarchical structure, in Paul's letters all true believers (followers of Christ) are considered saints. So when he says "greet all the saints," he is basically instructing the recipients to greet all the believers in their town. The same is true of all the brothers and saints who are with him, who send greetings to the saints in Philippi. The reference to Caesar's household might well refer to literal family members of the family of Caesar that Paul has witnessed to during his imprisonment. No wonder Paul could say that his current situation had advanced the gospel of Christ. As usual, Paul gave great prominence to the grace of Jesus Christ as he closed his letter, "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."

It is always a temptation to skim opening and closing comments in these letters. In doing so, we run the risk of losing some nuggets. Paul's all inclusive language is not accidental, I suspect. I think it fits in, and enhances, his message of unity and joy to the Philippian church. The letter is not only to a pastor, or the elders, or to certain hand-picked individuals who were somehow special or superior. Rather, it was from all the saints to all the saints. The implication is simple and profound...we are all the same. All who come to Jesus are in need of the same grace for salvation and sanctification (Philippians 1:4-6).

When we lose sight of these things, hierarchies develop, people develop superior attitudes and become judgmental about inconsequential things. When our focus is all about Jesus and the things he brings to us, peace, joy, and unity reign in our hearts, in our relationships, and in the body of Christ. This does not happen automatically or without some intentional effort on our parts, but the Holy Spirit assists us to do his will in the work of unity.

So, friends, readers, brothers and sisters, saints, we close this letter with Paul. We have looked at every verse together over the last several months. As you continue to reflect on the book of Philippians, I am certain that the Spirit will show you deeper and deeper understanding, insight and application of these joyous truths. That's what he does, because he loves us so. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all, no exceptions. Amen