Philippiansby David Sanford
Do you have close Christian friends who live far away? If you do, how does it feel when you receive a warmly-worded text, heartfelt letter, or joyful call from them? In a word: Blessed!
Several years have passed since Paul, Silas, Luke, and Timothy first visited the city of Philippi (Acts 16:12-40). The congregation is now perhaps a decade old and, in many ways, a noteworthy example of a New Testament church. As an interesting aside, many Bible scholars believe that Luke stayed behind and served as the church's spiritual leader during its infancy. Thus, part of the credit for the thriving church, humanly speaking, goes to Luke, while the other part goes to the overseers and deacons (Philippians 1:1).
Not only has the Philippian church grown spiritually, it has also grown numerically. The initial nucleus of believers included Lydia, the city jailer and his family, and a young woman freed from demon possession. It also included Clement, Euodia, and Syntyche, who worked shoulder to shoulder with Paul (4:2-3). From that small group, an established church has developed.
Paul starts by blessing the Philippian believers: ″Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ″ (1:2). The first blessing, ″grace″, appears twice in the opening chapter (vv. 2, 7) and a third time in the letter's closing verse (4:23). In the context of the greetings in chapter 1, grace speaks of God's eternal riches and infinite goodness, freely given to us. How good it is that we can thank God daily for bringing us into His family! And how good it is that we can enjoy grace-filled relationships with each other! When we reconcile with a fellow believer, that is God's grace at work.
The second blessing, ″peace″, appears once here (1:2) and twice in the closing chapter (4:7, 9). In this context, peace speaks of the calmness, assurance, and joy we experience when we enter God's presence through prayer. That's when we give Him thanks for who He is, what He has done for us through Christ, and what He has promised to do for us.
God's peace is not dependent on our circumstances in life. Even in prison, Paul feels deeply blessed-so much so that he can extend God's grace and peace to others.
When do we receive the blessings of God's grace? What has been your own experience? When do we receive the blessings of God's peace? Is it something you experience often, sometimes, or rarely?
The Lord can use you to speak grace and peace into the lives of others. What might hold you back from doing this?