We have here the inscription and benediction. Observe,
I. The persons writing the epistle—Paul and Timotheus. Though Paul was alone divinely inspired, he joins Timothy with himself, to express his own humility, and put honour upon Timothy. Those who are aged, and strong, and eminent, should pay respect to, and support the reputation of, those who are younger, and weaker, and of less note. The servants of Jesus Christ; not only in the common relation of his disciples, but in the peculiar work of the ministry, the high office of an apostle and an evangelist. Observe, The highest honour of the greatest apostle, and most eminent ministers, is to be the servants of Jesus Christ; not the masters of the churches, but the servants of Christ. Observe,
II. The persons to whom it is directed. 1. To all the saints in Christ who are at Philippi. He mentions the church before the ministers, because the ministers are for the church, for their edification and benefit, not the churches for the ministers, for their dignity, dominion, and wealth. Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy, 2 Cor. 1:24. They are not only the servants of Christ, but the servants of the church for his sake. Ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake, 2 Cor. 4:5. Observe, The Christians here are called saints; set apart for God, or sanctified by his Spirit, either by visible profession or real holiness. And those who are not really saints on earth will never be saints in heaven. Observe, It is directed to all the saints, one as well as another, even the meanest, the poorest, and those of the least gifts. Christ makes no difference; the rich and the poor meet together in him: and the ministers must not make a difference in their care and tenderness upon these accounts. We must not have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons, Jas. 2:1. Saints in Christ Jesus; saints are accepted only by virtue of their being in Christ Jesus, or as they are Christians. Out of Christ the best saints will appear sinners, and unable to stand before God. 2. It is directed to the ministers, or church-officers—with the bishops and deacons, the bishops or elders, in the first place, whose office it was to teach and rule, and the deacons, or overseers of the poor, who took care of the outward business of the house of God: the place, the furniture, the maintenance of the ministers, and provision for the poor. These were all the offices which were then known in the church, and which were of divine appointment. The apostle, in the direction of his epistle to a Christian church, acknowledges but two orders, which he calls bishops and deacons. And whosoever shall consider that the same characters and titles, the same qualifications, the same acts of office, and the same honour and respect, are every where ascribed throughout the New Testament to those who are called bishops and presbyters (as Dr. Hammond and other learned men allow), will find it difficult to make them a different office or distinct order of ministry in the scripture times.
III. Here is the apostolical benediction: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, Phil. 1:2. This is the same, almost word for word, in all the epistles, to teach us that we must not be shy of forms, though we are not to be tied down to them, especially such as are not scriptural. The only form in the Old Testament is that of a benediction (Num. 6:23-26), On this wise you shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. So in the New Testament, the good which is wished is spiritual good, grace and peace—the free favour and good-will of God, and all the blessed fruits and effects of it, and that from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, jointly from them both, though in a different way. Observe, 1. No peace without grace. Inward peace springs from a sense of divine favour. 2. No grace and peace but from God our Father, the fountain and original of all blessings, the Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift, Jas. 1:17. 3. No grace and peace from God our Father, but in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ, as Mediator, is the channel of conveyance of all spiritual blessings to the church, and directs the disposal of them to all his members.
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