Grace and Peace
Tim Temple

Introduction

We've been looking at the introduction of this very personal letter. In our last lesson, we thought in verse 1 about what it should mean to be a saint. Paul writes to the saints in Christ Jesus, which are at Philippi. And we talked about the fact that our practice should measure up to our position. Our position is that of a saint in God's sight, and God expects that our practice should measure up to that position.

Our passage in this study is Philippians, chapter 1, and we want to look specifically at verses 1 and 2; but to get those verses in context, we will read the first few verses together.

Philippians 1

1Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
2Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
4Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
5For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
6Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

These verses speak of the confidence that the Apostle Paul had in the Philippians, not because of them, but because of the God they served. Chapter 1 falls into three parts. First, in verses 1-11, the prayer that Paul makes for the Philippians; in verses 12-26, Paul's perspective of life; in verses 27-30, Paul's plea to the Philippians on the basis of his perspective of life.

He was in prison when he wrote this letter, and, in verses 12-26 particularly, he tells us how he reacts to that prison experience. Then in verses 27-30, he says in so many words, “Now you Philippians, I want you to be able to look at life from this same perspective. I want you to be able to walk with the Lord in the way that He has enabled me to walk with Him.”

In verses 1 and 2, as we looked at Paul's prayer, the first part of the chapter, we have the prelude to the prayer. In that prelude, in those verses just before he begins to tell them how he is praying for them, we have the greeting of the letter, the salutation. First of all, in verse 1, he greets the saints in Philippi.

We talked in our last lesson about the fact that those saints are set apart ones. The word “saint” is a translation of the Greek word hagios and it means “set apart.” As I mentioned a moment ago, God expects our practice to measure up to that position which He has given us as saints.

Bishops and Elders as Overseers

Then you will notice in the last part of verse 1, that this letter is also addressed to the bishops and deacons. We want to think in detail today about that part of the verse, and then go on into verse 2. In order to be well informed about the New Testament, we need to be familiar with terms such as this. These are terms that occur again and again, particularly in the epistles of the New Testament. So think with me now about the word “bishop”. We need to clearly understand what the New Testament is talking about when it refers to a bishop, because it is still something we hear about today.

The word “bishop” is a translation of the Greek word episkopos . The word episkopos literally means an overseer. That is the simple meaning of the word–one who is an overseer.

Keep a marker here in Philippians and turn with me to the book of Acts, and notice something very important about this word, episkopos . In Acts, chapter 20, Luke uses the word episkopos in two places, talking about the time when Paul called the elders in Ephesus together to tell them goodbye as he was getting ready to go to Rome and probably would never see them again. It is not our purpose in this lesson to look at that particular farewell, but simply to notice the use of this word. Notice Acts, chapter 20, verse 17. The verses before this tell how he was taking a certain route on his way to Rome, and he came to the island of Miletus. In verse 17, from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church. In verse 17, we have a reference to the elders. Then glance down at verse 28, of Acts, chapter 20:

Acts 20

28Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Think with me for a minute what this is saying. Here in verse 28, we have a record of the address that Paul gave to these elders. He called them out to meet him on the island of Miletus, and notice how he refers to them. He says to these elders in verse 28, “The Holy Spirit hath made you overseers over this church.” Now there in verse 28 is a translation of our word episkopos . In verse 17, we have the word that perhaps we are more familiar with in our church today, the word “elders.” The word “elders” is a translation of the word presbuteros , but what we are seeing here in Acts, chapter 20 is the elders–the presbuteros –and the bishops–the episkopos –are used interchangeably. These elders Paul refers to as “overseers”–these presbuteros men. He refers to those same men as episkopos –overseers.

Responsibility of Elders

The point I am making is that there should be no clerical distinction. In the New Testament there is not any clerical distinction, any grade or rank of difference between a bishop and and an elder. Even though there are two different words in the English and the Greek, they refer to the same office or to the same function. So what we see in the Roman Catholic church today, in terms of a bishop being a high ranking official in the church, is not in keeping with the New Testament use of that term. Rather, a bishop is one who is an overseer of the church. In fact the word epis kopos is a combination of two Greek words which means specifically that. The word epi is a word which means “over,” and the word skopeo means “to look” or “to watch”, and so episkopeo , “to look or to watch over.” So an elder or a bishop, the same word, is someone who oversees the flock, one who takes the responsibility to watch over the flock.

Of course, various groups take various positions on to what extent the elder is an official in the church. There are those groups who believe that elders are pastors, and only pastors, and that when you see the word “elder,” in the New Testament, it is a reference to pastors. There are others who believe that elders can be men in the church who do not have the position as pastor, but who do take the responsibility of the group.

Basically, this in my opinion is the New Testament pattern. An elder is a man who may not be the pastor, but he does feel a God-given responsibility for the flock of which he is a part. The pastor, of course, would be an elder. Obviously, he would be the shepherd of the flock, but there could be in any given church other elders besides the pastor.

Of course, many times there are churches such as our own church where there would be several men in one congregation who had the gift of pastor-teacher, and those men would be elders in the church, not officially recognized as an office, but simply one who took the responsibility to pastor that flock. So these are the bishops or the elders, simply the overseers–those who take the responsibility for the ministry to the flock.

Again, as we go back to Philippians, chapter 1, we might mention that there are different degrees of organization in various churches. The pastors have the responsibility before God, the authority based on the teaching of the Word of God, and yet there are other men besides the pastor who feel a responsibility for this church who fit the New Testament concept of an elder or bishop, the New Testament sense of the word–a man who feels responsibility and takes responsibility for oversight of a congregation, one who labors among the people, who holds the flock up before God in prayer. One who is willing to do whatever is necessary to meet those needs is an elder, an overseer, a bishop, to use Paul's term here in Philippians, of that flock.

Deacons' Responsibility for Physical Details

In Philippians, chapter 1, notice that the letter is also addressed to the deacons in Philippi. Evidently in the church in Philippi, there were some men who were specifically designated in this way, who perhaps had an office known as elder, bishop, or as deacon. A deacon is a slightly different type of individual. In its use in the New Testament, in various places where we find this term, it is evidently a somewhat different function than an elder. The word “deacon” is a translation of the Greek word diakonos , and it means literally “those who serve.” The deacon is, in the strictest sense of the word, a servant.

The basic distinction between a deacon and an elder, if we were to take the time to compare the various passages of Scripture in which these two words occur, is that the elder feels and takes the responsibility before God for the spiritual welfare of the church, and the deacon is one who takes the responsibility from a material standpoint. The deacon is that kind of man who sees to it that the church is unlocked and warm for services, who sees to it that there is someone there to have the church cleaned up, who takes care of those material kinds of things. The deacon is the kind of man who when someone in the fellowship is sick or is facing some other problem, he is the kind of man who would be willing to perhaps organize the taking of food to the family, or perhaps do the physical running involved in taking food to the family, or would be the liaison between those who take the spiritual responsibility of that family and those who are preparing things physically. So a deacon, in various ways, is associated with the physical parts of the church. He has a God-given responsibility; he feels a God-given burden, but his burden is along the physical lines, along the material lines in a church.

God places men such as this in every church. Every church, every congregation that God has called together, God sees to it, in His sovereignty, that there are some men who have a burden for this kind of thing in the flock. There are some who have a burden for the spiritual welfare of the flock. I might pause at this moment–it is not a digression, but rather an application–to ask you to consider, Men, the responsibility of ministering to the flock.

You see, the pastors are not the only ones who minister to the flock. The pastors stand and teach the Word of God. That is our primary responsibility, and that, of course, carries with it the authority of the Word of God. As long as we stick to the Word of God and are teaching the Word of God, we speak with the authority of God, the authority of His Word.

Obviously the pastor cannot do everything that needs to be done, and there are men who function in these capacities, who feel the burden for the spiritual welfare of their group, and it may be that God is impressing on you to feel that responsibility and to take that responsibility and to pray diligently and to make yourself available for whatever needs you may be able to meet in a spiritual way in the group.

There are men who faithfully take care of the physical details. I can remember that when I left here ten years ago, not realizing that I might be back to work in this particular church, there were two individuals to whom I wrote letters, thanking them for the way they had ministered to me, but more importantly the way I had observed them minister to this fellowship. These are men that are very largely behind the scenes. Even though if you have been here sometime you would know their names, you might not have any idea all of the things that they do in the smooth operation of the physical plant of this church, making it possible for us to worship together and be blessed of God. These are very vital functions.

Evidently in Philippi those men had titles and were recognized, but whether they are recognized or not, God has men such as that in every congregation; and let me urge you, if God is perhaps leading you in that direction, if you feel perhaps some responsibility along those lines, then ask God for the grace and for the opportunity and the strength to function in that way, because God has organized it. God intended it to be that way in the local church.

So, the letter is addressed to the saints, to the bishops, and the deacons. These are some of the details concerning the bishops and the deacons. Let me mention also in passing, if you are going to make a study of elders and deacons, you might want to also include these references: I Timothy 3:1-13, and Titus 1:6-9. Those are passages that tell us the qualifications for elders and deacons. You see, God considers this responsibility so important that He even specifies the characteristics and the qualities of a man who functions in this way.

Obviously all of us can serve the Lord whether we serve as an elder or deacon or not. But for those who are going to take a place of responsibility in the local church, God holds that of such importance that He has given specific qualifications for those men. We can't take the time in this lesson to look at these passages in detail, but let me suggest that when you have time you think those qualifications through, and see the kind of men God wants to use in positions of responsibility in a local church.

Let me mention something else about verse 1 of Philippians, chapter 1. It is very significant, and it is not by accident, that the Holy Spirit has had Paul mention the saints first. Did you notice that? In verse 1, he says:

Philippians 1

1Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

You see, it is very easy, as we think about the bishops and the deacons, the elders and the deacons, because it is such an important responsibility, and since it is such a necessary function in the body in the local church, for us to exalt that group of men and to say, “My, without those men there could not be a church.” But you see, the church is not just the elders and deacons; the church is the saints. The church is those who believe in Jesus Christ. As God draws believers together around the study of the Word of God, then within that group, He manifests some leadership. But a church is not made up of the leadership. The church is made up of the saints. The flock is the church, not the leaders. The leaders are not the church, the flock is the church, and that is why He mentions the saints first, then the bishops, the elders, and the deacons.

Salutation of the Letter

That brings us to verse 2, where we have Paul's salutation to the Philippians. Here we find a verse that is very commonly used in the New Testament. If you will notice in verse 2, he says, in his characteristic way:

Philippians 1

2Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

The salutation, as I say, is one that Paul very commonly uses in the New Testament.

When we were studying the book of I Thessalonians, we talked about this very same form of greeting, and so I want us to think now about it from a little different standpoint. Notice here, this is not a standard greeting that Paul flips out as he writes a letter, not just something that he throws out every time he starts a letter. Even though it is included in most of his epistles, it has deep meaning. There is not a wasted word in the New Testament. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and profitable,” even the salutations of the letters in the New Testament, so let's think for a minute about this salutation. You probably are familiar with the fact by now that the word “peace,” in its Hebrew form, was the standard form of greeting of that day. The first century Roman world, as they met each other on the street, would say to one another, “Shalom .” I understand that in Israel, even today, to some extent this is still one of the greetings the people use when they greet each other.

That was the Hebrew form of the word, and even though these people spoke and wrote in Greek, the word “peace” in Greek would be eirene , but they used the Hebrew form for their greeting. Now if they were speaking about the subject of peace, then they would use the Greek form, but as they greeted each other on the street they would say, “Shalom .” They would use the Hebrew form. So Paul takes the Greek word “peace,” which was the common greeting of the day, and he uses that as his standard greeting, much like anyone would in writing a letter. Then he connects it with the word “grace.” Of course, the word “grace” is one of the basic foundational words in the New Testament. It is a keynote word of the New Testament.

Grace - Unmerited Favor of God

Now Paul combines grace and peace as his standard form of greeting, and I want to suggest to you that this is not only practically correct, but it is theologically correct. I want us to think together about the correctness of the use of these two words together, about the connection between the two. First of all, grace, as you know, is the unmerited favor of God, the fact that God loved us when we did not deserve to be loved. First John, chapter 4, verse 10, says:

I John 4

10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

You see, if real love were to be exemplified by our love for God, that would really not be grace because we love God because He first loved us. We love God because He is good to us. We love God because He has reached out to us, and our love for God is not a good picture of true love, because our love for God is simply a response to Him. Real love is love of the unlovely. Romans, chapter 8, tells us that, “…while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Christ died for us when we were His enemies. Now that is real love, and that is the idea behind the word “grace”, the unmerited favor of God. Grace, of course, underlies so many things in the New Testament. The concept is so very difficult for people to understand.

For example, grace underlies our giving, and one of the things that is hardest, it seems to me, for Christians to understand, particularly those who are just beginning to learn the Word of God, is the concept of “grace giving.” You see, God says, “I want you to give your money to Me with the same attitude that I have given myself to you. I want you to give your money, not with any sort of formula, not with any sort of standardization; but I want you to give your money on the basis of your love for Me and on the basis of My prompting without following any kind of formula, but simply giving as I direct you to, giving as I lead you to.” That is grace giving, and the same thing is true as we give on a grace basis. We do not give it expecting God to do something good for us. We should not have the attitude, “Well, I gave God a lot of money last year, therefore He is obligated to bless me. I gave a good healthy offering at church last Sunday, therefore God is obligated to give me some good business contacts this week.”

You see, grace is completely apart from any kind of merit, any kind of deal, any kind of return, or any kind of agreement. Grace is unmerited favor. Grace is given without any consideration of the return. Grace is given without thinking about what is going to happen as a result. And that is, as I say, the basic underlying principle of the New Testament.

The Basis for Grace

Romans, chapter 5, verse 2, tells us our basis for grace. Let's turn and look at that familiar verse, verse 1:

Romans 5

1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2By whom also we have access by faith [notice] into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

You see, our access into God's grace is through faith in Jesus Christ. Some theologians talk about “common grace,” and “efficacious grace.” Common grace is the fact that God allows the sun to shine on the just and the unjust. Common grace is the fact that it is God's mercy that we are not consumed. There is a sense in which God is gracious to all human beings. The fact that He lets us keep on breathing, just the fact that He keeps our hearts beating–that's grace, because He certainly is capable of putting a stop to it at any moment. The Scriptures do not use the term “common grace,” but theologians do.

Romans, chapter 5, verse 2, tells us there is a special personal grace that God gives to those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior. We have access into God's personal grace, His specific outpouring of grace upon us, by faith in Jesus Christ.

You see, a person who is not a believer in Christ cannot really expect the grace of God in his day-to-day affairs. God is much more gracious than most of us. Someone said one time about a person he was upset with, “That particular person is fortunate that I am not God, because I would have treated him much more unkindly than God has.” God is much more gracious with the unsaved than probably you and I would be. But there is a special grace relationship with those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. That is what Romans, chapter 5, verse 2, is talking about. That is what the theologians would refer to as “efficacious grace”–that grace that is brought into the life of a believer. We have access into this grace wherein we stand by faith in Jesus Christ. That is how we first come into the grace that is ours, the grace with which God deals in our lives.

I am sure that most of you already understood the point that I made, but there is something that you may or may not be aware of that we also need to think about concerning grace, and that is the fact that the Scriptures specify several areas of the Christian life in which we need grace in a special way, and I would like for us to take a few minutes for us to look at those.

Speech Seasoned With Grace

Turn with me to Colossians, chapter 4, verse 6. This passage talks about a special need for grace in a particular area of life:

Colossians 4

6Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Do you see that? “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.” Some of you may be saying, “You've quit preaching and gone to meddling.” You see, God is interested in how we as believers speak. How often do we, even us as believers, fly off the handle and say the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe with some of us it would be a matter of telling somebody off. With some of us it might be a matter of telling a story that is just a little off color. Maybe with others of us it might be a matter of using words that are really out of context, and that is really what profanity is. It is using words that God intended in one way, and we're using them in some other way–taking them out of context. And that is why God says, “As Christians, let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.”

It is interesting how He didn't say, “Be careful how you talk.” It's interesting He didn't say, “Talk like a Christian should talk.” But He said, “Let your speech be with grace.” You see, God can give us grace to speak in the right way, and He wants us to avail ourselves of His grace to speak in the right way.

Grace for Service

Another verse that is interesting along these lines, that has to do with our everyday life, is Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 28. Notice another need for grace:

Hebrews 12

28Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, [notice] whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

“Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably”–reverence and godly fear.

How many times have you started out, and I can ask myself this same question, to serve the Lord and we do it in our own strength? Maybe we want to witness to someone. Maybe we want to invite someone to Bible study or to church. Maybe we want to try to minister to someone in some way, and if we were to stop and analyze it, we would realize the whole thing from inception to plan to performance was all in our own strength. You see, God has a different viewpoint from that. He says, “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably.” God wants to give us the grace, He wants to give us the ability, He wants to give us the strength to serve Him. And so our service demands God's grace.

Grace for Growth

Turn to II Peter, chapter 3. Here is still another area where God specifies that we need His grace. In verse 18, the last verse of this epistle:

II Peter 3

18But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

But grow in grace. You see, even something as general as our spiritual growth, God says, demands His grace.

My children are at an age when they are very interested in growing. I guess that is something that continues with children until they get to be about the age of most of us, then we're not too interested in growing. But children are interested in growing. You know, sometimes as Christians we take the same approach that children do. One of my children one time stood still for a moment, and said, “ I think I felt myself growing just now.” You see, they are very interested in growing and getting bigger, and that is great. We like that in our children, but sometimes as Christians we are the same way, aren't we? “I'm going to grow if it kills me; I'm going to be a mature Christian, no matter what it takes.” You see, that is not God's approach. God says, “Grow in grace.” It takes God's grace to grow.

Prayer for Grace

Now I am leading to a certain point in all of this. Turn with me to Hebrews, chapter 4. Again it is a very familiar verse, but one that we do not think of in this context very often. Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 16, is talking about the fact that Jesus Christ is the High Priest. It's the passage that tells us He faced every temptation that we will ever face, and therefore we can come to Him for help as we face temptation. But think about it from a little different standpoint:

Hebrews 4

16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, [notice] and find grace to help in time of need.

I say to you that very often as Christians we don't have the kind of speech that we ought to have or the kind of service we ought to have or we don't grow spiritually the way that God would have us to because we don't pray about it. He is saying, “You need grace in these various areas of life.”

Hebrews 4

16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

God wants us to pray and ask for grace to speak correctly. God wants us to ask Him for grace to grow spiritually. God wants us to ask Him for grace to serve Him acceptably with reverence and fear, and so many times we go on our way and we try to do those things in our own strength and then we wonder why things aren't going better.

This is the wonderful aspect of grace. Going back to Philippians, chapter 1, it is no wonder, then, that Paul would tie this greeting with the standard greeting of the day, “Peace.” You see, it is only as we have grace in our lives that we will be able to have peace. Think about that. Only because of God's grace can we have peace in the first place. Because of God's grace in sending Jesus Christ, we can have peace with God through our faith in Jesus Christ; and because of God's grace to cause us to speak correctly and to serve Him correctly and to grow spiritually, then we can have peace with ourselves and with our fellow man.

You see, when a sinner gets saved by grace and continues to obtain grace for daily living, then he will be at peace with his Christian brethren. Grace and peace go together.

Conclusion

The closing words of verse 2 reaffirm the only source of grace and peace.

Philippians 1

2Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

There are a lot of people who are trying to obtain peace from some other source. There are a lot of people who are trying to accomplish the things in their lives that only grace can accomplish, but we should be reminded as we conclude this study that grace and peace come from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, it takes grace to be the kind of servant Paul was, as we thought about in our last lesson; and to be that kind of servant brings great peace in the life. God give us grace and peace.


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