Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Paul the Doulos

Today — finally! — we begin in Paul’s letter to the Jesus believers at Philippi.
Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:1)
About a dozen years have passed since Paul and Timothy, along with Silas and Luke, first came to Philippi. On that visit, Paul and Silas ended up in jail just before they left. Now Paul is under arrest again, probably house arrest in Rome, as described by Luke in Acts 28:23-31. He is under guard and awaiting trial, but he does have some limited freedom to receive visitors and teach them about Jesus the Messiah and the kingdom of God.

Timothy is with him, at least nearby, and Paul includes him in the greeting. Paul would like to send Timothy to them, that he may find out more particularly how they are doing (Philippians 2:19), but he cannot at this time. Indeed, Paul would like to come himself but, of course, he cannot. This letter will have to suffice for the time being.

Paul does not identify himself as apostle, as he does in so many of his other letters, but as a doulos, a “bondservant” of Jesus the Messiah. The believers at Philippi certainly know Paul as apostle — he is their apostle, the one who came and established them in the faith. But what they need to understand more than that is that he is a servant — a bond slave! — to the Lord Jesus.

Paul writes to them for many reasons, each important in its own way. But there is one matter in particular in which they need the example of the Lord Jesus. There has been a lack of humility, and Paul will address that in what we know as Chapter 2 (Paul’s original letter, of course, was not divided into chapters and verses). There he will exhort them to allow the mind of the Messiah to be at work in them, the mind of the one who humbled Himself and became a doulos, a bondservant for the sake of others (Philippians 2:5-8).

So Paul identifies himself and Timothy as “bondservants of Jesus Christ.”

Focus Questions
  1. What sort of authority do you suppose an apostle has?
  2. What sort of authority do you suppose a bondservant has?
  3. What sort of authority do you suppose Jesus, the Lord who became a bondservant for our sake, has?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Size Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

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