We are back with Paul's letters to churches and this one is addressed to the church at Philippi and is a much more intimate letter than the one sent to the Ephesians. We discussed the reasons for that previously. Paul's visit to Philippi is written about in Acts 16 v 11-40 and from his visit a fellowship of believers was established which met at Lydia-the wealthy purple cloth dealer's-house. Despite, or perhaps because of, the persecution experienced by both the fellowship and Paul, they were very close and this is a very positive, pastoral and intimate letter. There are similarities with Paul's introductions elsewhere, but this letter is full of encouragement and speaks of the joy Paul had when remembering their friendship. He makes no mention of his apostleship: he has no need to exert his God-given authority to this fellowship. They love him and they know him for who he is! Thank God for Christians who don't complain, harp on about some small aspect of church or Christian-living and give solid, dependable support to their leaders! I thank God for all of you who do that for me. Interestingly, one cannot become a Reverend unless one has a church who declare that, yes, that person is our leader. I once knew a dear African man who finding no audience for his preaching, went to a forest and preached to the trees! I understand what he was asserting, but a church leader can only be as good as his or her church will allow. Paul does make one titular claim in these opening verses: that of slave. The difference between a servant and a slave in those days was that servants were hired and when their working day was finished they could do whatever they pleased. The slave was his Master's forever, he or she had been bought with a price! They had no will but their Master's and lived to be obedient to Him. That does not mean that a Christian's slavery to Jesus Christ is one of cowering subjection, but the opposite: to be Christ's slave brings absolute freedom. It is when we hold back from absolute commitment that trouble starts.
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