Prisons and Palaces
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We've reached the end of Philippians, but we haven't even come close to exhausting the riches of this letter. Even here at the end, as Paul "signs off", nothing is unnecessary, nothing is without meaning.
21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Philippians 4:21-23
When Paul calls these Christians “saints” he is bestowing words of blessing on them, because the title is a rich and gracious reminder of what has become of them. According to Paul in Ephesians 1 & 2, a “saint” is a person who is blessed in the heavenly realms, chosen, predestined, becoming holy, redeemed, marked, once dead, made alive by mercy, saved by grace, and created for good works!
The word “saint” means a “holy one” or “someone set apart.” You and I both know that we don’t achieve that status on our own. It requires something we don’t have: an alien righteousness. That is, a righteousness and perfection that comes from some other place. Without it, we’re lost and cursed and under God’s wrath - so what can be done?
Second Corinthians 5:21 tells us so simply where this righteousness comes from: Christ became cursed for us (who are cursed) so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. It's a great exchange. It's how a sinner becomes a saint.
It is important – eternally, immediately important – that you are a saint. Not the halo-on-your-head, robe-wearing, sour-faced, peeling-paint portrait you might have in mind, but a real full-of-sin person who’s met the real Jesus and has been clothed in his righteous perfection and been given a crown of joy to wear. All it takes is turning to Christ after you realize your need of him and calling out for him to save you.
Now, on to a unique group of believers Paul mentions: “The saints of Caesar’s household.” Who were these Christians in Caesar's palace? They were likely people who were engaged in imperial service. They might have been slaves or freedmen serving in the large network that kept the palace running. There is every possibility some of them may have been of some importance.
It's important to recall that Nero was emperor at this time. Nero was a wicked, godless tyrant. He even arranged for the death of his own mother, who disapproved of an affair he was having. Of course we know that many Christians died at his command. However, in the midst of all the darkness and immorality of that regime, the message of Christ had taken root and produced fruit! Do you see? There is fertile ground everywhere, so don’t stop sowing seed, and never doubt the power of the Gospel.
The point is, there are believers everywhere, and in places we wouldn’t expect. The Gospel has no limitations, no borders, and no boundaries. It is powerful, and because it is powerful, there is great hope! Keep this in mind when you think about your friends and your family members and your neighborhoods that you consider too hard, too far gone, or too uninterested.
Paul’s final words in this letter are a blessing, a true benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” It was his deepest desire that they experience, in a daily way, the grace of Jesus. If we look closely, we see that Paul begins and ends his letter with grace. In 1:2 he opens with “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”So as Paul uses grace as bookends to his letter, we ought to make this grace in which we stand like bookends for every day, from the opening of our eyes in the morning, to their closing at night. All of the Christian life is all of grace!