Servants and Saints
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:1-2
In this passage we'll focus on just a few words: servants, saints, and Christ Jesus. First, notice that the prepositions which follow "servants" and "saints" tie them directly to Christ. That's going to be important as we move forward, and begin to understand more deeply not only what these words mean, but what it means for us to be these words.
The word Paul used when he wrote this letter in Greek was doulos. Many Bibles translate this word as "servant", but a better translation is actually "slave." Among the many metaphors used to describe believers in the New Testament, such as "lights", "aliens", and "sheep", "slave" is used more than any other - at least 40 times!
In the first century Mediterranean world Paul lived in, slaves were typically not mistreated or oppressed in the ways we generally imagine when we hear the word "slave." They were, however, owned and considered property. And their existence depended completely on their master.
First Corinthians 6 & 7 both state that we as believers were "bought with a price." The context indicates that we were bought and that our freedom was purchased. Now that's something. We are set free to be slaves! I say, it's good to be owned by the Lord.
Now, because we are servants (slaves) of the Lord, we should be servants of one another. We see this in Paul's example. He didn't assert his apostleship over the Philippians or go blustering on about his authority over them. No, instead he places himself at their feet, always working for their good.
What if we approached one another with this attitude? What if we let it lead the way in our relationships as spouses, parents, children. What if instead of insisting we’re more right, more knowledgeable, or more whatever, we navigated our relationships with our brothers and sisters with Christ’s humility? Think about that.
So what about saints? Reflexively, many of us might think of the Roman Catholic church and its myriad collection of saints. If the requirements for sainthood within Catholicism are correct, poor apostle Paul was sadly mistaken. Of course the error is not on Paul's part. All believers are saints.
The Greek word for saint is hagios. It simply means something or someone that is "set apart" or "most holy." But you may ask, "how can I be holy? I still sin, like everyday!" The answer is found in the glorious gospel as described in 2 Corinthians 5:21 where we read about a great exchange: "God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ." Christ took on our sin. He replaced it with his righteousness because he was perfectly obedient. Stop and ponder that for a while, and it will change the course of your life.
Hebrews 10:10 reinforces these facts: "And by that will (that is, the will of God), we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." In the cross our identity has been fundamentally changed, and we have been set free to pursue holiness. Many people think a strong view of God's grace leads to a license to sin, but the opposite is true. Paul told Titus that it is actually grace that changes our behavior toward holiness: "grace teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions."
So, saints are not “the good people.” Saints are not “the church people.” Saints are THE SAVED. Romans 6:22 says, “ But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” We are made saints to become slaves. Don’t flinch at being a slave of Christ. Because that’s true freedom.
As a closing point, let us not forget the forerunner, the "holy one of God" (John 6:69) who came "not to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:28). He is the only reason we are servants and saints.