Calvary Road Baptist Church

“SAINTS AND SALUTES”

Philippians 4.21-23

 

We have come to the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippian congregation. As I reflect back over this marvelous epistle written to a group of people Paul loved passionately, I am amazed at how much I learned during my study and preparation time about the Christian life, about the condescension and humility of my Lord Jesus Christ, and about the real foundation that is needed for unity in a church, which is an honest and heartfelt humility after the fashion of our Savior.

I am truly convinced that Paul had a single purpose in writing this letter. There were two members who didn’t get along, Euodias and Syntyche. And everything Paul wrote was for the purpose of showing those two otherwise godly women, as well as the rest of the congregation, how critically important it is that we not only love God and seek to serve Him, but also humble ourselves enough to rightly love each other. And why is humility so necessary? Why is love for each other so important? Because, my friends, we can’t function as a church without unity. Understand, only God gives unity. But He gives unity only to those who are humble and who love each other.

These few observations made, let’s stand read the last three verses of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Philippians 4.21-23:

 

21    Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you.

22    All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.

23    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

 

I want you to notice that word “saint.” It translates the Greek word hagios, that we also get “holy” from. Paul started out addressing the “saints” in Philippi, if you will remember, in the very first verse of this letter. What is a “saint?” Well, a “saint” is one thing to the Roman Catholic Church and quite another thing to the Apostle Paul. The Roman Church views a “saint” as some dead person who was a top notch Roman Catholic, who advanced the reach of the Vatican in the world, and who became eligible for canonization when certain requirements were met in his or her life that are officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. The Apostle Paul, however, and every other New Testament writer, had a very different view of what it means to be a “saint.” To Paul, Peter, Luke, John, Jude, and the writer of Hebrews, a “saint” is anyone who has come to Jesus Christ and who has been forgiven and cleansed of their sins thereby. A “saint” is simply someone who has been set aside by God for His purposes. So, understood correctly, each and every genuinely saved Christian is rightly seen to be a “saint.” In our text, then, “saints” are Christians, pure and simple.

Another word to take note of is the word from which “salute” is translated, aspazomai. This is a verb, a very common word, which means to greet. You “salute” someone when you shake hands and ask them how they are doing. Our ladies oftentimes “salute” each other here at church by giving each other a hug and a peck on the cheek.

With these two words safely tucked away, let’s take notice of where we find these saints who are saluting and being saluted by each other:

 

First, WE FIND SALUTING SAINTS IN THE PLACE OF BLESSING

 

Paul writes in verse 21, “Salute every saint in Christ Jesus.”

 

I want you to take note of what Paul is doing here, by providing for us the manner of blessing. He is giving a directive (this verb is an imperative verb) to the Philippians. The Philippians are directed to salute, to greet, every saint in Christ Jesus. Thus, there is none of this nonsense of claiming to be a Christian while refusing to openly, courteously, and graciously greet other Christians you encounter. So, what do you do if you are shy, if you don’t feel good, if you are somehow out of sorts, or if you are not a great fan of the Christian you come upon? You kindly and graciously greet that believer anyway.

The place of blessing that we find in this statement is the phrase “in Christ Jesus.” What does Paul mean when he writes “in Christ Jesus”? Let me remind you that the Greeks prided themselves on being an extremely logical and intellectual people. And their language reflected their systematic and orderly approach to life. Part of their culture, and perhaps this was the result of the system of city states, like Athens and Thebes and Sparta and Corinth that existed before Alexander the Great swooped down from Macedonia to conquer them, was geared to what we would call spheres of influence. Each city state had its own sphere of influence and controlled everything that went on within that sphere of influence. This kind of thinking was used by Paul to explain some very important spiritual truths. Therefore, when Paul uses such phrases as “in Christ” or “in Him” in Philippians, and more particularly in his letter to the Ephesians, he has in mind something akin to a sphere of influence. When someone is in Christ Jesus that someone occupies, not a physical terrain, not a political domain, but a spiritual kingdom over which the Lord Jesus Christ reigns supreme. Thus, the inconsistency of claiming to be a Christian, and therefore a subject of His kingdom, yet demonstrating no obedience to our great King’s mandate to salute others also in His kingdom is apparent.

You can sit right next to a person and be in the place of blessing because you are in Christ Jesus, while the one next to you is not in the place of blessing because he is not in Christ Jesus. You come into the place of blessing when you come to Jesus Christ, and the blessings you receive are forgiveness of sins, an eternal destiny to look forward to and not feel the need to run from, and the ministry of the indwelling Spirit of God in your life. Thus, the reason for graciously and courteously greeting every Christian your encounter; the two of you have a grand and glorious relationship with the Savior that is to be reflected in your attitudes toward each other at every encounter. This is why you will not see mature and spiritual believers ever showing indifference or hostility when they cross paths with another child of God.

 

Next, WE FIND SALUTING SAINTS IN THE PLACE OF PRIVILEGE

 

Paul continues in his letter, “The brethren which are with me greet you.”

 

Remember that Paul was under house arrest in Rome. He had a Roman centurion literally chained to him. So, he couldn’t actually go anywhere. But Paul did have gathered around him faithful servants of God who counted it a privilege to serve God by serving alongside God’s man.

And what did they do? As Paul directed the Philippians to salute each other as they crossed paths, here we are informed that the Roman Christians are saluting the Philippians from many miles away. Thus, this is not a practice that is restricted to those Christians in your own congregation. However, this is not all the Roman Christians Paul speaks for did. They actually did just about everything for Paul because he could do very little except pray, study, write letters, and talk to individuals as they came to visit him. Think of it. The phrase “The brethren which are with me” is pregnant with implications. What if you were the guy who worked to earn money to pay for Paul’s food? Romans did not feed their prisoners, after all. What if you were the guy whose job it was to write all of Paul’s dictated correspondence, and read to him all the letters he received from the Eastern Mediterranean? Remember, Paul had very bad eyesight. As well, what if you were the guy called upon to do Paul’s laundry and tend to the hygienic needs of this old Christian man who had suffered many beatings and scourgings, and was likely in need of help just to make it through each day?

Do you see how marvelous were the opportunities to serve God those men had by ministering to Paul so that he could function in prison and fulfill his apostolic ministry? Some who pretend to be Christians these days complain and gripe when called upon to perform simple but necessary tasks, but the Lord Jesus Christ said that He came not to be ministered unto but to minister, not to be served but to serve. What an example to follow. Oh, how those Philippians who received greetings from Paul’s attendants would have delighted to trade places with them and serve alongside the Apostle Paul in Rome. To serve alongside a servant of God is a wonderful privilege.

 

Third, WE FIND SALUTING SAINTS IN THE PLACE OF COMMUNITY

 

Verse 22 begins, “All the saints salute you.”

 

There were problems in the city of Rome. Some preached Christ of contention, not sincerely, and others preached Christ of love. The Christian community had been divided over Paul’s ministry, with some thinking that his aggressive posture and imprisonment was making things worse for those believers who lived in Rome. But others felt Paul to be truly godly and welcomed his efforts.

These things we learn in the first chapter of Philippians. But by the time we get to the closing verses of Philippians we find that “all the saints” were saluting, were greeting the Philippians through Paul’s letter. That can only mean Paul had been in constant communication with all the believers in Rome, even those who doubted his effectiveness and strategy.

What does this suggest to us? Well, it certainly suggests that things were different in Paul’s day than in our day. It suggests that even those who differed with him at least preached the gospel. At least they stood against sin. At least they had done nothing that required Paul to break fellowship with them. There was real Christian community in Rome, if not great unity.

Folks, such is not the case today. There is terrible compromise and unbelief among the so-called Christians round about us. So much so that real fellowship is typically not possible. All the more reason, then, for us to appreciate the Christian community that we have here, and to pray for each other in this time of spiritual apostasy.

 

Finally, WE FIND THE SALUTING SAINTS IN THE PLACE OF SURPRISE

 

Paul concludes verse 22 by writing, “chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.”

 

Caesar, of course, was the title given to the emperor of Rome. The German equivalent of Caesar is Kaiser. The Russian equivalent of Caesar is Tsar. So, Paul is referring here to the absolute ruler of the vast Roman Empire. The Philippians are being greeted by people, some of whom are actually in Caesar’s household.

What does Paul mean by Caesar’s household? He means more than just the maids and the butlers and the cooks. I suppose the most comparable group to Caesar’s household in modern times would be the White House staff in Washington, D.C. It was a vast bureaucracy of individuals comprised of both slaves and freemen, who performed every function imaginable, from cooking and cleaning to secretarial work, from diplomacy to imperial administrative functions. These were people, including the famous Praetorian guards, who spent each and every day working in the seat of authority for the world’s greatest super power at that time.

But why in the world would members of Caesar’s household greet Philippian Christians? Because they were Christians. And how did Christians come to be placed in Caesar’s household? Three possibilities: They could have been people who were saved in Philippi (and familiar with Paul from that city) and were later transferred to Rome (remember, Philippi was a Roman colony city). Or Paul might have been able to reach them for Christ while he was a prisoner in Caesar’s household. Then there is the possibility that some of the Christians in Rome before Paul’s arrival were among those who were on Caesar’s staff. Likely, all three possibilities are true.

Whatever the actual history, the biggest mistake the Roman Empire ever made was to bring the Apostle Paul to Rome as a prisoner where, in the very bowels of the bureaucracy, he could serve his Lord Jesus and plant the seeds of the gospel that would eventually lead to Rome’s collapse. What a wonderful realization it is to discover that you can serve the Lord wherever you might be, no matter the circumstances. Which leads to finding believers in the most surprising places.

 

Paul’s final words are “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Some are in Rome, while others are in Philippi. Some are in mean and seemingly insignificant places, while others are in close proximity to the seat of imperial power and might. Some are in the midst of poverty, while others are in relative wealth and prosperity. But they all have something in common. They are saints. They are recipients of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Christian? Avail yourselves of God’s grace. Use the means of getting grace from God. Faithfully and fervently pray. Faithfully attend every service and listen to the preaching of God’s Word. I do strive to minister grace to my hearers. And read your Bible each and every day.

 

SERMON:

 

This message about the grace Paul refers to in Philippians 4.23 is brought primarily for the benefit of you parents. It’s a message to you who are unsaved moms or dads, while being helpful for Christian parents. This is a message that assumes some things about you that sadly aren’t true of very many moms and dads in the world.

Let me speak just about dads for a moment. Most dads in this world behave like barn yard animals. All over the world there are men who sire children by women, giving little thought to marrying, giving little thought to loving their children, giving little thought to providing for their children, giving little thought to anything but gratifying their lusts and satisfying their urges. Even the dads who marry their kid’s mother frequently are not faithful in marriage. They behave in marriage like most other men behave outside of marriage. Any woman who is married to an unsaved man should prepare herself for the possibility of him cheating on her so long as he remains lost. Why so? Because lost men are targets that unsaved women zero in on, especially in workplace environments where there are a great many women. Then comes the day, usually around the onset of middle age, that dear old dad shows his true colors to one and all and abandons his wife and children to poverty, to humiliation, and to degradation. The greatest tragedy of all is the growing realization among those who study such things as this is that when such a dad sets such a poor example as this he isn’t only subjecting those he is supposed to love to poverty, humiliation, and degradation. He is also setting up a mechanism for imitation. That’s right. The great percentage of boys whose dads have done this will then do this to their kids. And the great percentage of girls whose dads have done this will associate with men who will then do this. This vicious circle breaks my heart.

Mom? Dad? I will assume that you love your children. I will assume that you care a great deal about how your kids turn out in life. I will assume that you feel responsible for your children and have a desire to protect them in a way only a loving parent can. I will assume that you sincerely want to teach them, train them, and guide them through childhood to a successful adult life. You know, being a mom or a dad is really tough. Being a good parent requires a lot of wisdom and judgment. You have to know when to help your kids and when not to help your kids. Some parents help their kids too much, while some help their kids not enough. Some moms and dads exercise poor judgment in always helping their kids, helping them so much the kids remain dependent upon their parents even after reaching adulthood. They don’t raise their kids to go out on their own, but to forever look to them to be propped up in life. That kind of parent exercises poor judgment. You end up with grandchildren who saw their parents being propped up and who will then expect to be propped up themselves. You don’t want to be a mom or dad who perpetrates that kind of legacy.

For example: You know that God’s plan is for a son to leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife. And you know that your daughter is to be raised to leave you and go to her husband if God’s plan for her is marriage. So, you don’t want your kids to marry and move in with you; physically, emotionally, or financially. You know that your kids need to be raised to go out and establish their own homes, independent of you and dependent upon God. And you know that only when you are no longer the one your kids look to for their provision, for their help, for their rescue in time of trouble, will they really begin to look to God to meet their needs. But you know, pulling all this off is hard, especially in a terrible economy, because sometimes it is appropriate to help out family members. Therefore, when it comes time to make the tough decisions, when it comes time to be more than you are capable of being, when it comes time to give to that little child you go in to look at at night before you go to bed, and you realize that she needs more from you than you have to give, what do you do? I am astonished that so few people seek the counsel of their pastor when making decisions that can affect generations.

I have often spoken to moms and dads about raising children to walk worthy of God. We see Paul’s recipe for successful parenting in First Thessalonians 2.7-12. A mom is there likened to a nurse working day and night. A father is supposed to behave holily, justly and unblamably. And a father is supposed to speak to his child, using words of comfort, words of exhortation, and words that charge the child concerning both practical and also spiritual issues of life. We have seen from time to time in God’s Word what parents are supposed to do, and how they are supposed to do it. But the real question is this: What do you do when you aren’t the man or the woman for the job? What do you do when you feel so guilty that your little child is suffering so much, all because of you? What do you do when you feel your little one has spiritual needs, and you just are not capable of meeting those needs? Fact is, you don’t even see most of those spiritual needs. And just between you and me, you are not capable of pulling it off. No parent is.

What I say to you now goes for every mom and dad there is in this world, but most of them won’t listen to what I say. I speak these words to you in the hopes that God has broken your heart for your kids, that He has given you an understanding of your own shortcomings as a man or as a women. Let me tell you what you need. You need the grace of God. Grace is favor. It’s the makeup of the shortfall. It’s the difference between what you can do and what needs to be done. It’s God’s intervention in your life, and it is what you need as a parent. To personalize it, you need Jesus Christ.

For a few minutes, let me talk to you about grace, divine favor.

 

First, THE GRACE THAT YOU NEED COMES ONLY FROM GOD

 

We learn from James 1.17 that every good gift and every perfect gift comes from our heavenly Father. And since grace is both good and perfect, it can only come from God the Father. In Ephesians 1.6, Paul is exulting in the goodness and greatness of God when he writes, “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” So, Paul, too, attests to God as the origin of grace in a man’s life.

However, let us not forget that James correctly points out that good and perfect gifts come down from the Father, and God the Father is father to none save those who are his children. Ah, my friend, you need God’s good grace to be the kind of mother or father you yearn to be. But you’ll not get the grace of God to be a successful mom or dad unless and until you become God’s child. And you can’t approach God to request grace from Him, since you are a sinner and He is holy. Indeed, Jesus Christ Himself said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” So, you need grace from God, but you can’t go to God, because of your obvious sinfulness. A sinfulness, I might add, that will succeed only in your own eternal damnation, and that of your kids, in all likelihood, if you are not saved straightway.

 

THIS BRINGS ME TO MY FAVORITE SUBJECT IN ALL THE BIBLE, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. GOD IS GRACIOUS AND HAS GRACE. YOU ARE WITHOUT GRACE AND YOU NEED IT. I’M HERE TO TELL YOU THAT JESUS IS THE ONE, THE ONLY ONE, WHO CONVEYS THE GRACE OF GOD TO SINNERS.

 

John 1.17 declares in no uncertain terms that “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” My friend, if grace is divine favor, what better testimony of God’s favor is there than in sending His Son Jesus Christ? Further, in Romans 1.5, Paul told the Romans that it was by Jesus Christ that we have received grace. So, how do you receive the grace of God that comes with Jesus Christ? Simple. By receiving Jesus Christ. I’m not playing games with you, honest I’m not. It’s just that this whole issue of grace really is too simple for many people to believe.

You need God’s favor. But God’s favor, grace, comes by Jesus Christ. So, how do you get God’s favor, the grace of God? By getting Jesus Christ. Paul indicated that he received God’s grace by Jesus Christ. John 1.12 puts it another way:

 

“But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of god, even to them that believe on his name.”

 

Grace is a good and perfect gift that comes from the Father. But God is only father to His children. And how do you become a child of God? By receiving His Son, Jesus. To follow another thread of truth, by who does grace come, according to the Bible? Grace comes by Jesus Christ. And how do you get grace, but by Jesus Christ. Look at it any way you like and it always comes out that grace is inextricably bound up in Jesus Christ. Receive Him and you receive grace. Become God’s child through faith in Christ and God will give you grace.

 

GRACE FROM GOD, THROUGH THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, TO YOU

 

In First Corinthians 1.4, Paul thanked God for the grace the Corinthians had received by Jesus Christ. Second Timothy 1.9 points out that it has eternally been God’s purpose to give grace to you in Christ Jesus. It begins with you being saved. Ephesians 2.8 views salvation from both the human and the divine perspective:

 

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

 

If salvation is understood to be the forgiveness of all your sins, the imparting of a new life and a new eternal destiny to you as an undeserving sinner, then God’s favor in this regard, His grace, is bestowed when you, a sinner, place your faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Mom? Dad? You might think I’ve gone rather far afield from where we started, but I haven’t. Your concern is your children. My concern is you and your children. You want to be a good mom or a good dad, and to see your kids raised right. I want the same thing. But I know from God’s Word that you will never be a good enough parent to raise your kids right. No mom is good enough. No dad is good enough. Not me or anyone else.

What you need to be is a saved mom or dad, a recipient of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As a saved mom or dad you can ask God, yourself, for grace and help to see your kids raised right. But you have to be saved first. Then perhaps you and I can discover from God’s Word how to get from where you find yourself to where you need to be for your children’s sake, and for your grandchildren’s sake.


Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org