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The Sweetness of Camaraderie in Christ
Greetings and grace between Christians–Philippians 4:20-23
The TC Germany trip was awesome. The highlight for me was not seeing where Luther nailed his theses, nor where he hid out and translated the Bible into German in just eleven weeks. All of those were great. The highlight for me was spending time with the Training Center men. I still maintain that FBC has more people I would rather vacation with than any other church I have ever been a part of.
As we flew home, JP and I stopped off in Edinburgh, Scotland to check out the Great Reformer, John Knox, in order to put together a Reformation tour of our own in about three to four years. We decided to stop by Edinburgh Theological Seminary–pushed the door buzzer and ventured upstairs to meet Heather, a women in her 50’s or 60’s, who was the only secretary on duty.
As she began to show us around, she commented on how they used some video on some of their classes, and how that process complicated things. I shared with her I was connected to The Master’s Seminary and teach about two sessions a year and explained how we had similar problems. Then she said, “Well, I know someone connected to Master’s Seminary.”
I asked, “Who?” Then she said, “Andrew Curry.” Now you don’t know Andrew Curry, but I do. He functioned as the Junior High Pastor at GCC, as a key leader in my DMin program and a friend who I lived with while taking my doctoral ministry classes. I said, “ANDREW CURRY–he’s my friend. I love Andrew.”
Then she said, “I watched Andrew grow up. My husband and I are best friends with his parents.” And I thought, “How sweet is this? What a small world.” She continued her tour, but now she showed us everything, answered questions, showed us special secrets no one else would know or ever see. We had a blast–she was fun and we enjoyed the sweetness of camaraderie in Christ.
All Christians are connected with each other in a very unique way—and this is exactly what you’ll witness as Paul signs off this fantastic letter of Philippians. I began to study Philippians in September of 2015 and fifty sermons later, today in July of 2017, our study is now complete–verse by verse, word by word, seeking only God’s Word though exegesis which is drawn out of the text itself.
The goal here is not to provide helpful principles to make homework or housework easier. Preaching is not designed to jack you up emotionally. The point of this pulpit is to teach you what Paul meant by what Paul said 2,000 years ago–to uncover only the author’s intended meaning so you can hear God’s Word and it will make you like Jesus Christ, so that homework and housework will be for His glory.
What is before you today is a sweet reminder of the fellowship we enjoy because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Like the incredible communion in the Godhead, the oneness of the Trinity, the perfect joy shared between the Father, Son and Spirit, you and I and every genuinely saved saint taste a sweet union which comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit and our regeneration into new creatures. You know a sweet camaraderie which the unforgiven rebels of this world do not enjoy, nor have any idea about.
These verses are filled with greetings, saints and grace, but there’s much more here than a simple, “Say hi to everyone.” What you have in verses 21 to 23 is people who are now eternally in Christ Jesus–saints who are set apart as God’s intimate chosen, brethren, brothers and sisters who are part of the same intimate family, even baby believers who are part of the very home of Caesar himself.
God’s grace binds us together, a grace freely given by the ruler of the universe. The very same Savior who transformed you internally and bound you together with others–spirit to spirit, now and forever.
As I read these verses, you’ll immediately see greeting on the surface. But as you look below the surface, carefully observing every word, you’ll see Paul communicating the sweetness of camaraderie in Christ. Starting in verse 21, “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren 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.”
In verses 10 to 20, Paul finished his thank you note for their giving, while demonstrating a godly heart on giving to Christ’s work. In the midst of this thank you for generous giving, Paul makes an incredible promise in verse 19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” The premise, you give generously–then the promise, God will meet your needs.
This promise points to such an awesome God, Paul can’t help but break out into praise in verse 20, “Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Paul praises God for providentially meeting the needs of believers who are generous givers. Paul’s heart is knit to these sacrificial givers, so he concludes this letter with . . .
#1 Camaraderie through COMMUNICATION
You maintain a sweet camaraderie as Christians by communicating to each other. If you don’t say it, no one but God will know it. Community is built through communication and service. Whether you’re shy or not, believers are to talk to each other. So Paul highlights four different groups, all communicating.
First Greetings to each believer INDIVIDUALLY
Philippians 4:21a, “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.” What does it mean to greet every saint? The Greek word, “greeting”, does not merely mean saying hi. The Greek word means speak good of, bless, and praise. Greeting is really important. It is the only command in these closing verses. And this verb even commands you to act upon yourself in order to make it happen.
This will not happen naturally, nor when people deserve it or draw it out of you. No, you’re commanded to act upon yourself in order to speak good of, bless and praise others. In today’s words, “greet them.”
We have a greeting ministry because greeting must happen–it’s commanded. If God brings people to us, and He does–you must greet them. God gathers the family together and you must greet. We gather to worship first, but we also gather to build up believers. You know what it’s like when greeting doesn’t happen–you instantly feel rejected, or you view a group as cold or indifferent when they don’t greet you.
The Greek verb tells us greeting is more than words. In the New Testament, this exact Greek verb, greet, is translated in a variety of ways, including kissing, embracing and offering your hand. In some contexts, the Greek word greet is offering a salute, like in the military. To greet is to extend respect towards others.
Greeting is also your responsibility. This is the responsibility of the Philippian church and it is the responsibility of each of you at FBC. You are to greet each other, which means to express care, praise, bless, hug, handshake, or give a holy kiss. Like the word aloha, this greeting is used both to say, “hello,” and to bid farewell.
In some countries, it is the height of rudeness to not greet everyone at a gathering and its super insulting if you leave, but do not say goodbye and thanks for the invitation. Paul says this is crucial and it’s for each one of you, as Paul adds, “Greet every saint.” Every is the Greek word all, telling you to greet every single one.
Part of our worship services includes greeting. For some churches, greeting is an impersonal handshake–for FBC, it is a person-to-person love, respect, learning, blessing each other, which honors God in worship.
Students, as a Christian, you’re not to be cliqued off with your friends–you’re to greet every saint. Community groups, it is great to have a small family, but you’re also to attempt to greet every saint, even those outside your sphere. You don’t all have to be as social as Bill O’Brallahan, but you are to make efforts to greet everyone.
Greet others who are familiar, even though you’ve forgotten their name. Greet those who are acquaintances, as well as your closest friends. Greet strangers. This is not the job of the greeting ministry, the pastoral team, or crazy people like Bill–this is the job of the saints. You are the saints. Therefore greet every saint.
You say, “Chris, I am no saint.” Wait–I know. No one calls other Christians “saint” anymore and none of you introduce yourself as a saint. “Hello, I’m Saint Chris. This is Saint Peter, who owns a Saint Bernard and lives in Saint Louis.”
The Greek word “saint” has morphed from its New Testament meaning and today is loaded with religious baggage. Now when we say, “saint,” we think holier than thou, or a remarkably moral person or an undernourished monk immortalized on a stain glass window.
In the Catholic Church, the saints are those who are canonized. That’s not being shot from a cannon in a You Tube video—cannonized. Or some extreme sport–you’ve been canonized. No canonized doesn’t even mean becoming a great example. Canonized is a Catholic error. By making a believer a saint, the Catholic Church chooses to publicly venerate a sinner.
As a result, churches will be dedicated to their memory. Catholic churches will honor them with festivals. They’ll even have entire masses focused on those saints. The Catholic Church encourages its members to appeal to these saints to intercede with God on their behalf. Prayers are offered to the saints and their statues, relics and weird remains, like their hair, clothes, body parts or blood, are all venerated.
According to Catholic teaching, the saints can intercede not only for the living, but also for those in purgatory, which is the place in Catholic theology of after-death punishment, in order to make one ready for Heaven. I call it Second-Chance Station–it doesn’t exist, it’s not biblical, not true that living Catholics can appeal to dead saints to intercede with God on behalf of their loved ones who are currently suffering in purgatory to pay their way to Heaven.
That thinking about saint is sadly prominent. Yet the truth of it is such a joke biblically, you and I are hesitant to use the word saint in its normal, biblical fashion. But you should fight for it, use it–this week call each other saint. You are a saint and you are to love the other saints and greet every saint.
Biblically, a saint is not a sacrificial laborer who performs some sort of miracle, has died and is now immortalized in a statue. A saint is anyone who has come to saving faith in Christ. In fact, saint is the apostle Paul’s favorite term for Christians, appearing forty times in his epistles.
Paul addressed the believers in Philippi as saints in the opening verse of this epistle. Paul even addressed the members of the most sin-plagued church in the New Testament, the Corinthian church, as saints in 1 Corinthians 1:2, “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling.”
A saint is not a superhero of the faith–a saint is anyone who has eternal life in Christ. So what does the term saint tell us about each of you? The Greek term saint can be translated “set apart ones,” “separated ones,” “sanctified ones,” or “holy ones.”
Did you know saint is used in the New Testament to describe the elect angels? Mark 8:38, “For whoever is ashamed of Me . . . the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy [saint] angels.” Did you know saint is used to describe God Himself? Mark 1:24, “Jesus of Nazareth. Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One [saint] of God!”
God’s holiness is His uniqueness–and part of that is His complete separation from sin. A saint is someone who has been separated from sin to God for holy purposes. Think about what this means–you vile sinners were selected by God, saved by God, set apart, made holy and ready for Heaven by God and set apart by God for his holy purposes.
A saint is someone who is uniquely God’s possession, used exclusively for God’s purposes. I have heard people use saint like Mom’s special china plates–unique, special, set apart for special use. But that’s not an accurate picture—no. A saint is more like your favorite running shoes, uniquely yours, no one else uses them–yet they are used daily for your purposes . . . saintly shoes.
You are a saint, uniquely purchased by God for Himself, made a saint by God and exclusively to be used, set apart for His purposes every single day. And look at verse 21–you are a saint “in Christ Jesus.” That’s also unique to Christianity. Other religions do not see followers as united to their founder–they merely follow his teachings.
But Christians do not merely believe Christ lived, died, rose from the dead, and is coming again. True Christians are in genuine spiritual relationship—union with Christ. Only saints can say Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Colossians 1:27b, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ is in you–and as Christ is in you, of course you don’t want to sin, saint. You’re one with Christ. Christ is one with you–through His sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus Christ sets believers apart to God and uses them for his holy purposes. They’re saints.
Every believer is a saint, because every believer is separated from sin to God through faith in Jesus Christ. By calling the Philippians saints, Paul reminds them they’re to live now as separated from sin, living righteously for God’s purposes, verse 21, “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.” Our unique union with Christ transforms the saints into a unique family belonging to Christ and as a result, belonging to one another. That’s why Paul adds . . .
Second Greetings from the ministry TEAM
In verse 21b Paul writes, “The brethren who are with me greet you.” Paul ministers with a JP, Nigel, Morgan and Patrick and he lets the Philippians know they also all give their respect, greeting, love, care, blessings, hugs and handshakes. The brethren are Paul’s special group of fellow ministers who support him while he is under house arrest in Rome.
This is Paul’s ministry team, the church planter group, the apostolic assistants, the fellow ministers in this great labor–the brethren. I love it because these are men who will carry on the work after Paul dies, the guys who will continue the work of spreading the Gospel and declaring the Word. They are like Rod, Robert and Shawn–the brethren.
Paul tells us in verse 21, they are with me—literally the text says in verse 21, “They are the with me brothers.” With me–like our elders and deacons, like the TC grads, with me in doctrine and direction. They’re also physically with me presently. All true ministry is God working through you. And all true ministry is a team effort.
God uses men in unique ways, but the best ministry comes through a team made up of men who do not care who gets the credit. These men are bound in Christ to this beloved group of saints in Philippi–so they send greetings too. Yet ministry is more than its leaders–it is God’s people functioning the way God designed. So Paul also sends . . .
Third Greetings from the CHURCH at Rome
Read verse 22a, “All the saints greet you.” All the believers in the Christian church in Rome know Paul is under house arrest. We learned in chapter 1, some of the Christians in Rome were super supportive of Paul–but there were others who sought to raise doubts about Paul, probably saying things like Paul is all washed up. His ministry is over. How else do you explain two years under arrest in Israel, almost died in a shipwreck, now almost two years under arrest in Rome?
Yet all the saints in Rome, regardless of their differences or thoughts, send greetings–respect, love, care, blessings, hugs and handshakes. And a super blessing for the Philippian church–one of the only churches Paul allows to send him financial support, yet they keep giving in order to support Paul in His apostolic work of establishing churches and reaching the lost. So what a joy for the Philippian church to receive.
Fourth Greetings from the new BELIEVERS in Caesars household
Look at verse 22b, “especially those of Caesar’s household.” Paul says especially those of Caesar’s household, not because they’re better than normal believers. Or because they are richer, dressed better, come from a better place, but because, like all of you, we all love babies. Dignified men lose all decorum around babies. Stuffy professors act silly around babies. And every Christian gets excited about new converts.
This is Philippi–they’re being persecuted by the Roman government for their beliefs, yet God is saving sinners at the very seat of the Roman government. Philippi is filled with lovers of Caesar and now God is saving some of his servants. And tradition tells us some of Caesar’s own family. This is like movie lovers who hear their favorite actors have submitted to Christ. Like a Dodger fan hearing about their top players turning to Christ.
Household tells us Paul is describing family, servants or extended family. Like a missionary letter, Paul shares about some who’ve turned to Christ while he’s been under house arrest. How cool is that for the Philippians who believe in Paul’s ministry even while he is under arrest, to hear of this kind of fruit. This is so sweet. God is the one who changes lives, so Paul says there is also a sweetness of . . .
#2 Camaraderie through God’s life-transforming GRACE
Philippians 4:23 says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” This is a sweet reminder of the fellowship, authority and power of God’s grace. Paul signs off this letter to his beloved Philippians with a description of God’s internal, transforming grace. More than a goodbye, Paul is teaching truth. So you ask, “What truth is Paul teaching here?” I am so glad you asked.
First The FELLOWSHIP of Grace
Verse 23a, “The grace of . . . Jesus Christ.” Grace is God choosing you before time, even though He knew you’d reject Him. He chose you anyway and would awaken your heart to submit to Him. Grace is your life given to you, even though you were born in rebellion to God. Grace is your salvation called upon you even though you were dead to God.
Grace is your walk as a Christian, even though you still choose to sin as a believer. Grace is your eternity in Heaven, even though you don’t deserve to be in His presence. God’s riches at Christ’s expense. God’s gift of salvation. God’s continual forgiveness of you. God’s heart of giving to the most underserving. God’s grace–the grace of Jesus Christ.
Christ who is perfect, righteous, without sin, pure, untainted and sinless–this Christ who hates sin loves you enough to give His grace to sinners. God hates sin. God sends people to eternal Hell forever in torture for their sin. Your sin is a direct spit in the face of God’s character. Your sin must condemn you.
When you lie, you assault the God of truth. When you lust, you attack the God of purity. When you complain, you affront the sovereign God. When you express indifference, you say, “Whatever,” you don’t care, you attack God’s providence over every detail. Your sin attacks God’s character.
But instead of tossing you into a well-deserved Lake of Fire forever, God gave you grace. Christ took your punishment. Christ took your place. So Christ gives you what you don’t deserve. God graced you with Christ’s riches and looks on you as if you were as perfect as Christ Himself. But can Christ actually accomplish our salvation–can He pull it off? Is He powerful enough? Does He have the authority?
Second The AUTHORITY of Grace
See verse 23b, “The grace of the Lord.” You forgot Chapter 2? Look at Philippians 2:9 to 11, “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The name which is above every name, is the name Lord. Every knee will bow to Jesus as Lord. No word in God’s Word is a throw away word. Each word is intentional. Paul just said in verse 21, “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus,” but He did not use the word nor the title Lord back in verse 21. But here in verse 23, in this final verse, it is “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”–the name above all other names. The master over all of Heaven and all of Earth–the Lord.
God’s choosing, calling, saving and keeping you by His grace cannot fail, because it is the grace of the authority of the universe, the Lord Jesus Christ, Master of Heaven and Earth. He is the one all atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, JWs, Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, secular humanists, universalists, with religion and without—each one will bow to Christ as Lord, as the truth, as the only way of salvation.
And all born again believers will bow with joy before the one true Lord–why? No matter what persecution may come, or heresy may attack, or division might strike–you are still secure in God’s grace cause it is guaranteed by the One who’s over all, the Lord. And no matter what happens to you in this life, remember . . .
Third The TRANSFORMING power of Grace
Verse 23c, “be with your spirit.” Your body is not eternal, but your Spirit is. Your current physical appearance is temporary, but your immaterial spirit is eternal. When Paul says be with your spirit, he means who you really are and that which is eternal. Paul is saying, “Grace be with you eternally, grace be with you heart to heart, grace be with your inner man, grace be with your eternal person.”
Practically Paul says, “Hey, you Philippians may be killed physically, but God’s grace has already transformed your inner man, so what you are immaterially is forever and God’s grace will not fail your inner man.” Because your spirit is transformed by God’s grace, your immaterial person, your spirit will immediately be in Christ’s presence the moment you die.
Second Corinthians 5:8, “We are of good courage . . . and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” The grace of the almighty Lord of all guarantees your person, your spirit, will be at home with Christ no matter what. God’s grace be with your eternal spirit, your new creation, your born again person.
God has transformed you, changed you, made you new–made you His own. We hope for a Rapture. But if we die before the Rapture, or we are killed for our faith, we will see Christ face-to-face and await our coming new body in the resurrection.
First Corinthians 15:51 to 53 says, “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Someday soon you will receive your glorified, perfect, eternal, awesome body. But until then, the grace of the Lord will be with your spirit. You will be with Christ immaterially, in spirit, until you’re with Christ materially, in body. And all true Christians are bound by this truth. Your inner person and my inner person uniquely belong to Christ, which makes us also belong to each other.
We enjoy the camaraderie of God’s life transforming grace. We enjoy an intimate relationship with other believers because of God’s grace which transformed us internally. You have more in common with a Christian than you do with family. You have more in common with other Christians than you do any friend. We enjoy the camaraderie of God’s grace. So let me ask you–and think deeply about your answer . . .
#1 Do you GREET believers like they are family, in order to enjoy them as family?
#2 Are you a SAINT, set apart for God and living for God’s purposes?
#3 Are you bound with BELIEVERS in ministry, as a TEAM?
#4 Have you received God’s amazing GRACE, transforming your inner person, making you radically different? Even though you look the same, you are not the same person, but a new person.
Today may be the last time Christ calls you to Himself. Do not turn a deaf ear to His grace–today
May be the last opportunity you have to receive salvation. Turn to Christ in repentance and faith. Let’s pray.