Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:1-2)
The Folks Who Make Up The Church
God’s plan for the church has such a beautiful simplicity to its design. Like creation, a perfection overshadows the pattern for how God’s people will come together to worship Him lasting through every generation and all time. It is difficult to imagine creating an organization that will apply across cultural boundaries, languages, geography, and ions of time that will find its root in the heart of the people in the same way it was in the beginning. The New Testament church was simple and recreating it in our modern world is just as simple. There is no complexity to how it can be established in a community, the leadership and makeup of its members. Following the scriptures from the first century, the church can be found throughout the world with a similar design, worship and mission.
The city of Philippi had a church of Christ. It was a group of people gathered together in the community of Philippi that loved the Lord and seeking to obey His word. It was not ostentatious or pretentious in its character. The church was a group of disciples who met on the first day of every week worshiping the Lord in the pattern set forth from the word of God. Paul had established the church on his second missionary journey along with Silas. Their first converts were Lydia her household who had been worshipping along the riverside. One of the amazing stories of his work in Philippi was when Paul baptized the city jailer and his household. What a wonderful beginning for the church that was found in the city of Philippi.
Lydia, the jailer and all of their households were the first members of the church in Philippi and they were saints of the Lord. The Roman Catholic Church has destroyed the New Testament teaching of what makes a person a saint. For the people of Philippi who were Christians, Paul declares them saints. When Lydia, the jailer and all of the other disciples obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ in baptism they all became saints. A saint is anyone who has put on Christ in baptism becoming a child of God. There is no miracle or confirmation by man that makes a person a saint. The Lord God adds that person to the church and they become a saint of the Lord sanctified and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. The church of Christ is made up of saints.
In addition to the saints in Philippi, Paul addresses his letter to the bishops and deacons. The apostle shows the framework of God’s design for the New Testament church. He begins his letter describing himself (along with Timothy) as bondservants of Jesus Christ. The leadership of the church is found in men called bishops; not preachers who take charge of the church. The bishops have other names like elder, overseer, shepherd and pastor. These are men of special quality that Paul will later describe to Timothy as set apart for the work of overseeing the local congregation of God’s people. The saints in Philippi were under the leadership of the men called bishops who fell under the pattern of divine instruction to feed the flock of God among them and watch out for the souls of all the saints. Helping the bishops in their work were men who served as deacons or servants of the church. Like the elders, deacons were specifically qualified to carry out their work (see 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 for more information about the elders and deacons). The only organizational leadership of the first century church was bishops and deacons. Paul addressed his letter to the church, the saints and the bishops and deacons. There were no Popes, cardinals, committees, boards or anything such as most churches have today. The church in Philippi had a simple design.
One final note about Paul’s address to the church in Philippi is his description of himself. Along with Timothy, Paul was a bondservant of Jesus Christ. He was a preacher of the gospel, proclaimer of truth, teacher of God’s will and servant to show others the good news of the Christ. He was an apostle and this set him apart from others. The work of apostles ceased following the first century because all truth had come to man in the written word. When the last of the apostles died, the authority vested in them died also. Today the church is in communities across the landscape, made up of people called saints who are led by the grace of God under the leadership of bishops who work closely with deacons to carry out the mission of the church. Working together as one, the mission of the church is carried to the lost and dying of the world. And all of that is done with a simple plan of perfection the Lord calls: the church.