1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (TNIV).
Note the threefold repetition of “Christ”. All of life is to be oriented around the Lord Jesus Christ. This will prove to be a key theme throughout the letter.
Paul and Timothy identify themselves as servants/slaves (douloi) of Christ Jesus, as opposed to Paul’s usual self-designation as an apostle (cf. Gal 1.1). But this is fitting for a letter that seeks to foster humility among its readers. Plus, Paul considers it an honor to follow Jesus’ example who “made himself nothing by taking the very nature a servant (doulos), being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Phil 2.7-9)! This is the very posture that we and the Philippians ought to carry into all of our relationships.
The letter is written to “all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus as Philippi”. The word “holy” indicates not that they are exceptionally good Christians but that the Philippians have been “set apart” by God and belong to him. They receive this designation not because of anything they’ve done but because of their union or incorporation into Christ, which was made possible through his redemptive work on the cross. And note that Paul calls all of the believers at Philippi holy. This language is most likely intended to help foster a spirit of unity: all members of the community have a special place in God’s grace and belong together in Christ.
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” When reading Scripture, I tend to gloss right over the opening greeting. G. Walter Hansen rightly encourages us to be a little more thoughtful: “this phrase of greeting is anything but an empty cliché for Paul. In fact, it expresses in condensed form the essence of his theology. His message is one of grace and peace: grace, the unmerited, undeserved saving work of God in Christ Jesus brings believers into peace, harmonious relationships with God and with each other” (Hansen, Philippians, 43).
Grace and peace to you!