Introduction & Greetings – 1 Peter 1.1-2

1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

Peter: see Author.

An apostle…: Without doubt Peter was one of those selected & sent by Christ Jesus.

To those…of the Dispersion: Here is some of the Jewish flavor of this epistle. Dispersion was a term used by Jews to describe their countrymen who we scattered abroad living among the pagans. But these are elect exiles of the Dispersion, i.e. Christians among the pagans in Asia Minor. They were chosen by the King of the universe to be included in His people (elect). Thus, they have a new country—Heaven (Phil 3.20)—a true spiritual homeland (exiles).

Pontus: Asia Minor province which stretched along the south shore of the Black Sea.

Galatia: North-Central Roman territory which could include ethnic areas in the south.

Cappadocia: Isolated area due to Taurus Mtns. (N), Euphrates River (W), & Lake Tatta (E).

Asia: Roman province which embraced western parts of Asia Minor with Ephesus as capital.

Bithynia: Roman province in NW Asia Minor. Paul was prevented from going here (Acts 16.7).

“Elect exiles” is Peter’s “two-word sermon” for this epistle (Grudem 48). Election has a rich Jewish history going back to the origin of the nation of Israel. Springing from His love for their “fathers” God “chose their offspring after them” (Deut 4.37). Regularly Israel is presented as God’s “chosen one’s” (Psalm 105.6; 106.5) or His “chosen people” (Isa 43.20). Also prevalent in the Old Testament is the sojourner motif. This goes all the way back to the father of the faith Abraham who was a “sojourner” among the Hittites (Gen 23.4; cf. Heb 11.13). Although these two themes are dominant in the Old Testament, no one in either Jewish or Christian literature had combined them into this single phrase of “elect exile” as Peter does. Further, Peter applies this phrase to Christians living under empire (i.e. Rome). Though in an earthly sense they may have lived in & been citizens of one city, spiritually they were transients, strangers, sojourners looking forward to a heavenly city. Though their former life was riddled with all kinds of sin & evil expelling them from the people of God, in Christ they chosen by God through their obedient acceptance of the Son.

It is upon this rich heritage that we stand. By doing what they did we get what they got and become what they were: elect exiles. Select sojourners. Chosen transients. Though we may have lived in the same city our whole life or have traveled hither & yon as citizens of the world, spiritually we are “just a-passin’ through” with our treasures “laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” Though our former lives were uncontrollable messes broken by sin, in Christ we have learned self-control by upholding the ethic of this spiritual kingdom we have elected to join. We, like our brethren of the 1st century, are elect exiles living under empire.

2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

According to…the Father: The election of these exiles is according to the foreknowledge (Gk prognosis) of the Father. God knew in advance there would be “a chosen race” (selected strangers) formed around Christ (who Himself was “foreknown before the foundation of the world,” 1.20), called into being based upon their response to Christ. “God foreknew that he would send Christ and save those who accepted him” (Black & Black 31).

What does it mean to be “elect exiles…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”? What is included in God’s foreknowledge, viz. what He knows beforehand? Does God know who will be saved & who won’t be saved? If He does not, does that infringe upon His omniscience? If He does know, does He also will men to these predetermined ends? There are those who argue that He does for “we cannot separate foreknowledge and predestination; the foreknowledge of an Almighty Creator must imply the exercise of choice and will” (Caffin 2). Therefore, what God knows He also wills.

Wayne Grudem suggests that the whole phrase “elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, etc.” is what is “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” So “their status as sojourners, their privileges as God’s chosen people, even their hostile environment in [Asia Minor], were all known by God before the world began, all came about in accordance with his foreknowledge, and thus (we may conclude) all were in accordance with his fatherly love for his own people” (50). Imagine what comfort & peace of mind this would have brought to these persecuted Christians. Everything was under the control of a loving Father, nothing was left to chance.

In the same way, we are elect exiles in the Central Valley (or wherever you find yourself) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. It is no accident that we live where we live, that we are sojourners on this earth, and that we are the chosen people of God. Rest assured that there is a grand master plan for life, even your life right where you are. See Acts 17.26-27.

In sanctification of the Spirit: or “by the sanctification of the Spirit.” That is, the Holy Spirit set these peoples of Asia Minor apart as God’s chosen people. The Spirit made them holy unto God. Cf. 2 Thess 2.13. Sanctification or to be set apart was always for a purpose, viz. service. The Holy Spirit both sets Christians apart for service & enables them to perform that service.

If the Father’s foreknowledge reaches into eternity past, the Spirit’s sanctification is a present reality. He is setting us apart more & more to look like Christ in holiness, faith, and conduct. “The unseen, unheard activity of God’s Holy Spirit surrounds [these elect exiles] almost like a spiritual atmosphere ‘in’ which they live and breathe, turning every circumstance, every sorrow, every hardship into a tool for his patient sanctifying work” (Grudem 52).

For obedience…His blood: For indicates this is the end or design of God’s plan. Both the human (obedience) and divine (sprinkling) sides of redemption are pictured here.

Obedience & sprinkling, then, looks forward to the future. The Christian’s life ought to be leading toward more & more obedience to Christ. Daily our obedience to Lord Jesus should increase. But it is also the Christian’s imperfect experience which reminds that obedience is often incomplete. So the blood of Jesus Christ is necessary to sprinkle our afflicted & guilty conscience. Thus the faithful Christian life is marked by obedience whose failings are cleansed by the blood of Christ. It is daily continual obedience & forgiveness.

May grace…to you:  Both the Greek (grace) & Hebrew (peace or shalom) forms of salutation are combined here. Peter wants the grace & peace of God to be ever increasing for these Christians.

Note: The whole Godhead is involved in the work of salvation. The Father determined beforehand, the Spirit sanctifies, & the Son sprinkles clean the obedient.

1 Peter – Introductory Material

Destination & Recipients

The epistles is addressed to “those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1.1). These Roman provinces covered all but the southernmost part of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Estimates suggest that the total population of this territory was approximately 8.5 million with 1 million Jews and 80,000 Christians by the end of the first century. These provinces embraced a large area of land as well as a very large population. That all of these provinces are mentioned is a testament to the enormous missionary activities of the early church.

The church in Asia Minor perhaps began some 30 years before Peter wrote this epistle when representatives of three of these places (Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia) who were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost heard Peter’s sermon, believed it, and obeyed the gospel (Acts 2.9). They then went back home, forming the nucleus of the church, and served as a hub for evangelistic efforts to Galatia & Bithynia. While this takes place, the apostle Paul on his 1st & 2nd missionary journeys plants and establishes churches in these areas either directly (as is the case with Galatia, Acts 14; 16.6) or indirectly (as is the case with Bithynia, Acts 19.10).

The actual composition of the churches in this area is debated. Were these predominately Jewish audiences? Were they predominately Gentile congregations? Or were they a mixture of both Jew & Gentile? While the overwhelming use of Old Testament texts might hint at a largely Jewish congregation, much of the language also indicates that there were many Gentiles, viz. the past Gentile immorality of 4.3. Their previous condition of being “not a people” – outside of the covenant – would also indicate that there was a heavy Gentile membership. Therefore, it seems reasonable that these were mixed congregations of the Lord’s people located all around Asia Minor.

Author

As with all of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is the supreme hand behind the pen of any of wrote the books of the Bible. In this case, He oversaw the work of “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ … and a witness of the sufferings of Christ” (1.1; 5.1). This epistle clearly claims to be written by the apostle people who was a witness of the Incarnation of Christ, especially His death (cf. 1.11; 2.23-24; 4.1; 5.1). Peter was apparently helped by Silvanus (also known as Silas in Paul’s letters) in the writing process (5.12). That is, he served as an amanuensis or secretary for Peter. Perhaps John Mark spurred Peter, encouraging him to write this epistle (5.13). Mark himself was surely helped along in his writing of the gospel narrative which bears his name by Peter; maybe he returned the favor.

Peter, of course, was the de facto leader of the apostles, named first in every list (Matt 10.2; Mark 3.16; Luke 6.14; Acts 1.13). He appears to the spokesman for the group on several occasions (Matt 16.13-16; Acts 2.14). Paul calls him one of “those who seemed to be influential” and one of the “pillars” of the Jerusalem church when he began his ministry (Galatians 2.6-9). Peter is prominent in the opening chapters of Acts (1-12) and in the Jerusalem conference (ch. 15). Following the conference, though, he is no longer mentioned in Acts. His missionary efforts may have taken him deep into Gentile territory. In point of fact, tradition says Peter went to Rome and spent his last days there, having been martyred by Nero.

Time & Place of Composition

Lenski puts the writing of this epistle in the final year of Peter’s life, not long before he meets a martyr’s death under Nero in the year 64 AD. This is pretty well uniform among scholars although some push Peter’s martyrdom, though not necessarily the composition of this epistle, later into the 60s.

This epistle originated “at Babylon” (5.13). There are three possible options for this location: 1) Babylon in Mesopotamia, 2) a Roman military settlement at Cairo, Egypt, named Babylon, or 3) Rome. Rome is poetically pictured as “Babylon” in several Jewish works (i.e. 4 Ezdras & 2 Baruch) as well as in the Revelation (17.5; 18.2). In addition, the evidence is reasonably good that Peter lived and died in Rome. Further, the order of the destination in 1.1 indicates a circulation route originating in the West, viz. from Rome. The letter bearer would have arrived at and departed from the north shores of Pontus-Bithynia. Add to this that the city of Babylon no longer existed and there is not a hint of tradition which indicates Peter went into the distant east only serves to solidify the notion that “Babylon” is a figure for Rome.

Main Emphases & Theme

Salvation, submission, and suffering are main emphases of Peter. All of these revolve around and center in God’s grace. First, you have been saved (past), you are saved (present), and you will be saved (future). Second, in light of your salvation, submit to governing authorities, employers, spouses, one another, and, well, everyone. Third, be prepared to suffer for being a Christian. So stand firm & hope fully in God’s grace as sojourners & strangers living under empire.

Jonah – Introductory Material

There are two main characters in the book of Jonah. The first main character is the prophet Jonah (whose name means “dove”) son of Amittai for whom the book is named. He hailed from Gath-hepher which was a city in the territory of Zebulun. From the biblical record one finds that Jonah was a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam II in Israel (2 Kings 14.25). This means he lived during the 8th century B.C. The other main character of the book of Jonah is Yahweh, God of Israel. Only Yahweh and Jonah are named. Everyone else in the narrative is anonymous. This shows that God and Jonah are the main characters of the narrative and everyone else is support.

On the one hand, times in Israel in the early 8th century B.C. were better than they had been. During the reign of Jehoahaz Israel’s national power had been greatly diminished by Syria and their internal affairs were regulated by the king of Syria (2 Kings 13.7). However, a change in the throne led to a resurgence of military power that culminated in Jeroboam II restoring the traditional borders of Israel (2 Kings 14.25). No doubt this served to buoy the nation for a time.

On the other hand, these were perilous times for the nation of Israel. The war machine which was the Assyrian nation was sweeping the Mediterranean world and Israel was in its path. In fact, it was because of the Assyrian campaign under Shalmaneser III in the 9th century B.C. that Israel was able to defeat and capture Damascus.[1] It was only a matter of time before Assyria would come just a bit further south and threaten then conquer the northern tribes.

Into this milieu enters Jonah’s story. Jonah is one of many prophets called to prophesy during the 8th century B.C.[2] He had prophesied that Israel’s border would be restored (2 Kings 14.25). Now he is called by God to go and cry against the capital of the Assyrians, Nineveh, for their wickedness.

The book may have been written by Jonah himself. This would put the writing back into the 8th century B.C. However, there are no parts written in the first person. It is written in the third person. It must be noted, though, that if Jonah did not himself write the book, it is impossible to know for certain who authored it. Internal evidence could put the date later than Jonah; in describing Nineveh in 3.3 the past tense is used (“Nineveh was a great city” [italics mine]). So a date after the fall of Nineveh would place the composition of the book after 612 B.C. The book was received as canon among the twelve Minor Prophets as early as 200 B.C. since Sirach 49.10 mentions “the Twelve Prophets.” Therefore, its composition would have to be sometime before that. These various factors, and several others,[3] are why many scholars place the writing of this book in the exilic or post-exilic years

[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Syria, Syrians,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2011.

[2] The list of contemporary prophets includes Hosea, Amos, and, later in that century, Micah and Isaiah.

[3] See Billy K. Smith and Franklin S. Page, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, vol. 19B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 206–209. Smith and Page present the case for the pre-exilic/exilic date. The usage of certain words and phrases and the message of Jonah being a rejection of exclusivism and nationalism are the two main arguments which work in favor of a later pre-exilic or exilic date.

Ruth – Introductory Material

Author
Elwell and Beitzel argue that since 4.18-22 records the genealogy of David, “The book must have been written sometime after the beginning of David’s reign.”[1] Easton is matter-of-fact, “The author of this book was probably Samuel, according to Jewish tradition.”[2] Specifically, it is the Talmud which says “Samuel wrote the books which bear his name and the book of Judges and Ruth” (B. Bat 14b-15a). Trible is more measured: “Though Jewish tradition assigned Ruth to the prophet Samuel, scholarship has remained properly silent on the subject. The author is unknown. Nevertheless, commentators have assumed a male gender for the storyteller, an assumption not unchallenged.”[3]

Date
As elusive as the author is, so too is the date. However, what one believes about the one is going to influence the other. Therefore, according to Trible, an exilic or postexilic date has been postulated due to “discrepancies with the Deuteronomic law.” On the other hand, “Many others, however, argue for a preexilic composition between the 10th and 7th centuries b.c.e. They detect linguistic features, classical prose, legal and theological perspectives that fit these earlier periods.” [4] Thus, with this earlier date, Samuel or some other contemporary could have penned the book. Like with the author, an exact date remains out of reach.

Purpose
Most scholars agree that the book serves as an apology for the Davidic kingdom. Block argues that the purpose of the book is to authenticate the royal linage through a four act drama. He writes, “The author’s aim is to explain how, in the providence of God, the divinely chosen King David could emerge from the dark period of the judges.”[5] Elwell and Beitzel agree and go further saying, “The book may be considered as a justification for including the godly Moabitess in the nation of Israel.”[6]

Notes

[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Ruth, Book Of,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1871.

[2] M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893). N.p.

[3] Phyllis Trible, “Ruth, Book of,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 843.

[4] Ibid., 843.

[5] Daniel Isaac Block, Judges, Ruth, vol. 6, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 595.

[6] Elwell and Beitzel, 1871.

Introduction & Greetings – Ephesians

Ephesians 1:1–2 (ESV)

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are [in Ephesus,] and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul: see Author. Paul is named as the author and so he is.

An apostle…by the will of God:  Paul is writing in an official capacity so he uses the official title “apostle.” This epistle, then, carries apostolic weight. He is a representative, an ambassador of Christ, sent as His emissary in harmony with the will of God. This was not something that was conferred onto Paul by any man or which he took for himself; Paul was an apostle according to the desire, intent, and purpose of God.

To the saints…[in Ephesus]: or “to those who are saints and faithful in Christ Jesus.”  The Ephesians are both saints and faithful. They have been set apart unto God and put their faith into action. This is true of all Christians—they are saints and they are faithful. For more on “in Ephesus” see Introductory Material.

And are faithful in Christ Jesus: This phrase indicates that Paul intended a larger audience than just those Christians in Ephesus. The phrase “in Christ Jesus” appears 176 times in Paul’s writings, 36 of which are in Ephesians. This is obviously the keystone to Paul’s theology.

2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace to you and peace: This is the Christian rendering of the greeting with which letters in antiquity generally began. It combines the Greek greeting (grace, Gk charis) with the Hebrew greeting (peace, or shalom). Grace is God’s unmerited favor. We don’t earn it or deserve it. Paul invokes God’s grace upon this community (pl. “you”).  not merely the absence of war but the subtle understanding that God is in control of everything. Grace brings peace. Taken together they are Paul’s customary form of greeting (see Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; 2 Cor 1.2).

From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: God the Father & Son are the source of both grace and peace. So Paul equates (but does not conflate) the Father and Christ. The distinction is not one of nature but of relation to the recipients of the grace and peace: God is Father, having made them children by adoption; Christ is Lord as Head of the Church. Grace comes from the God who is rich in grace (cf. 1.7). Peace must come from the “God of peace” (4.9).

Ephesians – Introductory Material

The Ephesian World

In the 1st century Ephesus was the capital city of the Roman province of Asia. Known as “the first and greatest metropolis of Asia,” the most celebrated feature of the city was the Temple of Diana, counted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This temple was apparently a rebuild of a previous shrine to an ancient fertility goddess which burned in 356 BC. It was also distinguished for its theater, the largest in the ancient world, capable of seating 20-25,000 spectators. Fights between beasts and men with beasts were staged here.

Ephesus was a port city in Western Asia Minor at the mouth of the Cayster River. Mountains surrounded the town on three sides and the sea was on the west. It was famous for its trade, art, and science. Ephesus enjoyed the height of its prosperity in the first and second centuries a.d. as the fourth largest city in the Empire.

 

Ephesus

Religion in Ephesus

Religion was of paramount significance to the city of Ephesus. Scholars agree that the primary god of this region was the mother goddess of the Anatolian people who originally peopled this territory. The area was first colonized by Ionian Greeks under the leadership of Androclus of Athens in the tenth century b.c. The Greeks identified the deity with their own Artemis, but the attributes remained those of the ancient fertility goddess. Over time the city became the cult center of the worship of the Ephesian Artemis. Artemis (or Diana, according to her Roman name) was known variously as the moon goddess, the goddess of hunting, and the patroness of young girls. She was the twin sister of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus. When called upon to do so, the city would vigorously defend the goddess against impious detractors [see Acts 19.28].

Artemis was not the only deity in Ephesus. Ephesus’ religious climate was similar to that of many other large cities in the Greek East. There is documentation—including literature, epigraphy, numismatics, sculpture, and architecture—of a plethora of Greco-Roman and, to a lesser extent, Anatolian deities. These include Aphrodite, Apollo, Egyptian gods, gods most high, Hercules, Pluton, & Zeus (among others). They also engaged in hero worship, with a cult devoted to Alexander the Great existing until the 2nd century AD.

Christ’s Church in Ephesus

Into this intensely pagan society the gospel is preached. The history of Christianity in Ephesus began about AD 50, perhaps as the result of Priscilla and Aquila (see Acts 18.18). However, on the day of Pentecost, there were residents from various parts of Asia minor who heard and no doubt were obedient to the gospel (Acts 2.9). Perhaps the earliest roots stretch back to the very beginning of the church. Nevertheless, most scholars point to Paul’s brief stay on his second missionary journey (Acts 18.19-21) as the nexus of the church.

During his third missionary journey Paul reached Ephesus from the “inland country” (Acts 19:1), i.e., from the highland parts of Asia Minor, and stayed there for about three years, Paul’s longest missionary tenure. So successful and abundant were his labors that “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (19:10). Influence from this resident ministry undoubtedly established congregations in the Lychus River Valley at Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossae. Scholars also believe he wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus and perhaps Romans.

Ephesus continued to play an important role in early church history. “The consensus of 2nd century sources is in favor of placing John in Ephesus in latter years.” A long of bishops in the Eastern church lived there. Council of Ephesus in AD 431.

Author, Date, & Recipients

This is undoubted an epistle of Paul and those who would deny Pauline authorship stand on very thin ground. The writer identifies himself as “Paul” (1.1; 3.1) who is both an apostle and prisoner of Christ. Further, the similarities between this epistle and Colossians is striking—75 of 155 verses can be connected (in similar form) to Colossians. By the mid-second century, the epistle is in wide circulation and undisputedly considered of Paul. Early church writers (Clement, Ignatius) quote from this epistle. Early canons (Muratorian, Marcion) include this epistle as being of Paul. Scholars overwhelmingly affirm that this epistle was written by Paul during his Roman imprisonment between AD 62-64.

When it comes to the recipients, the case is not as cut-and-dry. For one, there are no terms of endearment (Beloved, friends, etc.) which is typical for Paul’s epistles to people he has met and known (i.e Philippians 2.12). Also, the language hints that Paul did not personally know (1.15, “I have heard of your faith”) and who do not seem to know Paul (3.2, “assuming you have heard”). This could not be a description of the Ephesian church. Paul had experienced their love while he had lived among them and he had declared to them his ministry from the Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 20.24). The external evidence is mixed with some early church writers (Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian) citing this epistle as “to the Ephesians” while other early church writers (Origen, Jerome, Basil) had copies of this letter without the words “in Ephesus” in them. The majority of manuscripts contain the phrase en Epheso but the earliest (Beatty, Vaticanus, Sinaticus) do not (though Sinaticus has pasi en Epheso in the margin). This has led some scholars to conclude that this epistle is actually a circular letter to the various churches in Asia Minor. While addressed to “the saints who are faithful,” Ephesus would have been the first stop of this “book tour” since it was the port city, the gateway Asia Minor. Over time, this epistle was recognized as primarily belonging to Ephesus.

Theme

Paul writes to explain to his brethren that God has equipped Christ’s church with every spiritual blessing to grow.

Introduction & Greetings

They were only there to help, not hurt. But their help turned out to be hurt for them. Paul and his companions enter Philippi to preach the gospel and win souls. And souls they won until some did not approve when the help Paul offered affected their pocketbook. Accusations came followed by arrest (Acts 16.19). As if that were not enough, they were dragged into the center of town, stripped of their clothing, and beaten with rods (16.22). Many blows are inflicted (16.23). Once finished, they are handed over to the jailer who puts them in the prison within the prison, shackling their feet (16.24).

Time passes. Those events become an unforgettable memory. A letter is written and Paul recalls “every remembrance…from the first day” of that place. What does he say? What does he remember? How does that shape his worldview? How does that shape his view of the Philippians? Where does he begin? What kind of words does he use to describe those memories? Is he angry? Is there angst? Or is he merely apathetic to the whole thing?

He says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (Phil 1.3-4). Joy? Joy?!? But the accusations and incarceration! But the beating and belittling! But the dungeon and the shackles! Paul…Joy!? Notice too it is joy coupled with thanksgiving to God. But how?

The book of Philippians is a key to unlocking the secret of facing any and all circumstances with joy (cf. 4.11-12). What Paul is communicating in these 104 verses is that God gives/empowers servants (slaves) joy/to rejoice regardless of circumstances.

Philippians 1:1–2 (ESV)

1Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

Paul: Paul does not use his official title of “apostle” as he does elsewhere (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, et al). His style of writing to the Macedonian churches (Philippi & Thessalonica) illustrates the difference of relation to them—deep personal affection & no formal introduction.

And Timothy: Paul’s “son in the faith” who is associated with Paul in every epistle in which some other person is mentioned in the address except 1 Corinthians (Sosthenes). He could have been Paul amanuensis (like Tertius in Romans 16.22) but it is highly unlikely that he was a co-author (Paul speaks in the first person singular throughout the letter). He was, though, Paul’s companion and co-worker in the evangelistic work to the non-Jews (Gentiles).

Servants of Christ Jesus: Perhaps here we find the “official” title he wishes for his readers to know him by. Lit. slaves or Christ. They were those who belonged to Christ who was their Master (Gk. kurios & despotes) as well as the Father—they were those “bought with a price.” The slave did not have his won will but adopted the will of His master. So too Paul and Timothy have abandoned their will for the will of God and Christ. Further, regardless of how they differed—in age, in spiritual maturity, in circumstances of conversion, in official activity (apostle and evangelist respectively) – in Christ they are equals. Both are slaves, both have the same ministry, calling, and Master.

To all the saints in Christ Jesus: “all the saints” – not just those who may have contributed to the “gift” sent to Paul; no group is specially identified (though some divisions might be present); no person is singled out (though two women were disagreeable). All alike are loved by Paul and all of them love him. Further, they were all “in Christ Jesus” – a position attained by being immersed into Him (see Romans 6.3).

Note: Paul and Timothy are “slaves of Christ Jesus” and the Philippians are identified as “saints in Christ Jesus.” Both of these terms identify Christians: the former points to the work assigned and the latter points to the spiritual blessings that are ours. Work and holiness identify us.

At Philippi: see Introductory Material

With [the] overseers and deacons: no definite article(s). Bishops (Gk episkopois) were equivalent to elders (Gk presbuteros) in the first century church (see Acts 20.17, 28). Their responsibility was nourishing and protecting the “flock of God.” They were drawn from the full number of the church. Deacons (Gk diakonios) were responsible for certain welfare duties in the church and possibly certain administrative tasks. One writer sees a possible hendiadys reading “serving-shepherds.”  In no other letter does Paul greet specifically the elders and deacons. Why does he do it that in this letter? Martin suggests (42) that they were instrumental in gathering the funds of the “gift” that was sent by way of Epaphroditus.

Note: Paul follows the conventional format of letters in his day—(1) identification of the sender(s), (2) identification of the recipient(s), (3) greetings.

2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Grace to you: Grace is God’s unmerited favor. We don’t earn it or deserve it. Paul invokes God’s grace upon this community (pl. “you”).

And peace: not merely the absence of war but the subtle understanding that God is in control of everything. Peace must come from the “God of peace “ (4.9). Grace brings peace.

Note: grace is the Greek form of greeting and peace is the Hebrew form of greeting. Taken together they are Paul’s customary form of greeting (see Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; 2 Cor 1.2).

From God our Father: God is the Author and Initiator of salvation. As the Father He sends the Son. By sending the Son for human redemption He manifests His grace and desire for peace.

And the Lord Jesus Christ: The Son is our Lord Jesus Christ. Elsewhere He is called “the grace of God” (Titus 2.14) and by His sacrifice He brings peace between man and God.

Grace and peace are upon the church of Christ because God the Father sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to accomplish the salvation of mankind. This greeting is rich with theology.

Philippians – Introductory Material

Writer

Paul. So much could be said about him. Paul is his Greco-Roman name (Saul was his Jewish name). From this correspondence we learn that Paul is clearly of Jewish descendent (3.5): an Israelite, a Hebrew, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee who had been circumcised on the eighth day (cf. 2 Cor 11.22; Rom 11.1). He was an educated man who perhaps had elementary education growing up in Tarsus (cf. Acts 22.3) and received secondary education as a Pharisee under Gamaliel. Thus, his claim “under the law blameless” (Phil 3.6). He excelled past his fellow countrymen in his orthodox observance of the Law. Prior to his conversion, he was a church persecutor (see 3.6). During a trip to Damascus he has an encounter with the resurrected Jesus and is struck blind (Acts 9). A man named Ananias explains to him how to obey the gospel (Acts 22.16) and he is converted. “This experience had dramatic consequences, changing his entire life, self-understanding, theological views, and goals.”[1] He went from being a persecutor of the church to a propagator of Christ.

His letters reflect a brilliant intellect, skillful in rhetoric, careful in composition, and elaborate in theological argumentation. Indeed, Paul was competent to defend himself in court while his opponents, Jewish priests, needed an orator (Acts 24.1). Through his letter writing he codified much Christian doctrine and beliefs of the church concerning Christ and Christian conduct. Through this medium he became a prominent champion for orthodox Christian theology. Often his zeal and passion for true Christology, orthodoxy, or orthopraxy comes through the page of Scripture.

From later Christian sources we know that Paul was martyred for his faith. 1 Clement 5.5-7 records that Paul “showed the way to the prize for patient endurance” and that he “departed from the world and went to the holy place.” Tradition holds that he was beheaded in Rome in AD 69 with the exact site of the beheading and subsequent burial being disputed.

Paul writes this epistle to a church he helped establish in Philippi (Acts 16). Some time has passed since first preached the gospel in Philippi.

Date

Caffin (Pulpit Commentary) says this epistle was written about 30 years after the ascension of Christ and about decade since Paul established the church in Philippi. This places the epistles composition around AD 63-64 during Paul’s Roman (Neronian) imprisonment. However, there is a school of thought which argues for an earlier composition during Paul’s Caesarean imprisonment (Acts 23.33-35).[2]

Destination

Philippi

Originally founded as Krenides (or Crenides) by residents of the nearby island of Thasos in 360-59 BC, Philippi is a city in E Macedonia, NE Greece. Philippi was named after Philip II of Macedonia who was the father of Alexander the Great. Philip enlarged the city and renamed it in 356 BC. It is located on a plain surrounded by mountains about 10 miles from the Aegean Sea. The main route of trade between Asia and the West called the Egnatian Way ran through the city. Philippi was made into a Roman colony when Marc Anthony and Octavian (who would later become Augustus Caesar) defeated Brutus and Cassius there in 42 BC. This entitled the residents to the rights and privileges that were specially reserved for residents of Italy. Along with this came the settling of veterans in the town, giving it a Latin military heritage which would last into Paul’s day. The city of Philippi was the urban political center of the colony and with its proximity to the Via Egnatia also dominated the colony’s commercial life.[3] Thus the historian Luke is right in calling Philippi “a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony” (Acts 16.12).

Philippi was the site of Paul’s extensive missionary activity in Europe. He walked into a town which hosted a sanctuary for Egyptian gods and a cult which was considerably popular. In fact, the sanctuary enjoyed a prominent place in the town and was probably supported by some of the wealthy members of the city based on the costly marble used in its construction. Other inscriptions show that many gods were prominent in Philippi and that most of religious activity surrounded the cultic activities of women (cf. Acts 16.16ff). “Roman gods such as Jupiter and Mars had their cults, but the Thracian goddess Bendis remained very popular, and sanctuaries to gods from Egypt and to Cybele, a Phrygian goddess, are also known.” [4] Paul set foot into this unique polytheistic culture on his second missionary journey (c. AD 49). Perhaps aware of the high percentage of women involved in religious duties, he found a group of women praying outside the city and upon converting one lady (Lydia) and her family, they became the core group of the church. Some suggest that the reason starts by the river is because there were no synagogues because they didn’t even have the necessary number of males (ten) to form one.[5] However, some argue that the women were meeting at a synagogue located outside the city (Harper).

Neverthless, Paul visits Philippi on his second missionary journey, establishes a congregation and proceeds from there to Thessalonica, leaving Luke in Philippi (from 1st person to 3rd). Paul and Silas (probably with Timothy also though he is not mentioned) will not return to Philippi until Acts 20.5 when they are reunited with Luke (3rd to 1st person). The time span is one of about 5 years and no doubt the presence of Luke helped to strengthen and mature that congregation. This may help explain why Paul’s letter is not harsh and corrective as some of his other works.

Occasion & Purpose

Lenski points out that neither the dispute between sisters (4.2) nor the gift from the Philippians (4.18) prompted this letter. Lenski says the two-fold occasion for writing is the recovery of Epaphroditus (who Lenski says became sick when he delivered the Philippians’ gift to Paul) and the positive progress of his case in the imperial court (including those in the imperial court hearing the gospel). Paul isn’t correcting grave error or developing a theme – he is simply writing a letter.

Muller agrees: “The frank, hearty tone, the artless form, the cheerful mood even under oppressive circumstances, the practical purport – these all bear a very personal stamp, and make it – to a measure surpassing any other of the apostle – a letter, the effusion of the heart to a Church he loved.”[6] It was written for personal reason without dogmatic intention. Those personal reasons include the gift from the Philippians: “For this token of love he wished to express his thanks.”[7]

Martin offers a couple occasions for writing: 1) recognition of the generosity of the church in their gift (monetary support, 1.3, 5; 4.10, 14ff), 2) Epaphroditus, very much acquainted with the church, informs Paul of various troubles within the body (2.2-4, 14; 4.2; possibly 1.27) – there may have been divisions and certainly were quarrels and possibly a “perfectionist faction” to which Paul explains that not even has arrived and those who “think otherwise” (i.e. that they have arrived) are not mature in their thinking.

Barclay offers four (4) reasons for Paul’s writing: 1) thanksgiving for the gift sent, 2) information about Epaphroditus who became sick, 3) encouragement for the Philippians during trials, 4) appeal for unity in the body.

Paul writes to a group of Christians who are at a crossroads. They are beset by Judaizer teachers who no doubt want them to adopt into their Christian walk the Law and Jewish customs. The pure practice of the Christian is thereby threatened. Their faith also needs refining in certain fine points of following Christ and how to be a Christian. Further, the minds of the Philippians are troubled over Paul and Epaphroditus, one imprisoned and the other ill. Their joy has been threatened by all of these besetting factors.

The purpose of this book is to stimulate the Philippian Christians to live a life worthy of the gospel.

Theme

Paul seeks to remind his brethren that God empowers servants (slaves) to rejoice regardless of circumstances.


[1] Hans Dieter Betz, “Paul (Person)”, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992). 187.

[2] See Ralph Martin, Phillipians, Tyndale New Testament Commentary, 26-28.

[3] Holland L. Hendrix, “Philippi (Place)”, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992). 314.

[4] Paul J. Achtemeier, Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985). 786.

[5] Ronald F. Youngblood, ed., “Philippi,” New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville: Nelson, 1995). 984.

[6] Jac. Muller, The new International Commentary on the New Testament. Philippians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1955). 20-21.

[7] Ibid. 14

Introduction Material to 1 John

Author

Like the epistle to the Hebrews, 1 John begins immediately without the writer identifying himself. External evidence is in favor of ascribing the epistle to the apostle John. The epistle was known to Polycarp, a disciple of John. It is first quoted by Irenaeus who was himself a disciple of Polycarp. “In his Adversus Haereses (3.16, 18) he quotes fully from 1 John 2.18-22; 4.1-3; 5.1, and 2 John 7, 8” (Morris 18). Clement of Alexandria repeatedly quotes from the epistle as being from John. Tertullian quotes from the epistle about fifty times in his works against Marcion and the Gnostics. When it comes to internal evidence, the author presents himself as an eyewitness and establishes that fact early. Further, nearly everyone agrees that the fourth Gospel and the first epistle are inseparable. Further, the two shorter epistles are undoubtedly from the same hand as the first epistle. Thus, the writer of the gospel narrative and the writer of the three epistles are one and the same: John the apostle, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

Occasion & Purpose

A very grave and antichristian error has cropped up and perhaps crept into the fellowship of the faithful (see 2.18, 22-24; 3.7; 4.1-6). Plummer suggests that John writes to “grapple with the insidious seductions of antinomian Gnosticism, as they threatened the Church at large” (Pulpit Comm. iv). John describes these men in graphic language: antichrists (2.18) and false prophets (4.1). There are “many” of these! Their error was Christological in nature as they assault the nature of the Son of God with their diabolical teaching. They denied Jesus was the Messiah (2.22; 5.1) and that He had come in the flesh (4.2). The Gnostic claimed to have a “more excellent way” and seemingly understood the Gospel better than the apostles! Their teaching about Christ had ethical implications. John’s discussions about light, love, and righteousness, as well as the formula “if we say” or “anyone who says” all seem to be aimed at the ethical errors of the antinomian Gnostics.

All of the theological and ethical discussions through the epistle culminate in the purpose statement of the book: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (5.13). John writes to assure the faithful concerning their possession of life eternal.

Destination & Date

Both of these are speculative at best. John, according to tradition, resided in Ephesus near the end of his life. In all likelihood, the Gospel and these three epistles were penned from that location. This first epistle may have been a general epistle to the churches in Ephesus and in the surrounding locations which were becoming hotbeds for Gnosticism. He probably wrote this epistle sometime between 80-95 AD.

Introductory Material to 1 John

Definition of terminology…This is the theological climate into John the apostle wrote.

Syncretism: To unify (or combine). In a Christian sense, syncretism is the mixing of Christianity with some other religion or religious practice. In the first century, you had a lot of Jews wanting to mix Judaism with Christianity, thereby making it an outgrowth of Judaism. They tried to validate Christianity with the Law which they had had for 1500 years. Also, Gnostics tried doing some of this, mixing in their “secret wisdom” into Christianity (hence, Paul’s use of “mystery” in his writing).

Gnosticism: So hard to define because it is a religion influx and ever changing. But it primary began as a mystery religion with a direct claim on “secret wisdom” or “secret knowledge.” It had pagan roots (esp. in Platonism, teaching of Plato, philosophy) and was influenced by oriental mysticism. Followers thought they had possession of unique higher insight.

Dualism: Along these lines (Gnostics) and even coupled with it, Dualists came up with the idea of two different gods (one good and one evil) which they used to explain the “dual” nature of (well) everything: life and death, body and spirit, light and dark, good and evil, etc. John will work to squash this in his epistle.

Docetism: believed Christ’s body was an illusion because they believed matter was evil. So how could Christ (a divine being) have a body if matter (flesh) is evil? They even went so far so as to distinguish between two gods: good and evil gods. Well, this will mess up salvation…unless you say Jesus didn’t die for us but for our bodies. Of course, if Jesus had no physical body, the virgin birth, the scourging, the suffering, the crucifixion, the seed promise fulfillment, the prophecies of the OT, the shed blood for our sins could never have happened. John will attack this as he confirms the humanity of Jesus.

Antinomianism: anti-lawism, believed God wants man to be dumb and stay dumb. That’s why he took Adam and Eve out of the garden, destroyed Babel, and flooded the earth. But who arises as the hero of the garden is this is true? Satan!

Adoptionism: (AKA Ebionism) They said Jesus did have a physical body and was a good man, but when he was baptized a Spirit came and inhabited his body (Manichaeism?). This Spirit-being came into Jesus and the personality of Jesus was zapped into a comatose state. Hence, Jesus the man is not conscious. He is manipulated by this Spirit for three years until he is hanging on the cross and leaves him (hence, the cry, “My God, my God…”). John proves deity was on the cross.

Asceticism: The belief that if you gratify or please the flesh in any way, it is wrong. The only way to get control of the body is to beat it into submission. See Col 2.8, 20-23. More of the matter is evil but also the appetites and gratification of these appetites is evil.

Monasticism: Monastery life. Go off into the wilderness and live like a hermit (roots).

Epicurean: More philosophy but they were indulgent of the flesh; eat, drink and be merry…

Stoicism: Other philosophers who looked to the see what the Epicurean did and then “bit the bullet.” They were suppressors of the appetites.

Apostolic Epistemology: those who looked to the apostles for doctrine and practice. How do you know what you know? Source of information (epistemology). Where did Jesus get his information? Holy Spirit. What about the apostles? Jesus, later the Holy Spirit. What about us? Apostles. Everything we know comes from the apostolic and prophetic accounts. We know what we know through them. And we get what they got when we read what they wrote. Fellowship with God…