Identities, Part 1
Phil 1 & 2
Phil 1 & 2
Phil 1:1–2: Identities
As I’ve mentioned a few times from the pulpit, my conversion experience, the time when I
became a Christian, was in between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of
college. This was a transitional time in my life. I was phasing out of one period of my life—high
school—and phasing into a new period of my life—college.
The central question God pressed upon my conscience that Summer was the question, “Who do I
want to be?” I knew that I was on the dawn of a new stage in life, and God used that moment to
force me to reflect, to ask that question. My conversion came about when God forced me to
answer that question. I remember that night.
I was in Tallahassee, FL on a trip with my youth group. For some reason, I was only one of two
graduating seniors on the trip. Because there weren’t many people my age on this trip, I had
quite a bit of time by myself. This time was providentially given. I had time to reflect and ask
myself hard questions.
One night, after returning from a worship service, I felt conviction in my heart. I knew that my
life in high school had not reflected Christ. I was a hypocrite. I had said one thing through high
school—that I was a Christian—and yet had lived an ungodly lifestyle. This conviction bubbled
up in my heart that night. Convicted by the Spirit of God, I knelt by my bed and prayed. I don’t
remember everything I said, but I do remember that I ask God “to make me a man of God.” After
that prayer, I’ve never been the same.
That night God had answered that question that he had raised in my mind that Summer—“Who
do I want to be?” That question was a question of identity. It concerned my identity. Specifically,
the question concerned who do I want to be in the future? In college? As an adult? I was born
again when (not because of) I answered the question, “Who do I want to be?” I was saved when I
answered this question of my identity.
Questions of identity are essential. It is of utmost importance that we are, first, gripped by these
questions. There is a prevailing thoughtlessness that plagues our era. It is an era of
distractions—Facebook, smart phones, selfies. Rather than ask ourselves hard, deep, meaningful
questions, when often numb ourselves with distractions. Rather than face reality, we run from it,
and try to protect ourselves from it. We must repent of those tendencies. We must ask these
important, hard questions. Second, we must get the answers right. Broader culture offers you
several answers to these questions. To the question of “Who is God?” many might answer “You
are God. You are the master of your own destiny.” Or, “There is no God.” Or, “What a
unimportant question.” To the question of “Who am I?” many might answer, “You are whoever
you want to be. If you are a woman, you can be a man. If you are a man, you can be a woman.”
These answers are damning. Hope, joy, and peace are not found in these answers.
My sermon for this morning and for next week will be on this topic of identities. My title for this
morning sermon is “Identities, Part 1.” Identities refers to the multiple questions of identity that
arise from Phil 1:1–2. For this morning’s sermon, I will ask and answer two questions. The first
question will be my first point, and the second question will be my second point. If you have
your Bibles, go ahead and turn with me to Phil 1:1.
Who is Jesus?
For our first point, we want to answer this question: “Who is Jesus?” Jesus himself, in his early
ministry, posed this question to Peter. “Who do you say that I am, Peter?” The late C. S. Lewis
formulated an historically influential apologetic argument based upon this question. He argued
that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. There are no other options. I, too, believe that this
question is of the utmost importance. We must all be confronted with this question. It is the job
of the church to both press this question upon humanity and to persuade humanity concerning the
I get this question from our passage based upon the preeminence that Christ has in the greeting.
Jesus’ name shows up in three different places in this introduction, vv. 1–2: “servants of Christ
Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” For this point, I will focus on
the first and third reference to Christ.
Slave of Christ Jesus
The first place Jesus shows up is with the first statement that Paul makes. Paul states that both he
and Timothy are “servants of Jesus Christ.” In our next sermon, we will focus upon the word
“servant.” Here, I want to focus upon “of Jesus Christ.” This phrase “of Jesus Christ” could be
translated “belonging to Jesus Christ” or “possessed by Jesus Christ.” The idea is that Christ as
the Master own, posses, control Paul and Timothy. They are his slaves. He is their master. He is
their master and thus “owns” them.
What is interesting here is that it does not say “slaves of God.” While Paul does use that
designation for himself in Titus 1:1, he does not use it here. Instead, he regards himself as a slave
of “Jesus Christ.” This is significant for understanding who Jesus is. The OT background for this
issue illumines this idea. Turn to Duet 34:5. The passage states,
So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the
word of the LORD
This is just one example in the OT of someone being called a “servant of the LORD.” There are
many other occurrences of it. A “servant of the LORD” was a title of honor that the great saints
of the OT were given. To be a “servant of the LORD” was a tremendous title.
Notice who does the possessing here in Duet 34:5 specifically and in the OT generally. It is the
“LORD.” The Hebrew word that stands behind this English word the “LORD” is God’s name.
This name is YHWH. This was the name that God gave to Moses from the burning bush. This is
the name that God does not share with others. From the perspective of the OT, the people of God
would never belong to any other Lord. YHWH was the exclusive God.
What does Paul do in Phil 1:1, though? He knows the OT. He’s read it. He knows that Moses
was a servant of the YHWH. Even with this knowledge, he still considers himself a “Christ
Jesus.” Was this sacrilegious for Paul to do this? No. Here’s why. Jesus is YHWH incarnate.
Jesus is YHWH. Paul, as an apostle who believed the OT, could consider himself a “slave of
Christ Jesus” because he considered Jesus as YHWH incarnate. What was hidden in the OT is
revealed in the NT. Jesus is divine. He is YHWH incarnate.
And from Jesus Christ
For this last subpoint of my first point, I want you to look at v. 2. It reads,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
What I want you to see is that in this v. Paul escalates Jesus to a place equal with God the Father.
Grace and peace not only come from “God,” but also from “Jesus Christ.” Blessings flow from
both. There is no hint of a subordination between the Father and the Son here. Both issue forth
blessing because both the Father and the Son are divine. This is what one scholar says,
Texts such as this one, where Father and Son are simply joined by the conjunction
“and” as equally the source of “grace and peace” . . . make it clear that in Paul’s mind
the Son is truly God and works in cooperation with the Father and the Spirit for the
redemption of the people of God.
Like Paul does here, when Scripture speaks of Jesus as God, it usually does not say “Jesus is
God.” There are times when it says that occurs in Scripture. More often, though, Jesus’ deity is
presented more subtlety, like Paul does here.
It’s important to review this doctrine. This has been and continues to be one of the central
affirmations of Christianity. We live in a post-DaVinci Code era. Many people think that Jesus’
deity was created by Constantine at the Council of Nicea. That’s not correct. Repeatedly, the
Bible bears witness to the fact that Jesus is worshipped alongside the Father. Who is Jesus? He is
Who are We?
Our second point this morning is titled, “Who are we?” The “we” here is with reference to the
church. Another way to state the question is, “Who are we as a church?” “As a corporate body
here at CBC, who are we?” This is how I will answer this question this morning: “We are holy
This is a controversial claim in our current state of evangelicalism. Allow me to share with you a
story from popular culture that illustrates this debate. This illustration comes from the TV show
Bachelorette. I do not watch this show. I doubt I would encourage anyone to watch the show. My
view is that TV is largely a waste of time, especially reality dating shows. My information of this
illustration comes from an article.
This article explains that in the most recent season there was an encounter between a contestant,
Luke, and the bachelorette, Hannah, about Christian holiness. Luke asked Hannah, who both
confess to be Christians, what Hannah thought about physical intimacy before marriage. Hannah
admits that she has engaged in physical intimacy but that it is okay to do so because Jesus will
forgive her. This is a quote from her:
My faith that is a big, huge part of me and a lot of times people get Christianity and
religion messed up . . . Your faith should be something personal and a relationship
and it’s not to judge others. . . . Regardless of anything that I’ve done, I can do
whatever, I sin daily and Jesus still loves me . . . It’s all washed and if the Lord
doesn’t judge me and it’s all forgiven, then no other man, woman, animal … anything
can judge me.
What I want you to notice is the line, “Regardless of anything that I’ve done, I can do whatever, I
sin daily and Jesus still loves me . . . It’s all washed.” I affirm with her that we sin daily. I affirm
that Jesus forgives sinners. Totally. That’s correct. What is not true is when she says, “I can do
whatever, and Jesus still loves me.” That’s a denial of holiness. That’s a statement that you can
be unholy and still be a Christian.
This lady isn’t the only person who believes that. In fact, Dallas Seminary, that beloved and
trusted theological institute that I hail from, has had several prominent professors who believe
something like what this lady believes. Many believe that holiness is a negotiable aspect of the
church. Many believe that holiness, while it might be important, is not essential. It’s optional.
“Take it or leave it” type mentality
I vehemently disagree with such teaching. I strongly believe that Scripture teaches that the
church is a holy group of people. Where do I get this idea from?
Look at Phil 1:1b. Here, Paul highlights those persons he is writing to. Who is he writing to? He
is writing to, look in v.1b, “to all the saints who who are at Philippi.” So he’s not writing to “all
those who are at Philippi.” He’s not writing to the whole city. He’s writing to that group of
people who are in Philippi who are “saints.” And “saints” we mentioned early are those who are
holy. Paul is writing to those persons who are “holy.” This is what holy means:
Those who have been dedicated or consecrated to the service of God
“Set apart” is usually used with reference to holiness. That’s also a definition. The idea is that
God has made Christians different from the world so that they may be used by him.
This quality categorizes the church in Philippi. Now what about us, though. Let say you think,
“Well, Pastor, simply because the church of Philippi is ‘holy’ doesn’t mean that every church or
every Christian is holy. It does not follow that just because they were holy that holiness is a
essential part of being a Christian.” Good objection. I have a counter, though.
Turn to Heb 12:14. This is what this passage reads,
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness, without which no one will see
Based upon this verse, in order to “see the Lord,” (this is talking about ultimate salvation), a
person must a certain “holiness.” Holiness is a prerequisite to “seeing the Lord.” That’s the idea.
This verse, along with many other verses, makes holiness an essential part of salvation. Holiness
is not optional. It’s not like, “Well, you can be a holy Christian if you want.” No. Without
holiness, you will not “see the Lord.”
This idea the essential nature of holiness in salvation is related to the doctrine of sanctification.
Sanctification is the idea that there is a process to salvation. Turn to 1 Cor 1:18 to explore this
idea. Paul says this:
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us
who are being saved it is the power of God.
Look at this phrase “being saved.” What does that mean? This is the process of salvation. Yes,
there is a beginning of salvation (justification/regeneration) and there is an end point of salvation
(glorification). But there’s also a process. We are not just saved. We will not just be saved. We
also as Christians are “being saved.”
This is not an invalidation of salvation by grace alone. It isn’t. Some Christians feel that to be
faithful to grace, they have to do away with holiness and sanctification. That’s not what the Bible
teaches. To affirm holiness is not invalidate grace alone. Why not? Turn to Phil 2:12–13. I’ve
reviewed this verse in a previous sermon. Paul writes,
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my
presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good
How is it that the Bible can affirm that salvation is completely by grace and yet holiness is
essential to the life of the church and to the individual Christian? This answer is found in this
verse. Because God is the one who produces holiness in us. As v. 13 says, God is the one who
works in us the desire and the willing of holiness. He does it. It is essential and it’s all of grace.
Two questions for you this morning as we conclude. First, do you believe that Jesus is God? By
this question, I don’t just mean doctrinally, although I hope you affirm that. More so, I mean
does your life demonstrate that Jesus is God? Is his word your law? Does you obey him? Does he
reign supreme in your thoughts, words, and deeds? Or, is something else God to you?
Second, are you holy? Does your life reflect this teaching? Do you live a life that is different
from the world? Are you a hypocrite? Do you come to church and act one way, then leave and
act a different way? Does your life reflect the teaching of Jesus Christ in mind and heart?
Give us the grace to answer the hard questions of ourselves. Give us the strength to confront
ourselves in the mirror of your Word. Jesus, change us. Save us from our hypocrisy. Lead us to
worship Jesus Christ by making us, as a church and as individuals, holy. For the glory of the
Father and by the power of the Spirit. Amen.