The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
April 8, 2012


1) Philippians 4:21-23 (Tom Edwards)    
2) News & Notes


Philippians 4:21-23
by Tom Edwards

We now come to the end of Paul's epistle to the Philippians.  He closes by saying, "Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you.  All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit" (Phil. 4:21-23).

Three times the passage uses the term "greet," which is rendered twice as "salute" and once as "greet" in the King James Version.  It is from the Greek word "aspazomai," which is defined as "to enfold in the arms, that is, (by implication) to salute, (figuratively) to welcome" (James Strong).  And though we might normally think of the English word "salute" as more of a military greeting done with raising the right hand to the side of the head, it also means "to address with expressions of goodwill, respect, etc.; greet" and "to make a bow or other gesture to, as in greeting, farewell, or respect" (Random House Webster's Electronic Dictionary and Thesaurus).  It is also the same Greek word that is used in Hebrews 11:13 in referring to those Old Testament believers who had "...died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having WELCOMED them from a distance...."  Commenting on the word "salute," David Lipscomb writes, "to salute is to bear assurance of love and kindness for persons."  So that is also what one does when welcoming or greeting a person.  For when we greet others -- in whatever manner we do -- we our expressing our love and kindness for that individual; and if that be not the case, then would it not be because our greeting was insincere or hypocritical?

The word "greet," or a form of that word, is the most common rendering of this Greek word in the New Testament.  

Through the years, different methods of greeting one another have been a part of various cultures.  We often think of the handshake in our time here in the United States; but during the time of the early church Paul had exhorted the brethren to "greet one another with a holy kiss" (Rom. 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20, and 2 Cor. 13:12), which Peter refers to as a "kiss of love" (1 Pet. 5:14).  Greetings with a kiss had already been part of their culture; so that wasn't something new they were being introduced to.  But what he now commands, he refers to as a "holy" kiss "in Christ."

Paul makes mention that "All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household."  As pointed out at the beginning, the Philippian letter is one of Paul's prison epistles, while he was under house-arrest in Rome.  So now Paul refers to those saints at Rome who are also giving their greetings to the Philippians.  The phrase "those of Caesar's household" should not be taken to refer to only those who were close relatives of Caesar.  For the term "household" was also used to refer to much more than that.  It could also include servants and guards, who were not related to the family at all.  As Thayer shows, the Greek word for "household" ("oikia"), though having a primary meaning of "a house," can also figuratively refer to not only "the family," but also "the inmates of the house," or, in other words, individuals who dwell with others in the same house.    

This particular Caesar, by the way, is "Nero."  He was the fifth Roman emperor and, according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, had been "born at Antium" on "December 15, 37 AD" and "began to reign October 13, 54."  So that was just one month short of his seventeenth birthday.  He then died June 9, 68; so he reigned as emperor about 13 years and 8 months; and, therefore, passed away before he was even 30.  

In wishing grace upon his hearers is a very common way that Paul would begin and end his letters.  This can be seen in numerous passages (Rom. 1:7 and 16:24, 1 Cor. 1:3 and 16:23, 2 Cor. 1:2 and 13:14, Gal. 1:3 and 6:18, Eph. 1:2 and 6:24, Phil. 1:2 and 4:23, Col. 1:2 and 4:18, 1 Thess. 1:1 and 5:28, 2 Thess. 1:2 and 3:18, 1 Tim. 1:2 and 6:21; 2 Tim. 1:2 and 4:22, Titus 1:4 and 3:15, Philemon 1:3 and 1:25).  

Another thing common to some of Paul's epistles was his mention of specific or general individuals who gave their greetings in the close of his letters (Rom. 16:21, 22, 23; 1 Cor. 16:19,20; 2 Cor. 13:13, "All the saints greet you"; Col. 4:10-14; 2 Tim. 4:21, "...Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren." Philemon 1:23,24.  Peter also does this: "She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does  my son, Mark" (1 Pet. 5:13); and John as well: "The children of your chosen sister greet you" (2 Jn. 1:13; 3 Jn. 1:15).

In Philippians 4:21, Paul speaks of "the brethren" who send their greetings; and then in verse 22 of "All the saints" who also send theirs.  We might wonder about this.  Are not the brethren also saints, and vice versa?  It is thought that "brethren" is probably referring to those ministers who had been with Paul -- such as Mark, Aristarchus, Justus, Demas, Epaphras, and Luke (Philemon 1:24, Col. 4:11,12) -- and then a greeting from the saints in general, such as those Christians of Caesar's household.  

It is also interesting to note that though there are these whom Paul mentions specifically by name who had been with him in Rome, there is never any mention of Peter being there.  And this is true in whether Paul was writing from that place during this first imprisonment there (c. 60 to 63), during his second Roman imprisonment (c. 66-68) or when writing to that place from Corinth (c. 57 to 58).   It is thought that Peter died somewhere around A.D. 64 to 67.  This all appears to indicate that the tradition that Peter went to Rome in A.D. 42, following his release from prison, is not a fact; that Peter never was in Rome and, therefore, never was made the first Pope there, as some folks believe today.  

But though they believe Peter was the first Pope, notice what the Bible says to show that fallacy:  

For one thing, Peter had been a married man.  For he had a "mother-in-law" (Matt. 8:14) and "a believing wife" (1 Cor. 9:5).  

Also, could you imagine Peter even using such titles as popes have used?  The very word "Pope" means "the bishop of Rome as head of the Roman Catholic Church."  Would the apostle Peter ever refer to himself as being the "head of the church"?  Paul writes in Ephesians 5:23, "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body."  Compare Colossians 1:18.  Nowhere does the New Testament give man the authority to be the head over God's church -- for that role is Christ's alone.  Since Jesus is the head of the church, how can there be any other?

In addition, would Peter ever have people address him as "Holy Father" as popes have been called?  There is only one place in all the Bible where this phrase is used, and it is in John 17 where Jesus is in deep prayer on the night of His betrayal and shortly before entering the Garden of Gethsemane.  In verse 11, He states, "...Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are."  In fervent prayer to the Father, Jesus used this title.  Could  you imagine the Lord calling any man "Holy Father"?  Since this is a title that Jesus used in referring to His Father in heaven, how could any man be called the same?

Furthermore, would Peter ever let others refer to him as the "Vicar of Christ," as popes have been called? "Vicar" is defined as "a person who is authorized to perform the functions of another...."  So this phrase is declaring the pope as having the authority to perform the functions of Christ, and for many years the pope has been viewed as infallible in his religious declarations.  And regardless of how humble a pope would be, how sincere, how much he realized his inferiority compared to God's greatness, but had greatly deceived himself into thinking he is serving the Lord by being the head over all the church, does that make it any more right?  For as we noted, that superior position is for Jesus alone.  The very word "catholic" means "universal in extent."  So while the Bible shows that "elders" are to oversee only the local congregation where they were members (Acts 20:28) and that there was also to be a plurality of elders in each congregation (Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23), unauthorized men came up with the idea to have just one man to oversee the church universally (which there is no Bible authority for and, therefore, in conflict with God's word).  

And what about the title, "Sovereign Pontiff."  Would Peter accept such a title for himself?  A "sovereign" is one who is a "supreme ruler," having "sovereign power or authority."  And "Pontiff" is used primarily to refer to the pope.  So a "sovereign pontiff" describes the pope as being a supreme ruler, one who has sovereign power or authority over all others.  But, again, how could just a man take upon himself such a superior role in religious matters?  

Peter was a good man, but he was not superior to others.  He was a fellow Christian, a "bond-servant" of Christ, as he refers to himself in 2 Peter 1:1.  He would not allow people to fall at his feet and worship him, as we see when he prohibited Cornelius from doing that in Acts 10:25,26.  

There was a time when Peter, as well as the other apostles, had disputes over who would be the greatest in the kingdom; but the very fact that they argued about these things indicates that Jesus had never made Peter superior to any of them by making him a Pope to rule over them.  Rather, the Lord shows the humble role of servitude that all of them were to take on (Luke 22:24-26).  

Another phrase Catholics sometimes use is "the primacy of Peter" and "the primacy of the pope."   "Primacy" means "the state of being first in order, importance, rank, etc."  The Bible never refers to Peter in this way, but there is one whom it does: "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he may hold the primacy" (Col. 1:18, Douay Rheims Bible, which is considered a Catholic version).  Some other versions render the "primacy" as "that in all things He may have the preeminence," "that he might have the first place in all things," "that in all things he might have the chief place," "that he would be above all others," and "that in everything he might have the supremacy."  How can this be said of any other, but God's Son?  Matthew 28:18: "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.'"   Christ's supremacy can also be seen in these phrases used in Revelation 17:14: "...He is Lord of lords and King of kings...."

To show you how far some have wrongly gone with regard to Peter, consider this following quote from James Cardinal Gibbons, a Catholic Archbishop.  He said, "Jesus our Lord, founded but one Church, which He was pleased to build on Peter. Therefore, any church that does not recognize Peter as its foundation stone is not the Church of Christ, and therefore cannot stand, for it is not the work of God'' (The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 82).  What about that?  Is Peter the foundation of the church?  And is any church not a true church of the Lord who does not accept that?  Paul makes it very clear in 1 Corinthians 3:11, "For other foundation no one can lay, but that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus.''  Christ is the only foundation for the church!  He, therefore, is the one people must recognize.    

Catholics refer to the pope as being the "visible head" of the church, and Jesus as the "invisible head."  Here are a couple quotes on that: "The Pope, therefore, as vicar of Christ, is the visible head of Christ's kingdom on earth, the Church, of which Christ Himself is the invisible head" (Answer Wisely, by Martin J. Scott, p. 49).  

"According to the will of Christ, all its members profess the same faith, have the same worship and Sacraments, and are united under the one and same visible head, the Pope" ("Father Smith Instructs Jackson," by John F. Noll and Lester J. Fallon, p. 42).  

It seems that this often use of the phrase "visible head" in referring to the pope is a way that Catholic officials seem to think it won't put the pope in conflict to the headship of Christ, and solve the problem of having a church with two heads.  But this concept of "visible" head over the church is nowhere taught in the Scriptures.  And when we think of the Bible illustration of the church being liken to a body and Christ being the head of that body, there is no room for another head -- whether visible or invisible for that body.  For the head is that part of the body that controls the body, and the only one who is to be reigning over the church and controlling it is Jesus Christ -- not the apostle Peter, or any other man.  

David Riggs writes, "Catholics often use the expression, 'One fold and one shepherd' to sustain the doctrine of the papacy. (See Catholic Catechism For Adults, p. 59, q. 3.) They teach that the 'one shepherd' is the Pope and the 'one fold' represents the Catholic Church."

Is that what you understand the "one fold and one shepherd" to be?  According to John 10:11, 14-16, Jesus is that one shepherd, and that one fold is all who will give themselves over to Him.  

So we close this lesson, having built an additional lesson around the fact that Peter does not appear to have been in Rome when Paul wrote from there or to there; and, therefore, never reigned as the first pope (which is a man-made concept that the Lord had never authorized..   

Though Paul closes the Philippian letter, the joy by which it is characterized does not come to an end.  For that joy comes from God Himself, as part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, to all who will submit to the gospel.  And that fruit is made up of various qualities that work together and which were, no doubt, a part of Paul's life -- even as he wrote this epistle from his 2-year house-arrest: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Gal. 5:22,23).  May we ever strive to develop more of this type of fruit for our souls.  For then Paul's final statement, by which we will end this study, will certainly be true in each of our lives: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit" (Phil. 4:23).     


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people:  Curtis Gautreau who will soon be receiving a bone marrow transplant, due to a type of bone cancer; Gyndell Henry (who has breast cancer); Mike Dubose (who must receive cancer treatment for the rest of his life); R. J. Stevens (who is undergoing therapy, following heart by-pass surgery and a mini stroke),  Roy Fenner (who has macular damage causing distortion, for which he must receive monthly shots in his eye indefinitely, and the development of a small, unpredictable legion near the scar where cancer had been recently removed, and  who requires plastic surgery to eliminate a basal cell wound that has been behind his ear for more than 2 years); and for our members who have been sick, with poor health, and/or physically weak: Geneva Wilson, Jean CallowayShirley Young, and Cheryl Crews.  Also Mozelle Robertson (who is healing from wrist surgery at 91), Clifton Trimble (whose health has been poor), and Anthony Webb and Andrew Robertson (who are seeking new employment). 

I received the following from R.J. Evans concerning an update on David Hartsell (from Belinda):

"Dear Friends,

"Doctors have been searching for an answer to David's unresponsiveness. They believe they have found an explanation. In the quest to control his seizures in the week after surgery, he had a rare metabolic response to a seizure medication. The results are temporary changes in his brain which it is believed can be gradually reversed. However, this means that he has to stay in ICU at... MD Anderson while we await his recovery. This is an extremely rare condition which will take time to reverse. We entered into the meeting with the doctors expecting bad news, but we firmly believe that the power of so many prayers allowed us to receive this hopeful report.

"I so much appreciate the support I have received from brethren. I have many long days ahead as I work out a way to keep my job in Tuscaloosa going and still provide David with the best care and chance of recovery.

"Thank you and may the Lord be Praised!"

The Southside church of Christ in Gonzales, Louisiana, will be having a gospel meeting April 27-29 with Chris Reeves as the guest speaker.  The church meets at 405 W. Orice Roth Road.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)