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Philippians 1:1 – Supervisors and servants

07-12-2022 - Posted by Hans

 … to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, together with the supervisors and servants.

By emphatically addressing his letter “to all the saints . . . which are in Philippi” Paul emphasizes in advance the unity. That is always a useful reminder, especially when competition and conflict are lurking (2:2,3; 4:2).

This is the only time a congregation letter mentions “supervisors.” A supervisor (Gr. episkopos) is someone who looks after but also supervises. In the Titus letter we read that Paul left Titus on the island of Crete to appoint supervisors in the various cities who would oversee “sound teaching” (Titus 1:9). The supervisor does not exercise any power but is responsible for what is taught in an assembly (ecclesia) (Tit.1:9). We never read of a council or college of supervisors. Oversight is not an institution. The fact that Paul speaks of “supervisors” in the plural suggests that people gathered in several locations at Philippi.

Besides supervisors there are also “servants” (Gr. diakonos). These are men or women (Rom.16:1,2) who in the broadest sense of the word make themselves subservient in the Ecclesia. Although their work often goes unnoticed, they are indispensable in practice!