Philippians Bible Study, Week 22
Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. Philippians 4:21-23 (NIV 2011)
The usual letter-writing custom of the day was to close letters with final greetings. Paul brings his letter to a close by instructing the Philippians to greet “every saint” (translated in the NIV as “all God’s people”) who are “in Christ Jesus”.
Paul was not just writing to the church leaders, he was writing to every Christian believer in Philippi; and he wanted each of them to greet and welcome any, and every, other Christian they might meet. Building supportive networks among believers was vitally important in the early days of the church.
Paul then goes on to more specific greetings. The “brothers and sisters” and “all God’s people here” in Philippians 4:22 probably refer to the Christian believers in Rome (assuming this letter was written from Rome). This group would also include Timothy (Phil. 1:1).
It is interesting that the Christians in Caesar’s household get a special mention. Philippians 4:22 clearly indicates that “. . . Christianity had already penetrated into the very centre of Roman government.” (Barclay 2002:102) These Christians in Caesar’s household were probably slaves, freedmen and freedwomen in the emperor’s service, “those who were responsible for the day-to-day administration of the empire”; rather than blood relatives. (Barclay 2002:102)
Scholars believe that some of the men and women mentioned in Romans 16 were part of Caesar’s household. There are several indications that the spread of Christianity was rapid throughout the Roman world, and that Christians came from all levels of society, from the poorest to the most elite. Some later Christians were, in fact, relatives of Roman emperors.
Plaster cast of a bust of Nero. (Wikimedia)
Nero was probably the emperor at the time of Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians. He reigned from the 13th October, AD 54, to the 9th of June, AD 68. Nero was the fifth emperor of the Roman Empire and one of the worst. He was infamous for his cruel treatment of Christians, which included using Christians as human torches; he burnt their bodies at night to provide light for his garden. The Christians in “Caesar’s household” were in a precarious situation, especially as Nero’s insane cruelty worsened over time.
There is a widely believed tradition that Paul was executed during Nero’s reign. However, it seems that Paul was freed after writing his letter to the Philippians. (See Phil. 1:20-21; 2:17.) Paul was acquitted on this occasion and continued on his missionary travels which may have included Spain.
Paul ends Philippians with a final benediction (blessing) which is identical to his benediction in Philemon 25, and very similar to the one in Galatians 6:18. Paul’s benediction highlights one of the most wonderful blessings that are at the heart of Christianity—the grace, that is, the divine power, our Lord Jesus
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
 For example, Flavia Domitilla was a granddaughter of Emperor Vespasian, and the niece of Emperor Domitian; and she was a Christian. She was exiled for her role in a plan that was aimed at stalling Domitian from confirming a murderous edict to kill all Jews and Christians in the Roman Empire. She is regarded as a “Saint” by the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.
 Nero’s “Christian torches” are mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus (Annals 15.44). Suetonius doesn’t provide details, but states, “Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition” (Life of Nero 16.2.45)