Session 4 – Excellent authority, excellent correspondence
Honorable Ladies of the Philippians Bible Study,
How happy I am to have you join me on this journey of discussion and growth! How wonderful it is to discover the nuances of His Word, and the sweetness of His Grace through the text. Please continue on! Forge ahead in setting aside a moment each day to read, to laugh, to be challenged, and to grow up in Him, in Jesus.
May Christ’s grace go before you, behind you, and in you.
Much love and affection, Heidi
Ok, so maybe we don’t usually talk like that. But if I wrote you a letter today, that is what it would say. I’m so thankful for hearing from all of you and sharing in fellowship and learning side by side.
And this, friends, is how letters in the New Testament were written. People talked a bit different, but not so different.
The form of the word excellent that we are going to unwrap today is associated with those in authority. It has to do with a way of addressing those of distinction by rank or order, and is often found in a letter or formal address.
The root word in Greek is Kristos and it refers to one who is noble and/or strong, but it also is very specific as an “official epithet” of a Roman of high rank. It’s a governmental word. (Bear with me, this does have impact on our lives, I promise!)
Let’s look in Acts 23:16-27 first:
“Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”
Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” And he wrote a letter to this effect:
“Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. “
So, there is a plot against Paul by the Jews. His nephew finds out and goes to a Roman Centurion with power to impact the situation. The Centurion (Claudius) writes a letter to the governor, alerting him of the plot. Note the tone invoked in the letter by the simple use of the word Kratisto, or Excellency. When is it appropriate to honor someone because they hold an appropriate title? This isn’t manipulation. It is recognizing and accepting authority. So often we see Facebook posts or political comics that dishonor and poke fun at those who lead us. While, sometimes this is all in fun and our leaders are kind enough to laugh along, we need to be cautious, as Christians, to give credit where credit is due. If we want change, the Bible shows us in this passage (see also Acts 26), the appropriate way to go about it is through speaking the Truth with respect and having care with our words.
Luke uses this form of excellent in another New Testament letter.
Read Luke 1:1-4:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
This is the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, a letter to help Theophilus understand and “have certainty” about the life and work of Jesus Christ.
This gives us a new insight. We can address those that we share the Gospel with from a place of relationship and with honor and respect due to them as children of God and people in our lives. Luke knew Theophilus and knew what he had been taught. He shared further about Jesus to help him grow and learn, but he used language that lifted up. Who knows where Theophilus’s theology was at, but we can guess that he didn’t have it all perfect, because why else would the letter be necessary? Still, Luke calls him “most excellent.” He uses the appropriate title of authority, as a way to honor the one whom he is sharing with.
We may not be writing letters or sending texts to the President or the Governor. However, we can:
A) honor those in our society whom honor is due…soldiers, police, political authorities, rescue personnel, teachers, pastors, etc. (Who am I missing? I know I’m missing someone! Please share in the comments!)
B) honor those we share the Gospel, whether believers or unbelievers, by our language. Maybe it comes back to the gentle-bold words of day 3. Words matter and the Holy Spirit will surely guide.
Challenge: Write an actual letter! Crazy talk, right?! Dig out the notecards, find a sheet of paper, or even one of your Scripture Engagement Tools, and send an encouraging note to someone today. Share Jesus, share His love, share yourself.
Dear friends, you are most Excellent to me.