“How God Ministers to His People” 

Philippians 1:1-2 

June 11, 2023 

Faith Presbyterian Church – Morning Service 

Pastor Nicoletti 

The Reading of the Word 

This morning we begin a series on the letter of the Apostle Paul to the church in Philippi. 

You may remember that we are rotating between three different parts of Scripture throughout each year. In the fall and into the winter we are in the Old Testament – the last couple years we have been working through the Book of Deuteronomy. From after Christmas to around Pentecost we have been in a gospel – the last couple years we’ve been going through Mark. And from after Pentecost through the summer we have been in an epistle – one of the letters of the New Testament. 

The last two summers we went through the book of Colossians, which we finished last August. Which means it’s time for a new epistle! And so, this summer we will begin the book of Philippians. 

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in the Roman colony of Philippi. [McDonough, 2276-2277] 

Paul’s connection to the Christians in Philippi was personal. Paul himself founded the church there, and it seems likely that Paul visited the Christians in Philippi a few times after founding the church, and that they continued to actively support his ministry. [McDonough, 2275]  

Paul probably wrote this letter sometime between 60 and 62 A.D. while he was imprisoned in Rome. [Fee, 34-37] Which would mean that he was writing to them between nine and fourteen years after the church had been planted. [McDonough, 2276] 

Now, this morning we are only looking at the first two verses of Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. I’ve personally found it kind of irritating when a preacher would preach on just the greeting of a letter. After all, I’d think, is there really thirty minutes of content hidden in what looks a lot like the standard opening lines to a letter? 

But … after studying these verses more closely, my answer is yes: it turns out there is. Paul, as we often see, has the ability to cram a lot of content into a little bit of space. And he even manages to do it in the portions of a letter that we’d ordinarily think of as boilerplate material. [Fee, 59] 

Here, in his greeting we see Paul fill these opening verses with significant meaning in three ways: we see it in which writing conventions he chooses to use, in what content he plugs into those conventional forms, and then in which ways he violates the expected literary conventions of his day. In each of those ways, we see the Apostle Paul using something as simple as a letter greeting to communicate information of cosmic and life-changing significance to the Christians at Philippi … and also to us. 

With all that in mind, let’s turn now to our text: Philippians 1:1-2. 

Please do listen carefully, for this is God’s Word for us this morning: 

1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, 

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

This is the word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God.) 

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” [1 Peter 1:24-25] 

Let’s pray … 

Prayer of Illumination 

Lord, like the psalmist, our soul clings to the dust, 

and we ask you to give us life according to your word! 

Teach us your ways, 

help us understand your precepts, 

make us to meditate on your works. 

When our souls melt for sorrow, 

strengthen us according to your word. 

Help us to cling to your testimonies, 

and enlarge our hearts, 

that we may run in your ways. 

In Jesus’s name. Amen. 

[Based on Psalm 119:25-32] 


A good way to enter into this greeting might be to ask: How does Paul expect that God will minister to his people? 

How does the Apostle Paul expect that God will ordinarily minister to the people of God? 

Because, amazingly enough, an answer to that question is embedded into this greeting – and actually with some specificity. 

We can break it down further. We can ask what Paul assumes here about the following questions: 

  • Who is Jesus ministering to? 
  • What is Jesus using to minister to them? 
  • Where does Jesus expect them to be? 
  • And why is Jesus doing this? 

So who, what, where, and why. 

And as we ask those questions, what we find is that Paul assumes here that Jesus ministers to his saints, through his servants, within a structure, for their salvation. 

Jesus ministers to his saints, through his servants, within a structure, for their salvation. 

Let’s dive into our text then, to see how this plays out here, by asking our text: who, what, where and why. 

Who is Jesus Ministering to?: Saints 

So first: Who is Jesus ministering to? 

And we get an answer in verse one – Paul expects that through this letter, Jesus is ministering “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi.” Jesus is ministering to his saints. 

But that statement requires some further explanation. Because “saints” is a word we often misunderstand. And we often misunderstand it because we think of sainthood as usually being something that is individual, achieved, and aloof. But that’s not how Paul uses the word here. 

First, Paul is not using the word “saint” to address select individuals, but the entire congregation. He says in verse one “to all the saints.” The saints are a community – a congregation – not a Christian Hall of Fame. And so, in contrast to our normal assumptions, we see that Paul is using this term to speak of all of God’s people, not a select few. The term saints can more accurately be understood as referring not to individuals, but to “God’s holy people” as a whole. [Fee, 64-65] So Paul doesn’t use the term in an individualistic way, but in a communal way. 

Second, in contrast to our common usage of the word, Paul does not use the word “saint” to speak of a personal achievement, but of a status given by grace. 

This comes out in the phrase that follows it – Paul says they are the saints “in Christ Jesus.” They did not set themselves apart for God, but rather Jesus Christ, in the gospel, set them apart by grace and made them his own. [Fee, 65] 

According to the Bible, saints are saints, not because of what they have done, but because of what Christ has done on their behalf. Christ has lived the life they should have lived on their behalf. Christ has died the death they deserved to die on their behalf. Christ has risen from the dead to give them new life. And Christ has called them, and given them faith, and set them apart. And for those reasons, God’s people are holy. [Barth, 10] 

Their holiness is not achieved – it is given by grace, through Christ. 

And so, saints, as Paul understands them, are not individualistic but a community, their status is not achieved but given by grace. 

But third, saints are also not aloof, but they are rooted in the nitty-gritty of real life. 

Paul identifies them as “the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi.” 

And elsewhere in this letter Paul says that his audience is to be identified as “Philippians” – as people rooted in Philippi. [4:15; Fee, 66] With that, Paul acknowledges here that saints do not hover off the ground, detached from their time and their place, but God roots them in a specific time and a specific place, and calls them to live out their faith then and there. 

And as saints, we should stop resenting that fact. We can lament the sins of our time and place to be sure – that is biblical. But we must also embrace the fact that God put us here, at this time and this place, as his saints, for a purpose. 

Herman Bavinck points out that one way we can miss this is by assuming that our heavenly calling is in competition with our earthly calling. Christians have been prone over the centuries, he points out, to see these two callings – our calling for eternity, and our calling in the specific here-and-now of our lives – as if they are in competition with each other, so that to the extent that we devote any strength and time to one, we withdraw it from the other.  

But this view – so common to many – fails to remember that it is God who gives both callings. He calls us to heaven, and to live as citizens of heaven. He also calls us to live our human lives faithfully here on earth, in the particular time and place he has put us. And so, when we are tempted to think of true saints as aloof and disconnected from this present world, Bavinck says that we need to remember the teaching that the Reformation put forth, “that the way to heaven does not lie in the cloister and in the solitude of the desert, but in the way of a full human life.” [Bavinck, 129] 

That means being fully human, and accepting where the Lord has placed us. 

Some of us may struggle with where the Lord has placed us. But with that, the words of J.R.R. Tolkien may be helpful – words I was reminded of again when some of our fourth graders memorized it at school and recited it for some of us this past week. 

Frodo, struck with the troubles of his time and place says: “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” And Gandalf replies: “So do I, […] and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” [Tolkien, 51] 

God has placed us in a particular time and place – just as he did the Philippians. And he calls us to be his saints in this particular time and place. 

Saints then, as Paul understands them, are not primarily individuals who have achieved their status and now stand aloof from the world they live in. No … they are a community, given their status by grace, and then placed in a specific time and place in the nitty-gritty of real life. 

That’s the first thing we see here: Jesus is ministering to his saints. 

What is Jesus Using?: Servants 

Second, we can ask: What is Jesus using to minister to them? 

Paul writes in verse one that this letter, ministering to God’s people, is coming to them from “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus.” 

Jesus is ministering to his saints, through his servants. That’s the second thing we see here. 

And to put that up front like that is actually a bit atypical for Paul. Paul could introduce himself first as an Apostle – in light of his authority. And, in fact that is what he normally does: that’s how he introduces himself in the opening greetings of Romans, First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus. He begins by noting his office of authority. 

And that is certainly appropriate, and should carry weight. It’s an aspect of ministry often neglected in our culture, which we will say more about in our next point, and which Pastor Gutierrez will speak about tonight as well. 

But what’s noteworthy for us right now is that Paul does not evoke his office here in this greeting to the Philippians. He does not identify himself by his office of authority at the outset, but instead, he identifies himself and Timothy primarily as “servants” of Christ Jesus. [Fee, 61-64] 

And the translation “servants” is probably too weak. American translators always run into a difficulty translating the Greek word doulos or douloi. “Slaves” is probably the most natural translation, but in our setting that word inevitably brings to mind the evil, dehumanizing, and racist slavery of our nation’s past. Those connotations are not precisely what Paul would mean to evoke here, and so translation – trying to capture both the meaning and the feel of the original – is tricky in our context. Paul is identifying himself as a servant of Christ – but as a servant who no longer belongs to himself … as a servant who is owned by the One he serves. [Fee, 62-64] 

To be sure, the One who owns him – the One who has purchased him – has purchased him in order to save him, and to enable him to be truly human – a far cry from American chattel slavery of the past. But Paul would also be emphatic that he is not his own. He was bought by Christ and belongs to Christ. If we can intentionally resist the connotations within our own culture and history, the word “slave” along with the word “servant” together get at something of what Paul is saying here. 

Paul identifies himself here not first as an apostle (though he certainly is that) but as a servant – as a slave – of Christ Jesus. 

And with that, the overall tone and approach of Paul is different in this letter too. 

Many of Paul’s letters are especially polemical or apologetic: they are letters in which Paul is correcting or disputing or defending the faith to a particular church or congregation. But, as one commentator puts it: “In contrast to many of Paul’s other letters […] Philippians reflects all the characteristics of a ‘letter of friendship,’ combined with those of a ‘letter of moral exhortation.’” [Fee, 2; see also Fee, 4, 6, 10-14] 

All of which means that in this particular letter, Paul goes about his work as a friend of the Philippian Christians, and as a servant of Christ. A friend to the Christians he addresses, and a servant – a slave – of Christ. [Fee, 13] 

Which is a reminder that we need those kinds of people in our lives as well. 

We need people who are, and who know themselves to be, friends to us, and servants of Christ. They need to care about us, and know that they belong to Christ. Because ordinarily it’s through such people and such relationships, that Jesus ministers to his people. 

Take a moment and think back over your life at those whom the Lord has used in your own life to grow you spiritually. The details may vary, and the forms it takes may be different, but my guess is that more often than not, those people acted as a friend to you and a servant of Christ. And ordinarily, that continues to be the case for those God will use in our lives going forward. 

They should be a friend to you: they need to be someone who actually cares about you, and cares about your wellbeing, and likes you, and appreciates and enjoys the good things God has done and made in you. They should be a friend. 

But also, if they are to truly help you, they need to be a servant of Christ. Because as a servant of Christ, they will know their relationship to you serves a higher purpose than mere personal enjoyment. As a servant of Christ, they will know that what you most need is Jesus. As a servant – even a slave – to Christ, they will know that they are not their own, and their relationships are not their own, and so even if it risks their friendship to you, they must speak the truth of Christ into your life, for your good, and for God’s glory. 

Ordinarily, Jesus ministers to us through those who are his servants and our friends. 

So … do you have people like that in your life? 

Do you have friends? Do you have people whom you speak to openly about what is going on in your life? People who know you, and like you, and care about you, and whom you know, and like, and care about? 

It might seem like a silly question, but it’s not – in a recent study, 15% of American men reported that they have no close friends. Some have spoken of America being in a “friendship recession.” [https://www.americansurveycenter.org/commentary/american-men-suffer-a-friendship-recession/] We were made for friendship – friendship is part of how God works in our lives. So this is not a small issue, spiritual seeking. 

But Paul also reminds us that we don’t just need friends in general. We need friends who are servants – who are slaves – of Christ. We need friends who will serve Christ in building us up, and exhorting, and supporting us in our faith. 

Do you have such friendships in your life? If you do, are you valuing those friendships and are you being intentional about growing and cultivating them? Our text reminds us that if you want to grow spiritually, then you should be investing in those friendships. 

And if you are one of the many people who do not have close friends, or do not have close Christian friends, then as painful and discouraging as that may feel, this is also a call for you to actively pursue those kinds of relationships. 

One of our hopes as a church is to provide a structure that encourages and nurtures such friendships. It’s why we are aiming to start a small group ministry at some point in the future. 

But you don’t need a small group ministry to have friends … and as helpful as it may be, a small group ministry is not enough, in itself, to grow friendships. 

To start and to grow Christian friendships, you need to be intentional about reaching out to and connecting to other Christians. You need to be diligent, in continuing to seek them – to communicate with them, to get together with them. You need to be hospitable, to invite them into your life and your space. You need to be sacrificial, to give of yourself, to love and serve them. You need to be gracious – as real relationships always involve forgiving and overlooking the shortcomings and failures of others. You need to be willing to be awkwardly spiritual – bringing up spiritual matters, sharing spiritual things, and letting others speak spiritual truths into your life with the authority of Christ. [Barth, 10] You need to be patient, because real friendship takes time – remember that when Paul wrote this friendship-style letter to the Philippians, he had already been in relationship with them for about a decade. 

But all of that starts with valuing Christian friendship – realizing that you really do need true and close friends, who are true and faithful servants of Christ. 

So Jesus ministers to his saints through his servants. 

Where Does Jesus Expect Them?: In a Structure  

Which brings us to our third question: Where does Jesus expect to find his saints? Where does he send his servants to do this work? 

We find an answer in verse one. Because Paul didn’t just address this letter to individual Christians in Philippi. But he addressed the saints within a specific context – within, even, a specific structure. 

Paul wrote: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.” 

We can easily breeze past the last part of that, but there’s a lot implied there. 

For one thing, we’re reminded here that the Apostle Paul is very clearly pro-organized religion. 

You hear modern people talk a lot as if spirituality without any institutional organization involved is clearly superior to spirituality that involves an organized institution. Now … of course institutions, just like the human heart, can be corrupted. But that doesn’t mean we can do without the institutional church any more than we can do without the human heart. Both can be corrupted. But both also can be redeemed and sanctified. And Paul expects and aims for just that: the structure of the institutional church, sanctified by the gospel. 

He does this by highlighting the overseers and deacons within the church.  

Now … without getting into all the intricacies and debates about forms of church government, I think that Paul, with those two categories of leaders, is pointing to the three offices that Christ has instituted in the church: ministers, elders, and deacons. 

Paul’s inclusion of such officers here tells us that institutional structures, and leaders with authority, are not things that were artificially added onto the original Christian community and gospel … but they were part of God’s work in the lives of his people from the very beginning. Which means that for us too, the institutional church – along with its leadership and its authority – cannot be viewed as an extra or artificial or unnecessary add-on to the Christian life today, but it is part of how God continues to work in the lives of his people. 

We need the church. Church membership matters. Participation in the church as an institution and an organization matters. Because that is where Christ ordinarily works in the lives of his people. 

And as Paul makes that point here, at the very same time, with the particular phrase he uses here, Paul also pushes back against two bad models of church leadership. 

On the phrase “with the overseers and deacons” commentator Gordon Fee writes: “The language used for this addition, [of] ‘together with/along with’ is the sure giveaway as to the role of leadership in the Pauline churches. […] as a distinguishable part of the whole, but as a part of the whole, not above or outside of it.” [Fee, 67] Now … what does Fee mean by that? 

Well, one flawed model of church leadership which Paul’s language pushes against here is the model where leadership is not a distinct part of the Body of Christ. In this view, there is something inherently unspiritual about institutions with distinct leaders and authority structures. 

But Paul here expects and endorses that leaders, in the form of officers, would be a distinct and key part of the local church. 

In his letter to the Ephesians he elaborates on this further – he says that Jesus ascended to heaven, and from heaven he gave gifts to his people. And those gifts are: “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.” They are officers and leaders. And, Paul says, they are given “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” to bring about maturity, and to be a support for perseverance in the face of many temptations. [Ephesians 4:11-14] 

Jesus provides leaders and an authoritative structure for his people to grow them in their faith and to help them persevere in following Jesus. 

And so the first flawed model of church leadership that Paul’s language here pushes against is a view that would deny a distinct leadership structure and offices of authority within the local church. 

But then, at the same time, the second flawed model that Paul’s language pushes against is the view that church leaders are somehow above and separated from the church body as a whole. Church leaders are not above having needs or above being corrected. And we know this because Paul here addresses the leadership of the church with the same words of encouragement, direction, and exhortation that he addresses to the rest of the congregation … because they need to be ministered to as well. 

This has implications for both leaders and those they lead, within the local church. 

First, if you’re a leader, it means that you better not mistake the role you’ve been called to for some idea that you’ve arrived at final spiritual maturity or sanctification. No – you remain far from perfect, and you continue to need to receive ministry from others. You too need spiritual friendships in which others rebuke, correct, and encourage you. You too need to listen to the input of others as you make decisions, because you are not perfect. 

Just a few weeks ago we had another prominent pastor, this time in the PCA, be put on an indefinite leave of absence because of his pattern of authoritarian leadership, and silencing dissenting voices within his church. [https://religionnews.com/2023/05/07/scott-sauls-author-and-nashville-pastor-to-take-leave-of-absence/] Such a leadership style requires a leader to think of themselves as above and separate from the rest of the church, and therefore above criticism and correction, and separate from the sort of spiritual needs others may have. But as a leader, you are a Christian first, and a leader second … you are a sheep in the fold of the Lord Jesus first, and an undershepherd second. And if you lose sight of that, as a leader, it can lead to spiritual catastrophe for you. As a leader, you are part of the church – not hovering above it. 

But that has implications for those under the leadership of others in the church as well. Because, in a different way, a congregation can make the mistake of seeing its leaders according to their office first, and their brotherly Christian identity as a distant second. And that too can have terrible repercussions. 

When we do that – when we think of leaders primarily according to their office, and we push the fact that they are fellow Christians like us to a distant second – it can have a range of negative effects. Let me name three. 

First, if we really like their work, then we can be tempted to idolize them. What we see is their work, not their whole lives, and we tend to impute the quality of the work that we see, to every area of their lives, and treat them as far more mature and sanctified than they really are. 

On the other hand, if we don’t like their work, if we are frustrated with their leadership, then we tend to regard them only according to that. We impute flaws to their entire character. We view their shortcomings as rooted in malice or ill-will. We don’t consider ways they may need encouragement, or comfort, or support, but we see them only in terms of their office, and attack them for the ways they disappoint us. 

Or, a third option, is we see them only as there to serve us. We don’t see them as human beings with whole lives and needs of their own, with a range of callings the Lord has given them. But we see them as there just for us, and we get angry if they are not there at our beck and call. 

But Paul doesn’t picture the overseers and deacons here as above or below the saints – but with them, alongside them. He ministers to them just as he ministers to the rest of the congregation. 

Which is a reminder, for example, that our officers need to be viewed as brothers in Christ first, and as officers second. That elder, deacon, or minister that you are frustrated with or disappointed in … he is first and foremost a brother in Christ whom you will spend all eternity with … and he is only second a leader in the church who is filling a specific role right now in a way that frustrates you. He might need correction at times. But even more than that, he might need encouragement and brotherly love within the Body of Christ. 

And the same is true for other leadership roles – for the leadership of our Women’s Ministry, children’s Sunday School, VBS, or other ministries. It’s always easier to critique how someone else does something than to actually do it yourself. But it’s also always easier, in your disagreements, to treat those leaders only as leaders and not first as brothers and sisters in Christ, who may need your help, and your encouragement right now more than they need your criticism. 

Paul reminds us here that Jesus ordinarily ministers to his people within a structure – within a church body that has officers and leadership structures. But Paul puts it in such a way that reminds us that while those leadership roles are real and distinct, the leaders who hold them are always a part of the community, not separated from it. 

So … Jesus ministers to his saints, through his servants, within a structure. 

Why Is Jesus Doing This?: For Their Salvation  

That brings us to our fourth and final question: Why? Why is Jesus doing all this? Why does he minister to his people like this? Why does he minister to his people at all? 

And that answer comes in verse two. 

Paul writes to the saints in Philippi: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

This greeting is something we can easily miss … because while it is standard in Paul’s letters, it was not standard for letters in the ancient world and would have struck an ancient reader for how it deviated from a normal letter format. 

In a typical letter, after the writer and the addressee were identified, would come the word “Greetings!” But Paul replaces that with the phrase “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Paul here turns even his greeting into a summary of the gospel, [Fee, 70] and in this phrase, as one commentator puts it, he crams “a compact expression of his whole message.” [Barth, 11-12] 

He speaks of “grace to you” and then “peace.” And he tells them that it comes from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

First there is “grace.” As Gordon Fee puts it: “The sum total of God’s activity towards his human creatures is found in the word ‘grace’; God has given himself to his people bountifully and mercifully in Christ. Nothing is deserved, nothing can be achieved.” [Fee, 70] “Grace” is a summary of God’s activity for us in the gospel. 

But then, second, “peace” is a summary of the proper result of God’s grace. When we receive the gracious work of God, the result it should have in our lives, both now and for eternity is “peace.” [Fee, 70-71] 

And so “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” was not a throw-away line, or a standard greeting when Paul wrote it. Rather, it was, from the outset, a summary of the gospel – it was a summary of our salvation. 

That is the fourth thing we see here – it is the “Why?” of this text – “Why is Jesus doing all this?” He is doing it to bring his people grace and peace. He is doing it for our salvation. 

Jesus ministers to his saints, through his servants, within a structure, for their salvation. 

And Paul’s word choice for that here is significant. 

Jesus, we’re told here, is working in order to bring us grace and peace. But often, that’s not really what we’re looking for. 

Often, we want marching orders. Often, we want either a list of new things to do, or new content to believe, or new ammunition to defend our faith – and surely the Bible does provide those things. 

But often, the Bible’s message to us, in many places, is simply: “Here is the grace that Christ has shown you … let it give you peace.” 

Do you have ears to hear that? Do you have a heart to receive that? Because often, that is God’s message for you – that is what he wants to minister to you with: the good news of the salvation he has accomplished for you, which should give you peace. 

That is the fourth thing we see here: that Jesus ministers to us for our salvation. 

Taken together, crammed into this short greeting, Paul, right out of the gate, reminds us that Jesus ministers to his saints, through his servants, within a structure, for their salvation. 


We’ve covered a lot of ground this morning, but the take-aways for us are fairly basic. 

Do you want God to work in your life? Do you want God to grow you and shape you? Do you want to better know him? 

Then you need Jesus to minister to you, as one of his saints – as one set apart by his grace. 

You need to seek out and to welcome servants of Christ Jesus into your life – Christian friends who care about you, and who love the Lord and will speak his truth into your life. 

You need to put yourself within the structures that Jesus has provided: his church, organized under leaders, in a community that is both organic and organized. 

And you need to tune your ears to the heart of God’s message to you: the message of his salvation. 

God is at work in all those ways to bring his grace to bear in your life. And with that grace comes the peace that only he can provide. That is the wonderful gift of our God, as he ministers to us. 

And so, desire that provision this morning. Seek that provision in your life. 

And know that in it will come “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 



This sermon draws on material from: 

Barth, Karl. The Epistle to the Philippians. 40th Anniversary Edition. Translated by James W. Leitch. Introductory Essays by Bruce L. McCormack and Francis B. Watson. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002. 

Bavinck, Herman. Biblical and Religious Psychology. Translated by H. Hanko. Protestant Reformed Theological School, 1974. 

Fee, Gordon D. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995. 

McDonough, Sean M. Introduction and notes to Philippians in The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. 

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004 revised text one-volume 50th anniversary edition. 

Note: In my preaching I often cite and draw from a range of sources, which includes material from Christians within my theological tradition, Christians outside my theological tradition (in keeping with our church’s core value of “Reformed Catholicity”), and also (following the Apostle Paul’s example in Acts 17) non-Christians who are well outside of Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy. And so, when I cite an author or a source, that citation should not be understood or construed as me necessarily agreeing with, endorsing, or recommending to others anything else from that author or source, except for what I explicitly say I agree with, endorse, or recommend. When engaging with different materials and thinkers, all Christians must exercise wisdom and discernment to determine what is helpful, appropriate, and edifying for each person, taking into account their current needs, wisdom, and spiritual maturity. 

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