In letters or emails that we write today, we place our signature at the end. And, depending on whom we are writing, we adjust the way we sign. You don’t sign an email to your boss with “Love, George.” And you don’t treat your spouse aloofly by signing “Regards, Jane.”
Back in Paul’s day, people signed their letters at the beginning, and the greeting often gave a preview of what was to come. In Philippians we can tell right away that this letter is going to be full of love and warmth. Paul calls his readers saints, “God’s holy people,” and showers them with grace and peace “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Then he makes clear how thankful he is for them. They are gospel partners, coworkers in whom God is doing a great thing—and this comes with a promise that God will bring his work to completion. Paul reveals his pastor’s heart here by offering great encouragement and displaying deep care and affection for the Christians living and working in Philippi.
We all need to know that we’re loved, and we all need encouragement. We need someone to see God’s work in our lives, call it out for us, name it, and give thanks for it.
The Philippians needed that kind of encouragement. So Paul makes sure it is the first thing they receive in this loving, pastoral letter.