Welcome to our Philippians series! Over the next few blog posts we are going to read and discuss the book of Philippians, and see what insights and what teachings this book might hold for our lives today in 2021.
Philippians 1: 1- 30
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Paul’s Chains Advance the Gospel
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Life Worthy of the Gospel
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
The letter to the Philippians is written by Paul, when he is in prison; probably in Ephesus. Being in prison is never a good thing; but when Paul was alive you didn’t get complimentary meals as part of your sentence, you had to rely on what you had to get you through. Not being able to work obviously made this quite difficult for Paul, but there is a great chance, that the church in Philipi had sent Paul some money, which would certainly be helping Paul to stay alive in this time. So this is where we find this letter coming from with his “heartfelt thanks”.
Paul has been to see the church in Philipi, in fact he would have helped them to start up. So he knows them pretty well. We can see his first encounter with them in Acts 16. From this letter it comes across that of all the churches Paul worked with, Philipi was the one that gave home most joy.
One of the most used words in Paul’s letters is translated as “fellowship” but this could also be translated as “Partnership”, and was at some points used to describe a business partnership. It’s almost as if Paul is saying that the Philippians church is a business partner in the work of Christ alongside him. Which is potentially linked then with this gift of financial support from the church.
Paul gives us an idea of what is to follow in his letter, and he breaks it down into 3 parts for us:
- (Verse 9) He is praying that their love will overflow with Wisdom and Knowledge. Love is not just an emotion but instead it’s a getting to know one another better and better, and it’s the same with God. It’s about getting to know God better and better, an insight into who HE is.
- (Verse 10) Paul is praying that the wise love (in point one) will continue to grow in moral discernment. An ability to see what the right thing to do is, and the courage to do it. The church there lived in a world like ours, where often it can be a struggle to see the right direction to choose.
- (Verse 11) Finally he is praying that they will be filled with the “fruit of righteousness”, which is another way of saying the “fruit of the right way of living” It’s being right with God, and having his faithfulness but also his forgiveness in your life.
This prayer is one that could well be prayed by any member of the Christian Faith for any other group or church that they might know. It seems just as relevant today as it did those 2000 odd years ago.
In verse 12 – 18 we see Paul’s confidence in his faith come out. Even though he is in Prison he is rejoicing. He knows that even in hardship, in tough times, God has a plan that will work out for the good of those who follow him. So he isn’t scared by the fact that he is stuck where he is; instead he is using it for good. He is preaching to the Imperial Guard, who know that he is stuck their because of his preaching, and they are talking to one another about. He is also thankful that people might be speaking about God without the intention that he has, because at least God is being spoken about. People are still hearing of who HE is, and what Paul has taught about HIM.
In verse 18-26 Paul is discussing the question of whether he will survive his time in prison. His response is something that is both encouraging and quite daunting I feel. He says that he doesn’t mind which way it end up. If he survives then he can go on to do more work for the Lord, and make more new churches, and help more people; but if he doesn’t survive, then he will get to go to Heaven and be with Jesus. He says at one point “I desire to depart and be with Christ” which is not something you hear people saying all that often, but it’s true that it’s an amazing gift we are able to look forward to.
In the final verse of this chapter (verses 27 -30) Paul encourages the church to let their actions match that of the Gospel. For if they are preaching one thing, and doing another it doesn’t match and people around them will be confused and unsure of this faith. Instead let your actions match your faith and others will learn by your attitude.
This is only the beginning of this letter, but already has so much in it. Over the coming weeks we will look at the rest of this letter and how it really can still speak to us in our lifetime.
Lord, I thank you for the work that Paul did all those years ago. I thank you for his wonderfully brave faith. I ask that you would help me to learn from Paul, and to have a faith even a little bit as brave as his. In Jesus name, Amen.
Sum it up
This is the beginning of Paul’s letter to the church in Philipi, and in it we get to see a snippet of what the rest of the letter will be like. It holds some wonderful advice, and some real encouragements for us as members of the faith.
Look at Paul’s letter and see what areas of his suggestions you might be able to apply in your own life; and see what a difference that might make to the way you live.