Paul writes the book of Philippians from a Roman prison, and yet the letter is filled with such joy! Paul sees God’s hand in it all, that even though he’s locked up, the Gospel isn’t, it continues to go out and save souls, and for this Paul rejoices. He’s also blessed by the Philippian church to whom he is writing. They had sent a financial gift to support his ministry and Paul was eternally grateful and encouraged by this. There may have been drops of division beginning to develop in the church at Philippi, which Paul had planted (see Acts 16) and he will deal with that in the epistle, but overall, it’s a lovely little letter of joy and gratitude to a church that blessed his heart.
Paul begins with an expression of gratitude upon every remembrance of the Philippians, and he prayed for them with joy. Verse 5 speaks of their fellowship in the gospel, and this is most likely in reference to the way they gave to the ministry, financially; some even point to the fact that Lydia, who was a seller of purple and a part of the church, was a wealthy and perhaps generous donor (Acts 16:14).
What a beautiful promise we have in v. 6, how God will finish the work He has begun in each of us! How many of us have projects we’ve started and never completed? We get distracted, disinterested, have a change of heart; thank God He’s not like us!
Verses 9-11 would be great to memorize as we pray for our loved ones – for more love, knowledge and discernment; to approve those things which are excellent. It’s easy to discern the difference between good and bad, but what about good and best? We should be engaged in the best things, excellent things for the glory of God. God help us to be real (sincere), holy, and fruitful…all that is part of Paul’s prayer for the Philippians.
As Paul was imprisoned, he wanted them to know the reality of Romans 8:28 – that God was working it all out for good! The guards knew it was God. The Christians knew it was Christ, for various reasons it gave boldness to the brethren…they were preaching the Word without fear. Paul was so blessed that the Word was getting out that he even rejoiced in the fact that although not every preacher had pure motives, more and more people were hearing the gospel…and this blessed his heart.
Not only was Paul praying for the Philippians, but they were also praying for him (1:19). Paul was confident that God would answer their prayers for his deliverance. Paul brings up an interesting dilemma, and admits that even he is hard-pressed between the two options, would we rather live here on earth, or depart to our home in heaven? As citizens of heaven, the longing of our hearts is to depart and be with the Lord, but we trust in God’s will and timing. God still has us here for there is work to do, there will be fruit from our labors, and it’s more “needful” for others. One day we will finish our race (2 Timothy 4:7). Our prayer is that God will be glorified in our life and death; and the promise is so beautiful, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”What a wonderful summary for the saints.
In the meantime, Paul writes in 1:27-30 let our conduct be Christlike, let the church be united, striving together for the gospel, let’s never be intimidated by our enemies and if we need to suffer for Christ, like Christ, as Paul did…so be it…to the glory of God!
The Philippian church had been a tremendous blessing to Paul, they weren’t like some of the others who had given him problems, but that doesn’t mean they were a church without their issues. There was some sort of division taking place (see 4:2) so Paul encourages them to seek unity through humility…a humility that was demonstrated so beautifully by Christ.
Let NOTHING be done through selfish ambition (3) let’s not limit ourselves to ourselves, let’s be “others-oriented.” I believe that selfishness is the antithesis to love and it’s an awful place to live. Thomas Merton said, “To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell.”
This section seems to say that our minds have a lot to do with it (see 1:27; 2:3, 5, 20; 3:15, 16, 19; 4:2, 7) do we think of others before ourselves? Do we have the mind of Christ?
Jesus is God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, but He humbled Himself, He became a man, a servant, obedient to the point of death and even the death of the cross. If Jesus humbled Himself to such an extent, why do we have such a problem with humility? Over the years I’ve learned the beauty of humility and ugliness, the wickedness of pride. F.B. Meyer said, “I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the more easily we could reach them. I now find that God’s gifts are on shelves one beneath the other and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower.”
God the Father loves humility and will reward humble hearts in eternity. Because Jesus humbled Himself from the highest place in the universe, all the way to the lowest place of all (when He bore our sins), the Father has exalted His Son to His right-hand and given Him the name above ALL names, that at the name of Jesus, EVERY knee will bow, and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. If we bow and confess now, we go to heaven; but even those who reject Jesus and have chosen to spend eternity apart from Him – even they will confess Christ on that day (but it will be too late).
Paul loves the Philippians (12) and encourages them to work out their own salvation. It doesn’t mean they work FOR salvation, it just means they work OUT what God has worked IN. What has God saved me to do? To be? He guides us by His Spirit, who uses His Word, and even the different desires we have in our hearts (13).
Through our love and humble obedience Christians are to shine as the moon and stars shine in the darkness (15). Paul would eventually send Timothy and Epaphroditus to check up on them (not just common men) I’ve always loved the way Paul describes Timothy as someone very rare, who sincerely cares for the people (20). Epaphroditus was loved by the Philippian church, and he (like Paul and Timothy) labored and fought for the Kingdom, even risking His life physically, that the people might thrive Spiritually (30). Lots to learn from God’s Word, the Life of Christ, and the lives of these men too.
Eight times in this little letter Paul uses the word “rejoice.” Some teachers have even identified “Joy” as the theme of Philippians, even though Paul is writing from a Roman prison. How can someone rejoice when they’re suffering? Warren Wiersbe comments, “If you cannot rejoice in your circumstances, you can always rejoice in the Lord who controls your circumstances. Fix your attention on Him. He may not change your situation, but He will change you; and that is even better.”
Paul encourages the brethren to rejoice and then issues a stern warning – three times in v. 2 he uses the word “beware,” warning the church about the false teachers who were pushing the old law of legalism, and a religion-based righteousness. Paul had been there, done that, he had all the credentials that self-righteousness could provide and yet he was wise and willing to trade it all in for the righteousness that is found in Christ through faith.
The truth is, my righteousness is rubbish, Isaiah calls it filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It’s time to throw out the trash and cling only to Christ. V. 10 is one of my favorite passages in the entire Bible – this should be our goal, to know Christ, intimately; to experience Christ’s strength, powerfully; to fellowship with Jesus, tearfully; and to “die” like Jesus, daily. Paul knew he was saved, but he wasn’t done seeking the Lord and being conformed into His image. Paul pictured himself a runner, and he wasn’t about to look back to see how many hurdles he’s knocked down, or how many he cleared, he was only interested in reaching forward to that which is ahead. His goal was Jesus and His prize was to know Him and be like Him.
Do you want a bright future? This is the key. Pastor Chuck comments, “It is awfully difficult to move forward when you are looking backward. Many people are hindered in their progress because they are busy looking at the past; hung up by their failures, bitter against those who have hurt them, or resting on the laurels of their past success.”
Verse 17 is another one of those passages where Paul can actually point to himself as an example (see also Philippians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:9). God help us to do our best to grow to a place of maturity and consistency so that if they “did like me” we wouldn’t be ashamed. May we be people who are patterns for the next generation.
Part of the reason it’s so important to be role models and good examples, is because of the fact that there are so many badmodels out there – people who claim to be Christians, even Christian leaders. This is the only time Paul weeps in this letter; not because of his own sufferings or imprisonment, but because of the evil enemies of the cross of Christ who are in it only for themselves. How important it is to remember that we are citizens of heaven, not earth, so let’s live for that land. Jesus is coming and will transform our weak and weary bodies, so that we might inhabit our heavenly homeland (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
O Lord, please stamp eternity on my eyelids!
Isn’t it beautiful to read the terms of endearment that Paul has for the Philippians (4:1) “beloved, longed-for brethren, joy and crown.” Truly he has been given God’s heart for the people!
Paul specifically asks a couple of the sisters to work out their differences (Euodia and Syntyche) “to be of the same mind” (see 2:5). He even asks one of the Philippians he refers to as a “true companion” to help these women out who had labored with him in the Gospel; Paul mentions other fellow-workers whose names have been written in the Book of Life.
As Paul begins to close the book he does so with a series of exhortations.
Rejoice in the Lord – ALWAYS!
Be so consistently gentle that your gentleness is known to all men – Jesus is coming!
Conquer any worry or anxiousness through thorough prayer. If we pray obediently, the peace of God becomes the power of God to guard our hearts and minds.
Not only must we pray obediently, we must also THINK obediently. In a book that mentions the mind nine times, again, Paul emphasizes the fact that we must fill our minds (meditate) on those things which are noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report; we are to meditate on those things which are praiseworthy. Remember, you are what you eat! We need to “eat” healthy in order to be healthy Christians. What a blessing it is to spend time pondering God’s Word and the good things He has done in so many lives – the beautiful things He has made, let’s not neglect the power of Godly meditation!
Paul closes the letter by thanking the Philippians for the financial gift they had sent his way. It brought him joy (4:10) that they cared for him, but Paul was radically different than the false teachers who were out to fleece the flock. Paul had learned to be content with whatever he had; if the donations were rolling in, it didn’t become his god; if he had little, and had to go hungry, no worries, that meant it was time to fast – he still served the Lord and ministry went forward, it’s here where Paul makes that wonderful declaration, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”(4:13) What a great lesson to learn, to be content wherever we are; to learn to live within our means. The rich man is not the one with lots of money, because he always comes to a place where he needs more – the rich man is the content man. 1 Timothy 6:6,“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”
Philippians 4:19 gives us another wonderful promise, that God will always provide our needs (not our greeds) but our needs. And if you think about it, when we have Jesus, we have all we really need. The book of Philippians presents Jesus in such a humble, joyful, and practical way…and He promises to always be with us! Hebrews 13:5,“Let yourconduct bewithout covetousness; becontent with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”