Philippians 1

Study Sheet for Philippians 1

Philippians 1:1-2

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

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

Because this letter was very likely, in its original form, a scroll (so if the writer was not identified until the end as is true of most modern letters, the scroll would have to be wound to the end and then wound back to the beginning) it is appropriate that the letter begins by letting the reader know who wrote it.  Both Paul and Timothy are mentioned as writers (Philippians 1:1).  See the introduction lesson to find out more on the writers and the church at Philippi.  Two groups of members are mentioned in particular.  They are the “overseers” and the “deacons” (Philippians 1:1).  In the New Testament, the terms “overseer” and “elder” are used synonymously to refer to the leaders of a local church (see Acts 20:17 and 28; Titus 1:5 and 7).  Characteristics of these men may be found in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.  The term “deacon” is used in the scriptures to identify someone who is a servant (for examples see Acts 6:1-6; Romans 16:1; I Corinthians 3:5; II Corinthians 6:4).  For characteristics of deacons, see I Timothy 3:8-13.  The greeting is completed by Paul’s wish for them of  “grace” (greeting used toward Gentiles) and “peace” (greeting used to Jews).  Both are made Christian by the addition of, “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:2).

Philippians 1:3-11

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Paul opens his comments to the church by describing his close relationship with them in Philippians 1:3-11.  He talks about his memory of them, his prayers for them and his joy in his connection with them (Philippians 1:3-4).  This is because of their “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:5).  This partnership had taken on several forms.  They had stood beside him as “partakers with me of grace” by standing with him during his imprisonment, while he defended the gospel (Philippians 1:7).  This included a gift from them to help meet his personal needs (Philippians 4:14).  The closeness of the preacher and the church is evidenced in statements like, “I hold you in my heart” (Philippians 1:7) and “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8).  An interesting comparison can be drawn between Paul’s opening comments to the Philippians and those he made to the Galatians (see Galatians 1:6-10).  Many of the same problems existed for the two churches and Paul was in identical situations when he wrote the letters.

In Philippians 1:9, Paul shares the content of his prayer for them.  First, he prayed that their love would abound more and more.  Without love, not much else counts in the Christian life (see I Corinthians 13:1-3 and 8).  With that love, he prayed that they would also have knowledge and that this knowledge would be backed up with all discernment.  Knowledge is an important part of the Christian life (see I Corinthians 12:8; I Corinthians 14:6; II Corinthians 2:14; Colossians 1:9-10; I Timothy 2:4 and Titus 1:1).  However, knowledge is not enough; it takes discernment to live the Christian life also.  This is seen in Hebrews 5:14 where the mature Christian is described as one who has her/his “powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”  The effect of these three ingredients (love, knowledge and discernment) in ones’ life is that you (1) “may approve what is excellent,” (2) “be pure and blameless,” and (3) be “filled with the fruit of righteousness” (Philippians 1:10-11).  This will bring glory and praise to God.

Philippians 1:12-18

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.15Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.Yes, and I will rejoice,

Paul’s primary interest in life was the spreading of the gospel.  He told the Colossians that, “So, naturally, we proclaim Christ!  We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ Jesus.  This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me” Colossians 1:28-29 Phillips Translation).  This being the case, Paul could put imprisonment into a proper perspective: “What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).  The proof of this is that the gospel “has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ” (Philippians 1:13).  The preaching had been effective too.  In Philippians 4:22, even members of Caesar’s household were sending greetings to the Philippian church.  Remember, this talk about being in prison and furthering the gospel would especially make sense to those in Philippi.   After all, one of their members had been converted by Paul when he was in such a situation in their own city (see Acts 16: 25-34).  Seeing Paul’s role model had given confidence to others to preach the gospel too (Philippians 1:14).  The fact that some preached for less than honorable reasons (Philippians 1:15-17) did not stop Paul from rejoicing in the fact that the gospel was being preached (Philippians 1:18).

Philippians 1:19-26

or I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashfamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

In spite of the fact that Paul could rejoice over the effective preaching being done, he felt it necessary to talk about the future, his and theirs (Philippians 1:19-30).  There, of course, was the possibility that Paul would be released (Philippians 1:19-20 and 24-26).  He also had to consider that he might become a martyr for the faith, “to depart and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23).  While he considered that being with Christ would be “far better,” he knew that, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  What a wonderful position to be in!  If you live, you can look forward to “fruitful labor” (Philippians 1:23).  If you die, you can look forward to a place that is “far better” (Philippians 1:23).  This passage gives one great insight into what motivated the apostle Paul.

Philippians 1:27-30

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

After contemplating his own future, Paul turns to theirs.  The key is in the way one lives his/her life, that is, “Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).  Paul would be the first to point out that one does not become worthy because of the things that she/he does (see Philippians 3:4-9 and II Thessalonians 1:5 and 11).  The other side of the coin is that followers are to lead a life worthy of the calling of being a Christian (Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10 and 22; and I Thessalonians 2:12).  While Paul was more than willing to count any righteousness that he had as “rubbish” (Philippians 3:7-8), he also always taught that the Christian is to live a life of holiness (see Romans 12:1-2; I Corinthians 3:17 and 6:19; II Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 1:4; II Timothy 1:9).  They cannot be concerned that there may be a consequence for their preaching.  His advice is don’t be frightened; this is something that has been granted you.  It will show the enemy’s destruction and your salvation (Philippians 1:28-30).

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